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Emotional Overeating

Hunger is only one of the many reasons people eat. Boredom, depression, stress, loneliness, spiritual emptiness, fear, and even happiness can send you to the refrigerator too. If you eat for emotional reasons, however, you may eat too much, particularly during the 3rd trimester when emotions intensify. Your pregnancy will be healthier if you gain the recommended amount of weight and no more.

Emotional hunger draws you into a cycle in which emotions trigger overeating, overeating triggers emotions, and so on. You eat when you're stressed and you gain too much weight. Then you feel stressed because you're gaining too much weight. Then you eat even more, and the cycle continues.

How can you break the cycle? Dieting won't do it. What works is understanding why you overeat. Once you know which emotions trigger overeating, you can work on soothing those emotions in other ways.

Start by keeping a food log. Be completely honest and write down everything you eat for a week, along with when you ate it, what was going on at the time, and how you felt before and after you ate. After a week, go back to your log and look for patterns. Maybe you overeat whenever your partner works late or when you have a difficult day at work. Once you identify patterns, think of what you can do in place of overeating. If you eat when you feel lonely, for example, make a list of things to do instead of eating, and when loneliness strikes reach for your list instead of a piece of cake. Call a friend, go for a walk, play solitaire, do a crossword puzzle-whatever works.

If you've been an emotional eater for a long time, you won't be able to stop overnight. But you can think of pregnancy as a time to begin taking your emotional eating seriously and looking for ways to rely less on food for comfort.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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