ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi

Emotional eating is a common phenomenon in many households and Indian families are no exception as food plays a central role in Indian culture, often associated with celebrations, comfort and love. However, when emotional eating becomes a coping mechanism for stress, boredom or other negative emotions, it can lead to weight gain and an unhealthy relationship with food.

Dealing with emotional eating in Indian families: Effective coping strategies and solutions (Photo by Twitter/LifestyleSoln)
Dealing with emotional eating in Indian families: Effective coping strategies and solutions (Photo by Twitter/LifestyleSoln)

In an interview with HT LIfestyle, Dr Rajiv Kovil, Head of Diabetology at Zandra Healthcare and Co-Founder of Rang De Neela initiative, talked about the challenges of emotional eating in Indian families and provided strategies for coping with this behaviour. According to him, one of the main challenges of emotional eating in Indian families is the cultural emphasis on food as a source of comfort and expression of love.

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He said, “In Indian households, it is common for family members, especially mothers, to show affection and care through cooking and serving delicious meals. This can create a deep connection between emotions and eating, making it difficult to separate the two. Additionally, the availability of delicious and high-calorie Indian snacks and sweets can contribute to the habit of using food to cope with emotions.”

Dr Rajiv Kovil suggested:

  • The first step in coping with emotional eating is to recognise and acknowledge the behavior. It is crucial to become aware of the triggers that lead to emotional eating, whether it is stress, boredom, loneliness, or any other negative emotion. Keeping a diary can be a helpful tool in identifying patterns and understanding the emotions behind the urge to eat. By recognizing these triggers, individuals can start finding alternative ways to deal with emotions instead of turning to food.
  • One effective strategy is to develop a toolbox of healthy coping mechanisms that can be used in place of emotional eating. Engaging in activities such as exercising, practicing mindfulness or meditation, listening to music, or pursuing hobbies can help distract from negative emotions and provide healthier outlets for stress relief. These activities not only alleviate emotional distress but also contribute to overall well-being and self-care.
  • Creating a supportive environment is essential in combating emotional eating. In Indian families, where food is often a central aspect of social gatherings, it is important to communicate openly about emotional eating and its impact on health. Family members can come together to support each other in finding alternative ways to cope with negative emotions and encourage healthy habits. Sharing feelings and experiences can help individuals feel understood and less alone in their struggles.
  • Developing a mindful approach to eating is another effective strategy for coping with emotional eating. Mindful eating involves being fully present and aware while eating, paying attention to taste, texture, and satiety cues. This can help individuals distinguish between true hunger and emotional hunger. Mindful eating also encourages slower and more conscious consumption of food, allowing individuals to savor their meals and prevent overeating.
  • Meal planning and preparation can also play a crucial role in managing emotional eating. By planning meals and making healthier food choices, individuals can have greater control over their nutrition and reduce the likelihood of emotional eating in response to unhealthy food options. Involving family members in meal planning and preparation can create a sense of ownership and empowerment, making it easier to adopt healthier habits together as a family.
  • Lastly, seeking professional help, such as therapy or counseling, can be beneficial for individuals struggling with emotional eating. Professionals can provide guidance, support, and tools to develop a healthier relationship with food and manage emotions more effectively. They can also address underlying psychological factors that contribute to emotional eating and help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Dr Rajiv Kovil asserted, “Emotional eating in Indian families presents a unique set of challenges due to the cultural significance of food. However, by recognizing the behavior, developing healthy coping mechanisms, creating a supportive environment, practicing mindfulness, and meal planning, and seeking professional help, individuals can overcome emotional eating and cultivate a healthier relationship with food and emotions. By adopting these strategies, Indian families can foster a positive and balanced approach to eating and overall well-being.”


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