Every week we ask a health question to a medical expert.

This week: Many people eat when they are emotional or stressed.

Why do they do that, and when does that become an eating disorder?

Psychologist Emel Özbek: "Realize that a bar of chocolate doesn't eventually take away the cause of your bad feeling."

Why do I eat when I'm emotional?

"Emotional eating is a form of coping, a way of coping with difficult things. In the short term, sniffing offers comfort and

instant comfort

. Emotional eating is also called


food for that reason."

Is it bad or unhealthy?

"In the long term, emotional eating has more negative than positive consequences. At such moments we often eat too much and usually not the healthiest products. After all, you don't reach for a bunch of carrots when you are sad or tense, but for a bag chips or a bar of chocolate."

"In the long run, it only increases your feeling of shame, because you are fed up with your sniffing behavior and because it can have a negative influence on your self-image."

Do I have an eating disorder if I reach for the chocolate as soon as I feel bad?

"Not necessarily. With an eating disorder, your eating behavior is problematic and it controls your life. Often there is also compensatory behavior, such as extreme sports, fasting or vomiting."

"With an eating disorder you experience limitations in daily life due to eating, you have a lot of negative thoughts about yourself and your body and you experience a lot of suffering. Often there is also weight gain, weight loss and/or weight fluctuations."

Do you have to go to the doctor?

"If you suspect an eating disorder, yes. The mental health practice nurses are well trained to help people with early disorders. They can also refer you to the right place for help."

"You don't immediately have an eating disorder if you reach for chocolate every now and then or flop on the couch with a bag of chips."

Emel Özbek, clinical psychologist

"But I do want to emphasize: you don't immediately have an eating disorder if you occasionally grab the chocolate or flop on the couch with a bag of chips because you feel bad. You can and can do this sometimes."

What can you do about emotional eating?

"Realize that you are eating away a negative feeling. And also that the bad feeling does not eventually disappear. After all, the cause of your bad feeling is not removed by a bar of chocolate. Try to make room for your feeling, just leave it there for a while are."

"Make it clear to yourself when you tend to eat emotionally by writing it out. Then come up with healthier alternatives to deal with unpleasant feelings."

Need advice on nutrition?

Then you can go to a dietician.

The basic insurance reimburses 3 hours of dietary advice per year.

Read more about the possibilities on Independer.

So what alternatives?

"Sharing emotions with a friend can already be a relief. Distraction in the form of a relaxing or strenuous activity such as walking or running can also prevent you from emotional eating."

"A steady diet without skipping meals helps to resist the temptation to snoop. Speaking of temptation: don't bring chocolate or other tasty things into your home if you know that they exert too much of an attraction on you in times of stress. easier for yourself to stay away from it."

Özbek is a clinical psychologist at Psy Helmond and at GGzE in Eindhoven.