I explained how restrained eating leads to emotional eating previously. Today, I am going to explain about using food as a method of self-regulation.
Almost everybody has a favourite food to indulge in whenever they feel low. This association of food and emotion was probably enabled in your childhood. It is a common practice by parents to provide cookies, cake or ice cream whenever a child is upset. The intention is good but the consequences are not. Instead of learning to regulate the mood, you might have learnt that indulging in food could make you feel better. They became your comfort food. You think that food brings back the emotional balance.
Eating is also associated with good times and celebrations. So naturally resorting to food is expected to evoke positive feelings in you. Studies explain that certain high carb foods have mood-enhancing properties. So if you are already engaged in restrained eating, it is quite natural to binge high carb foods.
Using eating as self-regulation is an easier method than confronting the emotion. Eating simply acts as a distraction here. Once you are done with eating, another series of unpleasant emotions kick in. You get trapped in a vicious cycle.
This association of food and emotions is a result of conditioning and your habit of emotional eating is an accumulation of many behaviours. Understanding and confronting the emotion makes identifying and modifying the actions easier. If it is a conditioned response, you can always uncondition it.