Are you an emotional eater, and cope with stress and heartbreak with pizza and ice cream? Chances are you didn’t learn this habit on your own, but were rather taught it during childhood. A new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has found that parents who comforted their children with food may have unknowingly instilled a habit that could last a lifetime.

The study, now published online in Child Development, found that children who were offered food by their parents as a source of comfort were likely to have developed emotional eating habits by the time they were eight to 10. In addition, children of parents who emotionally ate were likely to mimic their parent’s eating habits and develop this unhealthy habit as they grew.

“Emotional feeding triggers emotional eating and vice versa, possibly causing a vicious circle,” lead author Silje Steinsbekk told The Independent. “We found that children who are more easily upset are more likely to emotionally overeat over time and their parents are more likely to offer them food for comfort as well.”

Read: Stressed Out Kids More Likely To Overeat; How Parents Train Their Kids In Emotional Eating

The study revealed that children don’t just learn what foods to eat from their upbringing, but also how to eat them. In an environment where food is openly used a way to comfort emotional turmoil, this habit will stick. As a result, the study suggested that parents should aim to teach children how to handle their negative emotions with strategies other than simply eating.

While that’s great advice for moms and dads-to-be, what about the adult children of parents who didn’t get this useful advice? If left unchecked, this seemingly harmless eating habit can lead to more serious health problems, such as obesity. Thankfully, according to The Mayo Clinic, emotional eating is not an irreversible behavior. Emotional eating is a way for many people to deal with their emotions, therefore learning to gain control over your emotions may help reduce the urge to binge. Some effective ways to gain control include keeping a food diary detailing how much you eat and when so that you can observe and keep track of your own patterns.

In addition, finding other ways to manage stress, such as yoga or deep breathing, can tame your desire to fall back on eating, The Mayo Clinic reported. If you are really struggling with binging, reach out for help. A support network of friends and family can go a long way, and having someone to talk to when stress hits and the cravings take over could be the difference between giving into your urges and rerouting your stress into a different outlet.

Source: Steinsbekk S, Barker ED, Llewellyn C, Fildes A, Wichstrom L. Emotional Feeding and Emotional Eating: Reciprocal Processes and the Influence of Negative Affectivity. Child Development. 2017

See Also:

Emotional Eating Is Key To Weight Loss, But Most People Don’t Understand It

Comfort Food Is A Myth: Emotional Eating Has No Psychological Effect On Bad Moods