What To Do To Stop Your Emotional Eating

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Do you still eat your dessert when you are full because you are bored or stressed? Do you eat when you are angry, sad or need to feel better? All of us have done this from time to time. This is known as emotional eating, and it is just not a good idea. In fact, when we are stuck in an emotional eating cycle, it leads to unhealthy eating habits. Calories and pounds pack on without us noticing. Before we know it, we are 20, 30, or 50 pounds heavier than we were six months ago. There is light at the end of the tunnel, however, and we can turn this around.

First, we need to learn to recognize the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Emotional hunger triggers comfort foods, such as grandma’s vegetable soup or your favorite ice cream, while physical hunger comes on gradually and often is felt by an empty stomach. Also, emotional hunger goes way past the limit of you being full. What do you mean I ate that whole bag of chips?! When we are physically hungry, our bodies tell us when to stop and we should listen to this signal. Likewise, emotional eating cravings are not located in the stomach. Rather, they are located in the mind. Think about this. When you see that six-pack of cupcakes in the grocery store’s bakery, you think it would be a great treat. In contrast, physical hunger is when your stomach grows or you feel that pain of an empty stomach.

So, what causes emotional eating? For most people, it is a form of stress. They have a lot on their plate at work, a family illness or financial issues. We live in a fast-paced world, so it could be any number of stressors. They may also eat because they feel empty inside. Emotional eating is a way to fill their boredom or a void in their life. While it takes their mind off their dissatisfaction, it is not the right lifestyle choice. In addition, their childhood habits may influence their emotional eating. Their parents may have rewarded them with ice cream or brownies for a good report card or to cheer them up when they were sad. These habits carry into adulthood, affecting their outlook on food.

It is easy to stop emotional eating. First, keep a food diary and date each entry. For instance, you may have eaten a brownie on December 9 to cheer yourself up over a flat tire. Now, write how else you could have handled it. Be creative. You will find that the more you journal, the more you will reveal patterns behind your eating habits. Keep track of what triggers these urges and then you can move forward to change them.

Let us be realistic. This is not going to happen overnight, nor should it. Do not be too hard on yourself. Emotional eating is a tough habit to break, but it is possible to do it. It is all about living healthy and getting to a healthy weight. If you need encouragement, seek out a friend to encourage you along the way. There is no reason you should have to go about this journey alone. Best of luck and keep up the hard work. You can get on the path to good health if you just have faith. Best of luck!

9 Comments

  1. Rosa

    This is easily my biggest downfall when it comes to trying to lose weight. I eat so much out of boredom that it seems natural by now that if I’m not busy, I’m opening the refrigerator out of habit just for the sake of doing something. I love the idea of jotting down other ways to respond to emotional eating. Over time it should give me a pretty good list of other things to do when I’m bored.

  2. Diane

    I used to gorge myself with fast-food whenever I was down or I had health issues and this “helped” me gain 40 pounds in just 6 months. My boyfriend helped me regain my body back by simply refusing to buy any junk food or sweets, if you don’t have them in your house you can’t eat them.

    Eating in front of the PC was a big issue for me as whenever I felt bored I used to grab a bag of chips and some ice cream and spend hours watching pointless Youtube videos.

    You need to stop buying unhealthy food and monitor what you eat more carefully.

  3. Alyssa

    This is some really valuable advice, I eat out of boredom too many times daily and it’s usually when I’m on my laptop. I’d grab a few snacks here and there, even when I’m not really hungry.

    However, I love the idea of a food journal. I can just imagine the horror of looking back at it towards the end of the day and seeing how much I’ve eaten haha. Replacing chips or cookies with an apple for example seems like my best bet. It’s just a matter of self control.

  4. Allan

    I’ve sometimes caught myself trying to eat when I was stressed and I knew I had a problem with emotional eating. What I did was I would drink much more water and make sure I have at least 4 different fruits around the house. Whenever I would feel stressed and wanted to eat, I would drink a glass of water and eat an apple or a pear or a grape.

  5. cindy

    Emotional eating is a huge problem in today’s society. It doesn’t help that snack foods are the cheapest and these primarily make up the problem foods. Healthy snacks are great to graze on all day, such as raw vegetables and fruit and yogurt. I heard that once you do something for 2 weeks it becomes a habit so it’s gonna be the first two weeks that are the hardest, after that it should come a bit easier.

  6. Miranda

    I’ve always found that the only way to stop my emotional eating is to find other activities to occupy my time.

  7. Gina

    I started using a little trick on myself because I’ve realized I have an emotional eating problem. At first I didn’t want to admit it to myself but it was true: I was eating because I was stressed. Now whenever I feel hungry I always drink a full glass of water because this way I test whether or not I am actually hungry.

    In most cases, it’s emotional eating that’s trying to make me eat. When I drink water it fills my stomach a little and tells me if I need food or if my body was actually thirsty! Sometimes, our bodies just need more water and we erroneously think we are hungry.

  8. Andrea Robinson

    I have to admit that my eyes popped out when I read, “It is easy to stop emotional eating.” That statement was a shock to me, not just because I’m sitting here surrounded with pastry wrappers, but also because I know that most people who overeat simply do it for emotional reasons.

    And, the shock apparently short-circuited my brain cells (or was it the sugar from all those pastries I just used to elevate my mood?) because I caught the part about journaling, but not the second bit about writing down what you might have done instead of eating. (Thanks for your comment, Rosa, or I never would have picked up on that piece.)

    The bottom line is that eating for mood effect is just a big old HABIT. One that I’ve done a lot more of lately because of a particularly stressful time in my life. The journaling sounds like a tough behavior to transition to, except I do think that writing would have a therapeutic effect and I do agree with Rosa that coming up with alternatives might be especially therapeutic.

    I also think that it would be easier if one were to make sure and get good enough nutrition at mealtimes. My body always seems to know when I don’t “need” to eat, and that might make it easier to reach for the notepad instead of the Twinkie.

    Thanks, Jennifer, for great food for thought!

    :)

  9. Mary

    I think most of us would be horrified if we wrote down everything we ate in a week. Same as if we wrote down every cent we spent. Emotional eating is something that most people have a problem with and we are surrounded with signals to eat bad foods. Fast food companies with their massive budgets sucking us into eating their disgusting mush. Breaking this habit is difficult but I recommend hypnotism. This is how I got over my fear of heights. I had to go back a few times but in the end I feel a whole lot better about going up into high buildings.

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