How to Stop Emotional Eating

Eating to feel better

Do you find yourself over eating when stressed, disappointed, unhappy? Do you turn to food when you’re lonely, angry, or unsatisfied? If you answered yes, this article is for you.

What causes emotional eating? There are numerous reasons why people turn to eating when feeling upset. Some causes are:

1- Being taught as a child that food will “make you feel better”, thus learning to associate food with nurturing and diminished negative emotions.

2- Not understanding the difference between physical and emotional hunger

3- Feeling a sense of emptiness and believing that food will fill the void.

4- Withdrawing from social support and finding yourself alone

5- Changing cortisol levels in response to stress, leading to cravings. 

How to stop emotional eating. Filling up with food may make us feel better momentarily, but often, when we’ve stopped eating we feel guilt and shame for what we’ve consumed. It’s not a long term solution so we need to find other ways to cope with negative emotions and stress. Here are some ideas:

1- You may find that writing your feelings down in a journal, or talking to a friend or therapist helps. 

2- Find techniques to reduce stress and increase calm, such as meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, and physical exercise such as walking, 

3- Before taking a bite of food, try to determine if your hunger is emotional or physical.

4- Keep a food diary. Make note of everything you eat each day. You can keep it in a journal or use one of the food journal apps. Notice how you feel emotionally when you eat and how that may affect what foods you choose to eat.

4- Keep healthy foods at home.

5- Don’t go food shopping when you feel upset.

6- Don’t eat while reading, watching TV or doing another activity. Pay attention to your food and try to eat slowly.

7- Join a support group such as Overeaters Anonymous.

If emotional eating has long been a habit, recognize that change might be slow – it’s a recognizing and learning process. It’s also an opportunity to get in touch with your feelings instead of covering them up with food.   

Best of luck!