But first: What is emotional eating?
We don’t always eat just to satisfy physical hunger. Many of us also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or to reward ourselves. And when we do, we tend to reach for junk food, sweets, and other comforting but unhealthy foods. You might reach for a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down, order a pizza if you’re bored or lonely, or swing by the drive-through after a stressful day at work.
Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better. Unfortunately Emotional eating is one the biggest enemies of fat and weight loss in general. In fact, it usually makes you feel worse. Afterward, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you also feel guilty for overeating.
You are not alone in this. Let’s be strong together.
How do I get back on track?
When negative emotions threaten to trigger emotional eating, these are the main points to help you stop the habit:
- Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling when you eat and how hungry you are.
- Tame your stress. If stress contributes to your emotional eating, try a stress management techniques, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing. I highly recommend this guide from the World Health Organization – “Doing What Matters in Times of Stress: An Illustrated Guide.” Link here. You can download it for free in your language!
- Get support. You’re more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network.
- Fight boredom. Instead of snacking when you’re not hungry, distract yourself and substitute a healthier behavior. Take a walk, watch a movie, play with your cat, listen to music, read, or call a friend.
- Take away temptation. Don’t keep hard-to-resist comfort foods in your home.
- Get a healthy snack. If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a healthy snack, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts.
- Don’t deprive yourself. This may just serve to increase your food cravings, especially in response to emotions.
When to seek professional help
If you’ve tried self-help options but you still can’t control emotional eating, consider therapy with a mental health professional. Therapy can help you understand why you eat emotionally and learn coping skills. Therapy can also help you discover whether you have an eating disorder, which can be connected to emotional eating.