Are You an Emotional Eater? Here’s How to Stop.

  • By Jennifer Mulder
  • 14 May 2020
  • 3 minute read
Your 3-Step Guide to Stop Emotional Eating For Good | The Health Sessions

This article is written by David Dack. 

Those chocolate chips may seem delicious when you’re feeling down.

But the relief won’t last. Devoid of the ability to process your emotions, you may become more inclined to turn toward food to find release for your feelings.

In other words, you’re emotionally eating, and it’s bad for you. If you’re dealing with emotional eating right now, I want to let you know that regardless of how challenging and impossible it may seem, you can break out of this seemingly vicious cycle.

Here are my top tips on how to stop emotional eating.

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating refers to turning to food to feed emotions vs. your body.  It happens when you reach for food in the absence of physical hunger as a means to soothe oneself and alleviate negative and unwanted emotions.

While it’s not bound to happen, eating this way results in overeating compulsively, or what’s known as bingeing. Emotional eating is a sneaky monster. It creeps on us, and before we can have a say, it already calls the shots, dictating when—and how much—we eat.

Not just stress

Even though many emotional eaters are driven by stress, stress isn’t the only culprit. Other emotions can be triggers too, such as sadness, depression, loneliness, anger, and even happiness.

Are You an Emotional Eater? Here's How to Stop | The Health Sessions
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The trap of emotional eating

Emotional eating is no more than a band-aid for emotional strife. Afterwards, the issue comes right back, often made worse by regret and guilt from the indulgences.

When you’re trapped in the emotional cycle trap, you’ll find it hard to care about the consequences nor weigh in the future ramifications of your behavior. In essence, you lose sight of the big picture. This eventually will lead to a host of problems, such as difficulty to lose weight, low self-confidence, bad food choices, etc.

The signs

So are you an emotional eater? Of course, no one is immune to emotional eating. We all tend to fall victim to it now and then since food plays have such a big impact on how we feel and the way we perceived the world. But if you engage in it more often than you should, then you likely have a bad relationship with food.

If you answer yes to more than a few of the following questions, then you’re likely engaging in emotional eating more than you think:

  • Do you reach for food to soothe and calm yourself when you’re bored, mad, sad, depressed or anxious?
  • Do you always eat in line with your daily energy needs?
  • Does food make you feel better when you’re feeling down?
  • Do you often eat past the point of physical discomfort?
  • Do you often consume a larger portion than usual?
  • Do you keep eating even when you’re hungry anymore?
  • Do you feel out of control in the presence of junk food?
  • Do you often eat in odd places?
  • Do you crave certain foods when you’re feeling down?
  • Do you have problems losing weight and/or maintaining a healthy weight?

Are You an Emotional Eater? Here's How to Stop | The Health Sessions

How To Stop Emotional Eating

Trying to force your way out of the emotional eating trap using nothing but willpower doesn’t work. All it takes is a bad day at work—or a nasty fight with your significant other—and you’ll find yourself back to your old ways.

Here’s the good news, though. If you tend to fall victim to stressful eating, know that there are measures you can take to prevent yourself from reaching for the cookies to suppress negative feelings.

Give yourself permission to feel

The first step toward breaking this cycle is to allow yourself to experience those emotions and accept them—regardless of how unpleasant or ugly they seem.

I get it. It’s much easier said than done. No one likes feeling depressed, rejected, or sad. But feeling dwelling on your mistakes won’t change anything. Instead, it might make things worse by forcing you to emotionally eat.

When you find yourself in a setting conducive to emotional eating, pause for a moment, and get a sense of the facts. If you can see through the feelings, you can start to work on the tendencies that follow.

Know your triggers

To stop emotional eating in its tracks, you need to get to know the culprits behind it. After all, if you don’t address these deep root cases, you’re only going placing a band-aid on a severe wound. For example, it’s possible that certain work events and circumstances make you more likely to get the urge to overeat.

So how do you uncover these often unconscious triggers? Start journaling.

Keep a food journal

Keeping a food diary in which you keep track of your food intake and emotional states.  The fact is, keeping a food/mood diary is one of the best ways to help you identify patterns behind your emotional eating.

As you keep track of your daily food intake, you’ll start to notice patterns emerge. This is what will help guide you to make better choices when dealing with your emotions without eating.

In the food journal, you’ll keep track of what you eat through the day alongside your emotional states and major events in your life. Your food diary could also reflect your day in general: what you did, your activities, your emotional states, and what you eat

Come up with healthier alternatives

Once you have identified your emotional eating suspects, brainstorm some healthy alternatives for the next time your emotions get out of control. You’ll need to come up with better and healthier ways to self soothe and release negative emotions if you’re serious about fixing your relationship with food for good.

Here’s the simple formula: When (negative feeling), I will (healthy behavior).

Here are a few examples to get you started:

Negative feeling:

    • Feeling drained
    • Feeling rejected
    • Feeling depressed
    • Feeling down
    • Feeling stressed
    • Feeling overwhelmed

Healthy behavior:

    • Meditating
    • Going for a run
    • Reading
    • Having coffee
    • Getting a massage
    • Calling a loved one
    • Playing a video game
    • Take a nap
    • Listening to music.

Are You an Emotional Eater? Here's How to Stop | The Health Sessions


There you have it. The above guidelines should get you started on conquering your emotional eating issues.

Here is the simplified 3-step plan:

  • Feel your emotions fully. Don’t try to run away from them (as doing so often leads to resorting to food).
  • Uncover the causes. Everyone has different demons. Know yours, and keep track of them.
  • Think beyond food. Come up with non-feeding and healthy ways to fill up the emotional voids.

See, it’s actually just a matter of practice. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below. I’d love to hear more about your story and what makes you tick. In the meantime, thank you for dropping by. Keep living healthy.

Author bio: David Dack is an established fitness blogger and running expert. When he’s not training for his next marathon, he’s doing research and trying to help as many people as possible to share his fitness philosophy. Check his blog Runners Blueprint for more info.

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