Steps To Overcome Emotional Eating

The first step to overcome emotional eating is to acknowledge that you have a problem with food.

For me, I knew I had a problem with food, but when it came to changing my behavior, I focused on diet and what I was eating. But the process of losing weight and getting healthy, forced me to really look at my relationship with food and I realized I had a problem.

There are different types of emotional eating and everyone does it. For example: When someone dies and we visit the loved ones, we often feel the need to bring some sort of meal or food as we pay our respects. For some reason we think giving them food will make them feel better.

You see we use food to make us feel better when we are sad. We use food to celebrate things as well. That’s why you can always find cake and alcohol at weddings. And this is something that everyone does. We all use food emotionally.

This is how we have been programmed since we were kids. I remember being a small child and realizing that when I got a boo boo, my Mommy would give me a cookie so I would stop crying. So I learned that food fixed the boo boo. Later as an adult, I found that I reached for food when I felt adult emotions.

But for some us, it isn’t just about using food to feel better, Some of us are emotional eaters and often feel out of control.

How do you know if you are an emotional eater? Think about the last time you had something to eat that you later regretted eating. What emotional state were you in? Where you stressed, sad or depressed. Without realizing it. emotional eaters use food to feel better on the inside.

I remember when I was working as a retail manager, I worked very long shifts on my feet. I was often to busy to take a lunch break and my job in general was very stressful. Some days I was stressed out to the max. I remember the moment I had a problem with stress eating. It was when I was food shopping and I saw that Hershey Kisses were on sale. As I reached for them, the thought “I deserve this!” was in my head. I purchased them and later asked myself why. Because of course I don’t deserve to eat all this sugar if I’m trying to get healthy and lose weight.

I realized that I was looking to make myself feel better, just like my mom did when I had a boo boo as a child.

We are all different and we all use food in different ways to help us feel better.

But how do you overcome emotional eating while you are working on getting healthy and eating better?

The Second Step is to Love Yourself more than you Love Food!

This is when we really get honest with ourselves and realize what we are doing. Think about the action of eating food emotionally and looking to “feel better”. Do you actually feel better after you eat the bowl of ice cream or an entire pizza? Most often we feel awful and wish we didn’t have it at all. We wish we had more control over food.

This is when we need to accept that food isn’t going to make us feel better at all. Yes it may for a moment, but not for long. We can say no to crap food when we focus on loving our self enough that we want to be healthy and live longer and not be on medications.

When people are stressed or sad or lonely, they don’t reach for celery and carrots to eat. No, they more than likely reach for unhealthy foods packed with carbs and sugar.

For me, sugar was my drug. This is Soooo addictive. It just makes you crave more and more And then you feel like crap. This is very frustrating. But once you realize that these foods do you no good you can begin to get a little of control. You can love yourself more than you love the sugar.

The Third Step Eat a Low Carb Diet

When you eliminate sugar and carbs from your diet, the cravings will go away and you will feel much better. When there isn’t the spike in insulin, caused by high carb foods, you will feel like you are more in control and your cravings will go away. A Keto or low carb diet is perfect for emotional eaters!

The Fourth Step is to Avoid Triggers

Stress!

Avoiding stress can be difficult as it can come in many forms. It can be an unavoidable crisis or a daily stressful day. But stress can trigger eating to feel better.

If you are triggered by stress caused by work or a spouse or a sick relative, it will be difficult to avoid. But you can really take time to look at the situation and see if there is a way to eliminate some stress. For example, just taking time away from the situation can help. When I was stressed with my job, I decided that my health was more important that being stressed by things I couldn’t control. But I started to make changes with the things that I could control. I started to say NO to people! I started putting myself first. I no longer skipped my lunch like I did in the past and started spending my lunch break meditating and listening to music. It helped me to be more calm and make better choices. What can you do to make your life less stressful?

Social Pressure!

Every time you turn around there is another holiday and always unhealthy food. When out with family and friends you are encouraged to eat and drink all the bad stuff. You will need to figure out what works for you.

Habits/Boredom

Sometimes we eat just to eat or because it is what we have always done. When I was my heaviest, I would have a bowl of ice cream nightly while watching TV. I didn’t eat it because I was hungry. I ate it simply because it was a habit. And it was a difficult habit to break. But once I realized what I was doing, I was able to make a change. You can too. This is about figuring out what works for you. Now, instead of watching TV, I read in bed (where I don’t eat).

Hire a Health Coach who Specializes in helping with Emotional Eating

Let’s face it, losing weight and getting healthy isn’t easy. This is freaking hard. I know because I did it. But I was lucky enough to have a partner as Brian and I did it together. He had me and I had him. We all need that person to remind us we are loved and doing great. And we need that person to point out when we are using excuses or going back to the old way of thinking. I always felt lucky and blessed to not feel alone in my weight loss journey.

Helping others lose weight has become my passion over that last few years, because I don’t want anyone to ever feel alone or defeated in their journey to get healthy. This is why I have been working as a weight loss counselor for the last 2 years and now am privately offering private health coaching.

A health coach can help with educating you on how your body works so you can get healthy. They can help with a meal plan and offer support. But a counselor can provide one on one counseling which will help you with your relationship with food and emotional eating. He or she can help give you the tools and support you need to long term health and success.

If you have been struggling with emotional eating, you are not alone! I hope you found this post helpful. Please share your story below, I’d love to connect with you.

Click Here to Request a Free Consultation.

26 thoughts on “Steps To Overcome Emotional Eating”

  1. “I deserve this!”, that was also my excuse everytime I see a chocolate or sweet treats in the grocery aisle. Sometimes I would justify my sweet shopping from our psychological belief that people who have a sweet palate is generally good in nature. 

    Stress is in our daily lives it’s up to us how we can manage it. You are right. We can avoid it by starting to love ourselves more and putting ourselves first as top priority. Thanks for your practical suggestions. It’s actually doable and not complicated at all. 

  2. Timely post Wendy,

    This is so me, I overeat based on my emotions and it’s stressing me out! And when I’m stressed, I tend to eat more and the cycle goes on. I do love myself but when it comes to emotions, it can get pretty hard to control yourself but I do agree with you on the less sugar part, the thought never occurred to me! Do you think by replacing my fried chicken with salads to munch on would be a better choice? 

    That emotional eating habit is mostly because of stress anyhow right? Because when we’re stressed, we need something to chew on to release our anger and such if I’m not mistaken.

    1. It’s more about eating to make ourselves feel better on the inside. Many of us don’t even realize what we are doing. Stress is a huge trigger for most people. Chicken and salads is much better than the candy, ice cream and potato chips I used to binge on.

  3. I think you touched on some of the emotions that cause me to eat and want to eat junk food, Depression, boredom, and stress are the things that have me craving things that I know are not good me  So, when it comes to eating healthy it is way more than just food. The approach needs to be holistic and maybe it is time to consider a coach.

  4. Thanks for the post.  It is amazing that as a man we do not believe we can fall into the trap of emotional eating, but it happens.  For me it is actually craft beer 🙂 , which also has loads of calories.  If I am stressed or overworked I can’t wait to have a taste.  I enjoyed your tips on how to over come this.  Also eating a low carb diet is key.  I owned a weight loss company years ago and this was part of our program.  Works great for a host of reasons.  Thanks again and Cheers!

  5. Hallo there Wendy, 

    I have become too much of an emotional eater through the years and it has brought me lots of weight and health problems. Every time I have an emotional breakdown, which happens numerous times, I order 2 large pizzas and eat them all by myself.

    Also, the habit of eating while watching tv has been another contributor to my unhealthy eating. Just like you, I have always believed that a bowl of ice cream goes very well with tv but I’m now starting to think otherwise.

    I am amazed at the insight you’ve given about this type of eating within your post. And I am going to consider the idea of getting coaching from you.

    You seem to be packed with good and reliable knowledge on this subject.

    I’ll let you know what I decide about it. Have a good day! 

    1. Isn’t it nice to know you are not the only one who struggles with emotional eating? I would love to chat with you Dave. Just shoot me an email. 

  6. It’s quite a sad article to read really, especially when you read through all the possible triggers and think – “I know someone who eats because of that”. 

    I suppose stress is the big one there, especially with the day-to-day life getting as hectic as it has for most of us. Is there are direct link between emotional eating, stress and mental issues – are the three sometimes linked?

    1. You are right, Chris. And I think in a way it is all linked. We all have our “drug”. Some deal with stress by being workaholics, others by drinking alcohol or other drugs. For me, my drug is sugar. I think we are all looking to relieve stress and feel better. But once someone is aware that they have a problem, they can fix it! 

  7. Emotional eating affects more people than most realize from my experience. When you start examining the feelings that people have when they may be eating something, you can often see that the food itself provides the pick me up that they may be looking for, but for something that has nothing to do with that food.

    You are right that the way to figure this out and do something about it is to first see that you have a problem, and accepting yourself is harder than many might think, but it is really a helpful step. Then regulating yourself through willpower or positive reinforcement tactics versus eating those high-carb sugary foods is next.

    Finally, digging deeper to look at what may be causing you to turn to such foods and snacking is necessary I think. If you can identify the stressors and mitigate them in some manner, the desire to eat will dissipate over time. I equate this closely with smoking. 

    Whereas the cigarettes are physically addicting (nicotine), and that goes away after a few days, it is the situations that you find yourself in where you have counted on the cigarettes to provide that emotional fix you may be seeking that is hard to kick.

    Good post and I do think that you are providing an important service with your weight loss coaching. Knowing some of the reasons that people overeat to include emotional needs is key to getting people to see this and take action to beat the cycle.  

    1. Thank you, Dave for your feedback. I agree that it is similar to quitting smoking. It really is an addiction. The sugar in processed foods is very addictive. And it isn’t easy to simply quit it. There is a lot of emotional things that go on in our heads. This makes it hard to lose weight and get healthy. When we change our relationship with food, we can have long term success.

  8. As demonstrated, emotional eating is a stress related symptom, that has nothing to do with being hungry, but rather that you are feeling bad,because you can’t cope,with your work or with your life situation.

    We have to get our job, or life, better planned out, or we need to develop better skills, for work, or for coping with people,once we do this,we will calm down, and find we don’t need that chocolate bar, or hamburger at all.

    As mentioned, it is good to have a friend, to help you to deal with the stress,to help you to learn to say no, to the food you don’t need,to encourage you to deal with the stressful situations,and feel good about yourself,and knowthat you are in control of things.

     

    1. I agree with you Robert. I often find that people who are unhealthy, and overweight have a difficult time managing stress and don’t know how to make themselves a priority. It really is about learning to make your health a priority so you can feel more in control. 

  9. You are so right about the triggers!  I know that when I give in to food temptation, it’s usually because I’ve stayed up too late.  Being tired is like an excuse factory for my brain (“it’ll take me 10 minutes to make a healthy snack, but I can get that box of cookies in 10 seconds, so I’ll be able to get to bed sooner if I eat the cookies.”).

    I try to not give myself the chance to rationalize like that, by keeping stocked up on healthier foods that are just as quick as unhealthy ones.  Another thing that works for me is to eat a big healthy meal before events where I know there will be unhealthy food, like when someone’s birthday is being celebrated at work.

    Really enjoyed this article, thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Jordan. I do the same things. I make sure I only have low carb snacks in the house and I eat before I go to events. But I rarely snack anymore. This lifestyle really reduces cravings for sweets.

  10. Good afternoon Wendy,

    Very interesting to read your post to overcome emotional eating. I must say though in highly emotional situations I would be the opposite, I would hardly eat.

    I have gone through, what I call, my own food evolution. Trying out what is good for me, trial and error. Now, at the age of 69, I think I have found what type of foods suit me best. I could and should move a bit more as writing for my 2 websites keep me stuck to the computer quite a bit.

    You are right that when on a binge eating too much ice cream one feels awful instead of happy. Luckily it does not happen often that I eat naughty foods. I normally eat close to nature.

    At home, I use the good type of Stevia so in general I only have added sugar when I go out. Like in my coffee once a week when I go shopping.

    Really good you started to use the word NO. An honest NO is way better than a yes which cannot be kept, I think this applies for most things in life. To be forced to eat something because people want you to is not a good idea. 

    Yes, to have sugar as the last thing before going to bed is the worst you can do, it kind of counts double. The modern human has created too many bad foods which pose a temptation, one needs a strong will to stay healthy and slim. 

    Regards, Taetske 

    1. Don’t even get me started on modern humans and their frankenfoods. We (modern humans) don’t even realize that we are not eating real food. Modern humans are on my medications and are overweight or obese. Our heads are in the sand. When we eat “real” food our bodies heal! It is really simple. The difficult part though is the addiction to the frankenfood. And believe me, the food industry does this on purpose. When people are addicted to carbs they make the food industry, big pharma and the medical industry rich. How many people have to die before we wake up?

  11. This article is very informative and to be honest. Good to know about another interesting topic. “I deserve this!” Thank you for sharing this excellent information. Stress is in our daily lives it’s up to us how we can manage it. We can avoid it by starting to love ourselves more and putting ourselves first as a top priority. So I’m happy that you decided to write about this topic and share it with people. It’s very useful and can definitely be used as a great source for everyone who is interested in this topic.

    Thanks for your practical suggestions. It’s actually doable and not complicated at all.

  12. This is a very useful review about how to come over emotional eating. After reading this I realised I was once in the categories of ‘ I deserve it’ and ‘love yourself more than food’ I could remember when I used to craved for too much cocacola and spaghetti. I can’t do without those food anytime I sighted them. It eventually became an habit. After I realised how bad too much cocacola can be for my health because of the caffeine, I took the habit ‘love yourself more than food’.That was how I got over it. At a time, spaghetti became a boring food to me because of my heavy consumption for it. You can’t see a little spaghetti inside my kitchen now, no way. I am able to compare my actions and attitude towards food  with this review, this is interesting and educating.

  13. I have found out that the source of my emotional eating is boredom and stress… Boredom can be overcome by doing other things and activities to keep myself occupied but stress is a whole other thing…

    Today’s lives carry a lot of stress and if you aren’t willing to go and live on a mountain by yourself you probably can’t get away from it.

    I am trying to become more conscious of my eating. Meditation is helping a lot.

    1. Meditation does help a lot with stress! I also find that simply taking a walk can help. It is important to realize that there will always be stress or those trying to make our life stressful. We have a choice with how we react to it and what stress we want to bring on ourselves. It really is about putting yourself first.

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