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How to Gain Control of Emotional Eating

Do you find yourself grabbing comfort foods when you are faced with certain emotions? Maybe you reach for the potato chips when you are stressed or grab candy when you are bored. This is referred to as emotional eating. Humans typically use this method of eating to suppress or soothe negative emotions. Unfortunately, the effect is only temporary, and the emotions return. It can become a vicious cycle.

Image by Help Guide

Are you an emotional eater? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
  • Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
  • Do you reward yourself with food?
  • Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
  • Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

There is the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Emotional hunger tends to come on quickly with specific cravings for junk foods. When you are physically hungry, almost everything sounds appetizing. Emotional hunger leads to unsatisfied, mindless eating. When you are eating due to physical hunger, you are more aware and mindful.

Ways to combat emotional eating:

  • Manage your stress levels – find a stress management technique that helps you (e.g. breathing practices, meditation, being outdoors, etc.)
  • Take a break before giving in to the craving – try to take a 5 minute break to potentially make a different decision
  • Find an alternative – for example, if you are bored, find something to do that you enjoy; if you are anxious, call someone that brightens your day; if you are tired, take a bath or light some candles.
  • Keep a journal – write down what you eat, how much, when, and how you are feeling. This may help you identify patterns between your mood and food choices over time. The next step is finding healthier techniques to feed your emotions.

Learn more about emotional eating at the Help Guide.

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