Tips To End Emotional Eating
Updated: Apr 15
Stress, fatigue, fear, sadness, and depression are just a few of the emotions that often contribute to emotional eating. Food and eating have powerful connections to our emotions. We find comfort in food if we wish to keep feelings to ourselves. During celebrations, we reward ourselves with a buffet dinner or that indulgent dessert because we feel we deserve it. We even invite our friends to join us on that rewarding day and influence them to eat more, too. If you are not consciously aware of the role emotions play in your eating habits, you may begin to see the negative consequences in your body.
Here are a few tips to help end emotional eating:
Eat Before You Get Hungry
Your nervous system dictates so much of your desire as well as your physical need, for food. Keeping that in mind specifically when you are under duress, it's important to be aware that your need for energy is going to increase. Try to stick to a routine of eating at the same time each day and when under stress, likely more frequently. This will help you get in front of your hunger and that will help keep you from overeating or indulging in too many or much of the things you wouldn't necessarily consume if you were not hangry (hungry + angry) or way too hungry to mentally care what you are eating. We've all been there.
Relax for a few minutes before you eat
Calming your nervous system before you begin eating is a HUGE benefit to your whole body. I coach my clients to take a minimum of three slow, long breaths in and out before they begin eating. The goal is to get your nervous system into a parasympathetic (rest and digest) dominant state, which is where we should be spending most of our time in anyway.
When we get calm, our minds and bodies will begin to move away from needing so much energy constantly to balance our systems such as what is happening when we are under chronic stress. When you push hard, you must fuel well, often and rest sufficiently. Sadly, most of us these days especially, push hard but don't slow down much less stop in order to take care of our minds and bodies. Life is an endurance event, not a race. And no endurance event is going to fare well for you if you allow yourself to be depleted of the necessary resources you need in order to maintain proper function much less optimal performance. You are human, not a machine.
Reflect for a few minutes before you eat
Before you head to the kitchen, spend a few minutes reflecting on your physical and emotional state.
Ask yourself if you are physically hungry. If you feel centered emotionally and you are actually physically hungry, then eat.
But if you are feeling extreme emotions, try calling a friend or engaging in another activity for a few minutes—such as exercise, writing, or reading—to see if your “hunger” goes away.
Use "I don't" vs. "I can't"
Words mean things. Your words mean a lot to your own emotional and mental states. When you say 'I can't" have some particular type of food, you are going to want it more. Inside we are all at some level emoting and reacting like small children and just like when a child hears, "you can't have that cookie" of course the child is going to want that cookie more than anything now!
Do yourself a favor and swap "I can't" for "I don't" eat this or that. For example, I don't eat gluten because I choose to not eat gluten. I physically could but I make the choice not to. There is choice related to the phrase "I don't" and I don't know about you but I would rather exercise my choice surrounding my food vs. telling myself that "I can't" have something.
Make a shopping list
Identify the foods your body needs to keep you going through the day. Making a list of what you will buy—and sticking to it—allows you to feel safe but honor the emotions.
Eat an alternative food
If you are fond of eating chips when you feel emotional, why not look for a healthier alternative that is relatively similar to your comfort food? Try making chips out of vegetables like kale, celery, broccoli, and zucchini. Another option is to buy or make root-based chips such as cassava, sweet potato, parsnips, jicama, plantain or beet chips. Do not live in deprivation.
Log Your Intake
As much as no one likes logging or writing down their food intake, it is such a powerful tool to do so! When you go off the deep end and eat your emotions, it's harder to continue doing that on a daily basis when you reflect on what you have already consumed because you wrote it down. Give it whirl, it might just change everything for you!
Prepare your own food
Preparing your own meal is an excellent way to relieve stress. You can even express your creativity in cooking by customizing some of the ingredients and experimenting with flavors. It is also a healthy way to channel your emotions by giving yourself an activity to enjoy. As you immerse yourself in the process, you may realize that the distraction helped push away any negative feelings you may have been having.
Start your meal planning with your very next meal. Spend a few minutes thinking about what you already have in your kitchen and how you can nourish yourself with healthy eating.
Food doesn't and shouldn't be an enemy. You can still enjoy eating; just don't eat to bring yourself joy. As with any change in lifestyle, start small, and the more often you practice meal planning and the other practices I mentioned, the easier and more successful you will get quickly!
My 1:1 coaching clients have the option to receive meal plans, recipes, and shopping lists as part of their work with me. If you would like to learn more about how you can work with me just click here.