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Emotional Eating 101

Emotional Eating 101

Even if you’ve been doing great with your food choices, even if you see the pounds melting away or are hitting great blood glucose numbers, sometimes something gets in the way of your mojo.

Maybe it’s a fight with someone you love, maybe it’s the stress of parenting, maybe it’s the bummer of the game your favorite football team lost; regardless of the cause, emotional eating can wreak havoc on your progress, and if you don’t get it under control, it can carry you away.

Here are some great ideas to prevent emotional eating or get it under control once you’re in that “I may as well eat the whole pan” mentality.

  1. Uncover the root causes of your emotional eating. Here’s the thing about this problem: We do it because we have emotions or feelings that are overwhelming (yes, even good feelings can be that way) that we’re not ready to deal with, and eating is a great distraction. If you want to stop emotional eating before it starts, you’ll have to become aware of the problem that’s causing the eating in the first place.
  2. Problem solving for the win. Once you know what the most common causes of your emotional eating are, you can start identifying the problems and then solving them (instead of trying to eat them). For instance, if the problem is every time your boss tells you she wants to see you in her office you get totally nervous and hit the vending machine, maybe solving your problem would involve sending an email and asking for a brief overview of your meeting. If that sounds impossible, know that problem solving could be as simple as talking out your worries with a friend and then stepping outside for some fresh air.
  3. Distractions, baby. If you eat because you’re bored (yup, that’s emotional eating, too), then learning to distract yourself is clutch. Anything that keeps your hands busy should work. Do you like to knit? To draw? To woodwork? Is your dog overdue for a wash? Go use those hands! (Staying out of the kitchen helps, too.)
  4. Remember that cravings fade. If you can distract yourself for 15 minutes, chances are your intense desire for chocolate covered Oreos will have faded a smidge. If not, distract yourself for 15 more minutes.
  5. Take a deep breath. Seriously, that’s it.
  6. Make a plan for tomorrow. If you ended up eating a half a bag of something tonight, and it’s like, the fourth night in a row, it’s time to prepare yourself for tomorrow. Maybe write down everything you’ll eat the next day (include at least something that’s satisfying and tasty so you don’t feel deprived), and then…
  7. Remind yourself that if you can break the habit a few days in a row, you’ll be back on track. The first day is the hardest, but you’re going to be super psyched that you made it through.
  8. Find better ways to deal. This is the real answer to emotional eating, the one that can last for a lifetime. You gotta learn how to manage your stress and, when stress does happen, how to deal with it in a healthy and sustainable way. Exercise, breathing exercises, prayer, meditation, journaling, those are some ways to handle stress that will leave your body feeling great.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.