Focus on Nutrition

3 Tips to Manage Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is feeding our feelings instead of feeding an empty stomach. It isn’t just “negative” feelings like sadness, rejection, anger, depression or stress that may tell our brains that it’s time to eat. We may also eat as a way to heighten feelings of happiness, celebration, victory and joy. Emotional eating can develop into a powerful habit, and habits are very hard to change.

Knowledge is power. The more you learn about what makes you turn to food, the less often you will make the trip. Our feelings are not wrong or right any more than breathing is wrong or right. We just need to learn ways other than eating to manage them.

Identify and accept the emotions that you try to soothe or boost with food. Throughout our lives, we learn that eating can give us something to do, provide a pleasant social setting, help us avoid addressing unpleasant feelings, provide a reward, recall a cherished memory or alleviate stress. Take time to journal what you were feeling when you chose to eat when you weren’t physically hungry.

Figure out how to feed your feelings without food. Knowing what is eating you is just as important as knowing what and how much you should be eating. Reach out to a friend or member of your support group. A concerned but independent listener will help restore your perspective and allow you to express your feelings. Exercise releases tension and leaves you feeling both calm and energized. Soothe yourself with a soak in the tub or a cup of tea. Take a break to read a book, watch a favorite show or enjoy a hobby.

Stop and count to ten. Minutes, that is. If you suddenly have a craving, pause a few minutes before you choose to eat. Emotional eating is often a matter of habit and happens without any real thought. Give yourself the time to think about the reason you want to eat. Delay can lead to understanding and a different choice. Try to picture yourself effectively managing this. If you decide to go ahead and eat, then forgive yourself, learn all you can from the choice and move on.