What can I do about emotional eating?

As a person who works in the fitness industry, I see people battling with emotional eating very frequently. I even sometimes find myself eating for emotional reasons, seeking quick comfort in stressful situations. Later I notice that eating emotionally doesn't sooth my emotions at all, it just leaves me feeling sick.

To seek comfort we need to balance the emotions that cause unnecessary eating. My personal experience shows that practicing YOGA and meditation help to balance the ups and downs of my emotions.

Spiritual practices like yoga let you observe your feelings and let them go if they are not serving you. When you face your emotions with awareness, you don't feel the urge to run away from them and hide behind the comfort of food.

I found this article explaining the benefit of yoga to overcome emotional eating:
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics
The best way to handle emotional eating is by keeping a cravings journal. By writing down the food you crave as well as the feeling that triggered it makes you more aware and can help you. You want to look for patterns and triggers. After this you can develop a plan to deal with your cravings, such as keeping tempting foods out of the house. Remember out of sight, out of mouth.
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine
The trick to overcoming emotional eating is not to depend solely on the mind-over-matter approach. Come up with concrete, realistic strategies that you can use in situations that typically drive you to eat. Whatever ideas you come up with, it is important to practice them over and over. Eventually, this will pay off as your brain gets used to substituting new behaviors for the same old emotional triggers. Remember, it's always easier to develop a new habit than to break an old one. So, whenever and wherever you can, think of new habits that make the old behavior more difficult to show.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
When it comes to emotional eating, you have to love what you do to make a difference. Learn ways to deal with emotional eating in this video with Dr. Oz and Dr. Erin Olivo.

First, you have to identify the emotion and eating link. The best way to do this is with a food diary in which you record the time of day, what you ate, where you ate, who you ate with and how you were feeling. After a few weeks, you will see patterns emerge -- and may likely see that for example -- you are more likely to eat food low in nutrition and high in calories at times of stress, anger, loneliness etc. On Dr. Oz's show -- one suggestion I provided is to use the acronym FLAB -- wait a beat before you eat something (especially if you are not feeling hungry) and ask yourself if you are eating is because you are Frustrated Lonely Anxious or Bored -- if that's the reason, put the food down and find a pleasurable substitute activity that is more likely to address the emotion in question (e.g. if you are lonely, call a friend). Also, don't let yourself get too hungry during the day, make sure you eat regularly throughout the day, as it is easy to misinterpret the signal of hunger for a feeling of emptiness that needs to be filled.  
Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics
I think everyone is affected by emotional eating at some time or another. It's important to know that you can overcome it.

The first thing you have to do is admit that you're an emotional eater and explore the emotions that lead you to eat when you're not really hungry. Try incorporating some of these tips into your day to combat emotional eating:
  • Keep a food and mood journal. For a few days to a week, record everything you eat. Take note of your mood, where you are and who you're with.
  • Review your journal to identify any trends in the way you eat. This is an essential step to determine what emotions trigger you to eat when you're not physically hungry.
  • Leave the salty snacks, ice cream and cookies at the supermarket. Out of sight = out of mind.
  • If boredom is a culprit, find other ways to fill your time. Take a walk. Call a friend. Take up a new hobby.
If you continue to experience difficulty managing your emotions, talk to a trusted mental health professional.
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics

Key steps to overcoming emotional eating include:

  • Maintain a food and emotions journal to better identify when emotional eating occurs
  • Create a list of alternative activities for when you start experiencing strong emotions and are not actually physically hungry
  • Have a support system (family, friends, health care team)
  • Learn to understand signs of true physical hunger
  • Enjoy more mindful and conscious eating experiences rather than a distracted meals/snacks
  • Enjoy all foods in moderation

Continue Learning about Emotional Eating

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.