How can I prevent myself from engaging in emotional eating?

Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine
If you find yourself picking up food that is not on your meal plan, stuffing yourself to the point of discomfort, eating unconsciously or eating to calm anger or ease depression, get help. Before you eat, try this consciousness exercise. Ask yourself, "Is this food going to nourish my body? Or, am I trying to numb my pain or stress?" The point is to become aware of your eating habits – in the moment. If you are not hungry or the food choice is not one meant for nourishment, then drink a glass of water, go for a walk, take a deep breath, pray or meditate. Make a conscious effort to stop the cycle of food abuse.
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

As the queen of emotional or stress eating I can share what worked for me.

I had to stop eating to feel better and substitute other healthier behaviors that could make me feel just as good.

I had to learn about how feeling bad and dropping hormone levels made be crave the bad carbohydrates to feel better. I had to face my sugar addiction and why I had it and how to cure it.

Learning to eat 6 small meals/snacks a day keeps you full and prevents hunger. Detoxing from the five food felons especially sugars keeps the cravings away.

Having fun healthy snacks prevents you from feeling deprived and wanting the bad foods you are surrounded by on a daily basis.

Taking a walk, soaking in the tub, calling a friend, taking deep breaths, yoga, are all healthy options for stress management that can make you feel better without setting off the addiction cravings that lead to overeating and weight problems.

Eating the right foods full of the necessary nutrients actually helps prevent depression which can lead to emotional eating.

Getting 10,000 steps a day can keep you busy, prevent boredom eating, and produce chemicals that also keep you feeling that endorphin high without getting into trouble.

Buddying up on can help you find the resources you need and make you feel that you are not alone.

Health care professionals are human and have lots of stresses as we juggle our professional and personal lives. We too face the same challenges with emotional eating.

It can be overcome. I did it and you can too!

Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics

The best way to prevent emotional eating is to become aware of the emotions, situations, environments and foods that lead you to do it. A keen awareness will help you change your behavior. Here are some tips and tools to help you get started:

  • Keep a food and mood journal. For at least a week, record everything you eat. Take note of your mood, where you are and who you're with.  
  • Identify the trends. This is an essential step to determine what emotions trigger you to eat when you're not physically hungry.
  • Leave tempting foods at the supermarket. Research shows that the sight of some foods can encourage you to eat. If you do keep treats in the home, keep them in the pantry or at the back of the refrigerator so it's not the first thing you see.
  • Find other ways to occupy your time. This is essential if you tend to eat when you get bored. Take a walk. Call a friend. Take up a new hobby. Do anything to distract you from thoughts about food.

If you continue to experience difficulty managing your emotions, talk to a trusted mental health professional. 

Joel H. Fuhrman, MD
Family Medicine
Your eating for comfort has to be replaced with other outlets that build self-esteem and offer solace in emotionally healthy ways. For many people, these outlets can include feeling proud of yourself for improving your health through exercise, for kindness to others, for doing a job well, for developing a new skill, and for making more choices that will improve your future health. Losing weight can be a powerful boost to your self-confidence and self-esteem. In other words, the more reasons you have to feel good about yourself, the increased likelihood you will succeed in every aspect of your life. Your new attitude must be one that lets go of the idea that you are stuck with your lot in life and that you can't change things. You can. When you are overweight and you lose weight, you can see it, as can everyone around you. It is a visible representation that you have changed and you have taken back control of your life.

Getting healthy takes considerable focus and effort. You need to plan and put time into this. Of course, it is easier to eat processed and convenience foods and claim you are too busy to squeeze exercise into your schedule, but the effort to do what it takes is well worth it. It will allow you to transform your health and set you free to enjoy a much more pleasurable life. When you make the commitment to take proper care of yourself and put out the effort, you take back control.

These emotional issues are tied into the act of eating for many people, so there is no need to feel alone in experiencing them. If you are someone who experiences these issues, it is helpful to have a friend or a social support so you can share and discuss these topics. It is crucial to address them while also addressing the strong physical addictions that almost every person eating the standard, toxic, American diet has developed.
Eat for Health: Lose Weight, Keep It Off, Look Younger, Live Longer (2 Volume Set)

More About this Book

Eat for Health: Lose Weight, Keep It Off, Look Younger, Live Longer (2 Volume Set)

Dr. Fuhrman's scientifically proven system, Eat For Health, enables you to finally conquer your cravings and food addictions, while steering your taste buds toward healthier food choices. Medical...
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

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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.