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How to Stop Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating: How to Regain Control

In a poll on emotional eating, 81 percent of FitSugar readers confessed that they eat as a reaction to anxiety, stress, or sadness. While I think that many of us can admit to doing this occasionally, a long history or consistent habit of emotional eating can be problematic. Instead of dealing with the issue at hand, emotional eaters mask their feelings — temporarily — with food. To get control over emotional eating, individuals first need to understand why it happens. Once you understand the characteristics of emotional eating, the next step is to regain control in your patterns. Here are some ways to regain control of your eating habits:

  • Figure out your triggers: Keep a food journal of what you eat, when you eat, and why you eat it (this one is the most difficult). Knowing your motivations for why you eat will make you conscious of your triggers, and you can begin to change your patterns.
  • Understand why you feel hungry: Physical hunger comes on slowly, and emotional hunger comes on quickly and is intense. Pay attention to how your stomach feels: is it rumbling and empty? Try waiting out the craving and see if the hunger subsides.
  • Find other ways to take care of yourself: It's important that you "feed" yourself in other ways aside from food. Take a walk, call a friend, or any other healthy activity that soothes you. Keep a list of alternatives to refer to when in the midst of a craving.
  • There are a few more tips, so


  • Banish junk food: Stock your pantry and fridge with healthy foods. If there are no cookies, chips, or ice cream in your house, the chances drop considerably that you will eat and overeat those foods.
  • Do eat: Make sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet with complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats. When you fill up on healthy foods, you will be better able to determine emotional hunger from physical hunger.
  • Be healthy: I know this one seems obvious, but take good care of yourself. Exercise regularly and get adequate sleep. Hunger, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise can make you moody, and when you're a cranky pants, it's harder to manage your cravings and combat the stresses that often lead you to reach for food for comfort.


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Join The Conversation
ayuninur ayuninur 6 years
thanks for the tip!
amber512 amber512 6 years
Same here carmela83. I'm doing a lot better with it now though!
carmela83 carmela83 6 years
i'm so envious of people who aren't emotional eaters, like me. if i'm sad, i tend to eat. if i'm feeling stressed, i tend to eat. what helps me lately is making myself a cup of tea with some honey and it gives me that soothing/comforting feeling i'm actually looking for. thanks for the tips!
kia kia 9 years
great tips, I hope they help folks
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I'm not much of an emotional eater, but I do try to keep junk food and my personal "trigger foods" out of the house so I'm not tempted to pig out after a stressful day. One of the biggest changes that I made that helped me lose weight was to find other comforts besides food to treat myself with. So instead of celebrating finals week with ice cream, I'd celebrate by buying a new pair of jeans or going for a long run.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
I don't really do this but do have snack attacks so I make it a point to keep only healthy snacks here. Although I do have some ice cream in the freezer, it only happens every so often. ;)
ElectroPopTart ElectroPopTart 9 years
I'm guilty when it comes to celebrating with food. I love to reward myself for a job well done. I'm getting in the habit of reminding myself that I eat to live, not vise versa.
porkypocky porkypocky 9 years
i feel like when i'm emotional i watch what i eat more carefully...thinking about having to exercise more to work off the crap i ate in addition to being upset makes me feel worse! my appetite also decreases when i'm depressed, so i have to watch that i don't eat too little too...
emalove emalove 9 years
I am not an emotional eater at all.
lemuse20 lemuse20 9 years
Ah I totally needed this post!!! I got pulled over today but got off with a warning (I actually didnt cry or anything at all when it happened) but now I'm so emotional about it, thankful that I got off so easy, yet upset that I got pulled over... and I'm trying not to eat anything because that I'm obsessing over the experience now, because I "know" I'm not hungry, so yeah this just reminded me to not go there to try to use food for comfort.
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
Thanks Fit, I think these can help anybody. Love your posts, you are my favorite Sugar.
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