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7 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating

You eat when you are bored. You eat when you are stressed. You eat when you need something to keep your mind off. These are all variations of emotional eating. Emotional eating can be dangerous because it can advance to eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia if not controlled.

I know how easy to go from “just one bite” to eating a regrettable amount of snacks in one sit. I know how guilty you feel after cleaning out your fridge. That’s why I want to introduce 7 tips to overcome emotional eating.

What is Emotional Eating?

According to Wikipedia, emotional eating is a form of emotion-focused coping. It attempts to minimize, regulate and prevent emotional distress. It means, resolving what’s causing your emotional distress is the best way to overcome emotional eating.

7 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating

1. Take a Few Long Deep BreathsOvercome Emotional Eating - Take Deep Breaths

Taking deep breaths releases the chemical that triggers a positive feeling (called endorphins) and reduces the “Fight or Flight” response caused by stress. Once endorphins are released, you will be calmer and reconsider if you really need food.


Try this: From your nose, breathe in for 5 seconds and hold the breath for a couple of moments. Then release it saying “Hah” at once. Repeat as many as you need to clear your head.

2. Drink a Full Glass of Water

Dehydration can prevent your brain from functioning properly. It leads you to believe you need food when you do not.

The study shows that drinking water will calm down your anxiety by controlling the level of stress hormone, cortisol, in your body.

Try this: Before you reach food, drink a full glass of water (8 to 10 fl. oz.). I bet you will be too full to eat for a while.

Drinking water will help overcome emotional eating

3. Exercise

Physical activity is the most effective way to maintain mental fitness. People who work out 2 to 3 days a week have less tendency to overeat. It is because physical activities produce endorphins which reduce stress and improve sleep quality.

Try this: Pick any exercises you like and do daily. If you can’t exercise daily, try walking around when the temptation to eat hits you. You will come back with a positive mindset.

4. Practice Meditation

It is not a quick solution to overcome emotional eating. But by practicing meditation, you will turn off the external noise and gain a strong connection to your body. This connection will improve your ability to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger. Meditation’s stillness will also help you build inner peace and realize your food obsession is not real.

Try this: In a peaceful environment where there are no distractions, sit in a comfortable position and focus on breathing with your eyes closed. Then try to clear your mind. If random thoughts come through, come back to focusing on breathing and clearing your mind. Practice 5 minutes a day and gradually increase the length.

5. Keep Food Journal

Recording a food journal is a powerful way to control eating habits. It increases awareness of eating patterns and problems. Seeing your overeating habit on a paper will make you reset your mind and want to do better by not overeating. This method works better with competitive people.


Try this:
Jot down what you eat on a notebook (be honest!) and review at the end of the day. Then set up a goal for the next day aiming for less impulsive eating. You can also take advantage of free apps like My Fitness Pal and Rise Up + Recover.

Keep food journal to overcome emotional eating

6. Pick Alternative Action

If you are craving for food because you are stressed, picking one alternative action in advance. An alternative action is something you decide to do before you reach food. It can be as easy as drinking a glass of water, taking a walk, singing a song, and calling your best friend.

My favorite one is walking up and downstairs in the office for about 10 minutes. It clears my mind and stops the urge to munch on food. After walking, a glass of cold water tastes so good fills up my stomach.

7. Face Negative Emotions

Emotional eating is a temporal shelter from your negative feelings and discomfort. It provides a brief pleasure and satisfaction that doesn’t last long. Next thing you know, a wave of regrets hits you, and you are left with increased emotional distress.

One key to dealing with this behavior is to accept what you are feeling. It’s okay to have negative feelings. You get angry at your subordinate who is late for an important meeting. You are sad when your boyfriend forgot your birthday. You get frustrated and desperate when you have the endless volume of work to get through. These are happening to everyone.

Accept what you are feeling and don’t blame you for feeling those emotions. Instead, step back and think how eating food right now will impact you. You know shortly after eating, a wave of regrets will come to you.

Talking to a friend will help prevent from emotional eating

Sharing how you are feeling with your best friend and a partner is also a way to release endorphins. Human beings, especially women, feel satisfied when someone agrees with how you are feeling. Next time you want to eat when you are not hungry, pick up the phone or text someone to talk about what’s in your mind.

Lastly

As you noticed, some tips above relate to controlling your negative feelings because the only way to overcome emotional eating is to control your emotions. Don’t expect to make it happen in one day. Start with one tip above and give yourself applause if you successfully stopped yourself from emotional eating. Even if you fail, be proud of yourself for trying because it’s the first step to success.


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Love,

Stephanie Kern

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14 Comments

  • Michel

    Thank you for these awesome tips, and I am sure that many people will find them so useful.

    The water one works well for me as it helps to fill you up and make you less likely to overindulge. Also writing down what you eat helps, because you don’t actually realize what you eat until you see it written down.

    Next time I want to eat that donut will try the deep breaths one too.

    You are very wise when you say that all this emotional eating comes from negative emotions. Start by making small changes and build them into habits.

    • Stephanie Kern

      Michel, thank you for stopping by and leaving comments. Yes, please try taking long deep breath at least 5 times. You will have better clarity in what you are doing.

  • Yormith96

    Hello there, this is just the best article I will be reading on how to overcome emotional eating, let me say all the seven tips u listed here are just the best way to overcome it. I practically know of drinking water, doing exercise before that it can cure emotional eating and even goes beyond that, I am learning new tips like facing negative emotions, am new to it, I Wil have to take time to study this and even read more on it. 

    • Stephanie Kern

      Hello, Yormith96! Thank you for visiting my website and leaving a comment. I’m glad you liked it and hope you can incorporate some tips and get results. Please do let me know how things go!

  • Taetske

    Good afternoon Stephanie,

    You come up with some good tips to overcome emotional eating.

    To drink a glass of water to lower your Cortisol is a very good tip. Our modern life creates too much Cortisol as we are in a hurry, stressed, eat the wrong foods etc. These modern times are making us lose our natural balance as we are not in harmony with nature anymore.

    My personal trick is to go and work in the garden. I forget time and do not think about eating so this works for me. Keep your mind and body busy does the trick.

    Regards, Taetske 

    • Stephanie Kern

      Hello, Taetske, Thank you so much for leaving your comments! I love your “alternative action”! Definitely picking what you love to do as an alternative action works the best if possible. If I’m home and I’m tempted to eat when no hungry, I turn on my computer and start writing. It works 🙂

  • Mike

    These are some good tips. The one I think I’ll try is the food journal one. I like to try and keep track of everything I do every day and write down, that way negative habits slowly become more obvious, thus making you more conscious of them. I did a similar thing with the money I would spend. After a while of recording my transactions, I noticed I bought a lot of the same type of snack every time I went to the store, even though it wasn’t even why I had gone. Seeing all the money I could have still had made it not want to buy it as much anymore.

    In terms of alternative action, I like to go on a run when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. I think that that’s the easiest way to cut down on it for me.

    • Stephanie Kern

      Hello, Mike! Thanks a lot for leaving comments on my article!

      Looks like you know the benefits of writing down what you eat very well! I agree it works with your finance as well. In fact, that’s how I monitor my budget vs actual and save money.

      Also, I love how you chose running as your alternative action because it gives you benefits from two of 7 tips!

  • Kehinde Segun

    This is a really cool and lovely post. I have never heard about emotional eating until after reading this post. All these tips you mentioned here are true and it has been happening to me though but I have never taken any  cognizance into them. Most time when I’m bored, I prefer eating just to get out of that boredom which will later results to over feeding for me and I will eventually gets uncomfortable throughout the day. The number 2,3 and 4 are what I will strat practicing now 

    • Stephanie Kern

      Good afternoon. Kehinde. Thank you so much for visiting my website and leaving comments! I’m glad you liked the article. If you do try other tips, please do let me know how they work out for you! I’d love to hear your results.

  • Divine13

    Great article. I am particularly passionate about the subject of emotional eating as a friend of mine just recovered from binge eating caused by emotional trauma. I think facing the negative emotions helped her a lot in her recovery. I would definitely recommend all the tips listed in this article. Good job

    • Stephanie Kern

      Hello, Divine13. I’m glad to hear that your friend was able to face her emotions and recover from binge eating. I know of several friends who went through the same including myself. If they ever fall into the food trap again, we can practice those tips. Thanks for commenting.

  • John

    Thanks for your post Stephanie,I’d always been curious about this emotional eating issue – especially whether it was limited to obese people or if the whole population needed to be mindful of this.  Your opening answered this – emotional eating can be when we are bored, stressed or need something to keep your mind off.  OK, that’s me and many others.I love your ideas to overcome this – I think keeping a food journal would keep most people honest.  Then by writing down 3 bowls of potato crisps or corn chips we might be less inclined to do this again.Great tips overall, I’m not overweight but recognise those corn chips are not serving me well so will be more mindful and now have 7 great tips to overcome this.  Can I add an 8th tip?  Why not grab a bowl of chopped up celery/carrots/capsicum or other vegetables as a replacement?  I know this is a lot more work than opening that packet of whatever and munching away for emotional eating.Thanks for sharing, John

    • Stephanie Kern

      Hi, John! I really appreciate your comments. I agree that keeping a food journey is a powerful way to overcome emotional eating. But the problem is that some people are just not good at keeping track of food they eat because it is just too much work for them. This method would work the most for people who generally likes taking notes and seeing numbers and achievements on paper.

      I love your 8th tip, grabbing a bowl of chopped vegetables. It would be a good way to ease into the process. You start off with eating less guilty food and once you get used it, you can move onto not eating out of stress at all. Great suggestion!

      Thanks for visiting and have a wonderful day.

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