How to Stop Emotional Eating


By Jo Ann Bellistri

How to Stop Emotional Eating

How to Stop Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is one way to go to that place that feels safe and comforting, but it’s not the healthiest way to find solace and it can lead to bigger problems. When people eat to satisfy a feeling other than hunger, they are emotionally eating or feeding their feelings. Occasionally using food as a reward or pick-me-up is perfectly normal and everyone does it, but when eating becomes the main tool for dealing with emotions, it’s time to start dealing with the real problems. 

Emotional eating is different for everyone. Some people turn to food because it triggers certain memories or feelings, others use food to take them away from the stress and anxiety they feel, and some eat because they are lonely, bored or even happy. When emotional eaters consume food, the emotion that they are trying to deal with is comforted or satisfied and they go to that place that gives them security and peace, but that’s only temporary. When they finish eating, the feelings they were trying to deal with are still there and often worse because now they feel guilty about the amount of food they’ve consumed. As this cycle continues, emotional eaters begin to feel powerless over their feelings and over food. 

Recognizing the behavior is the first step to managing it. Is it stress, loneliness, boredom? What is the the trigger? When that trigger is recognized, that person must find other ways to feed it. Food is not the only way to nourish. There are plenty of alternatives that can satisfy emotional hunger. 

If the trigger is loneliness, calling a loved one or spending time with a pet can alleviate lonely feelings. Exercise is a terrific way to alleviate stress and anxiety. Once one is aware of the trigger that leads them to feed their feelings, they are on their way to ending the cycle. The key is to find alternatives and the possibilities are endless. When people are open to trying new activities,  they can be steered away from the habit of emotional eating.

Even if one knows their trigger(s), emotional eating is habitual and often people aren’t aware they are feeding their feelings until it’s too late. That’s why it’s so important to take five. Pause for five minutes before eating anything. During that time, one becomes clear on whether the hunger is physical or emotional. 

The process of eliminating or reducing emotional eating takes time and practice, but is necessary for living a healthy life. The feelings that lead to emotional eating must be accepted and dealt with in a positive, nondestructive manner. Finding emotional fulfillment and peace is easier to attain through healthy alternatives to emotional eating.

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