How to identify emotional eating

Wendie Pett

Wendie is passionate about motivating people to make fitness and nutrition part of their daily routine

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We eat because we’re hungry. And sad. Not to mention bored or tired. Often, though, it’s because we’re anxious or excited.

The excuses for our reasons to celebrate with food are as numerous as the stars in the sky. Humans don’t always eat strictly to satisfy their hunger. We also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward (even for the most miniscule of reasons). Not only does emotional eating not fix emotional problems, it may even make matters worse.

The following identify emotional eating with tips on how to combat it.

To understand whether you are eating for “stress” reasons, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I eat more when I’m feeling stressed?
  • Do I eat when I’m not hungry or when I’m full?
  • Do I eat to feel better (to calm and soothe myself when I’m sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
  • Do I eat without even thinking about what I’m eating? (unconscious vs. conscious)

The key to curbing one’s appetite in order to ensure eating the right foods and for the right reason, keep in mind that real hunger comes on gradually and will be satisfied by any number of foods. On the contrary, whereas emotional hunger comes on suddenly, usually it is accompanied by cravings for specific high-calorie or high-sugar foods, and will not be satisfied with anything else…or so it will “feel” that way.

Combating Emotional Eating

Understand your stressors.  Whatever it is, know how to identify it. Knowing the cause of the problem is the first step toward fixing it. The best way to identify the problem and pinpoint your patterns around food is to journal…foods along with emotions daily.

Replace the emotional eating with something else.  Soak in the tub, go for a brief walk, read a good book, or write down everything you are grateful for daily. All of these activities stimulate the same pleasure sensors in your brain as eating.

Before you give into the craving, take 10 minutes to identify the source of the craving.  Giving yourself some time before giving into the craving will give you the opportunity to make a different and hopefully healthy decision.

Learn to accept your feelings, even the bad ones.  By allowing yourself to feel your emotions instead of suppressing them with food, you will experience how to work through them in the future. “Life happens” and the sooner you learn to cope without using food then the sooner you will start releasing unwanted weight gain causes by stress.

Don’t keep comfort food in the house.  Having it there and readily available will make it almost impossible to resist once the craving hits. Out of sight out of mind…this rule applies well when it comes to impulse emotional eating.

Emotional eating is curable, but it takes intentional, conscious practice of the steps above. It’s time to control the thing that’s been controlling you. Agree? Feel free to share ideas and habits below that have helped you to personally overcome emotional eating. I know there are more thoughts out there on this topic, and your thoughts just may help someone else that is struggling.

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