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I eat when I'm not hungry and it's making me gain weight

By Anonymous August 23, 2009 - 11:12pm
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Hello, my name is Carolyn and I hope someone here can help me with some diet/food advice. This past year I've been going through some stressful times (job stuff, relationship issues) and I have turned to food for comfort. Actually, at regular meal times I have to say I do really well. I love chicken and salads and other veggies and things like that and I have to say I eat a pretty healthy balance of foods.

But it's the in-between meal times that are getting to me, and the worst is late at night. I like to watch TV before bed and I used to not need food while watching but now I usually grab a bowl of ice cream or some leftovers from dinner. I'm not hungry but I'm eating. And if my Mom calls me or my boyfriend--look out! For some reason when they stress me out I eat crunchy hard things like Doritos. And sometimes I'll just feel bored like after answering a bunch of emails or something and I'll have some cereal or something, even though I'm not even hungry.

I've gained some weight this past year and I know it's because of these non-hungry eating times. I know I need to stop doing this but it's hard. Do I just toss my ice cream and chips or what? Has anyone been able to overcome this and lose the weight?

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EmpowHER Guest

Hey there. I am totally with you in this case! I'm a BIG emotional eater in most cases. Big procrastinator with exercise and eating healthy ALL the time.

Before I start with my story, I want to thank the other people that commented and for the links, I'll be sure to check them out.

I'm not a big girl, but I tend to snack all the time. Like you said, when someone has stressed you out, it's usually something crunchy that I go for. This last 2 years have been a roller coaster ride for me. Before 2 years ago I was fit as a fiddle. Hardly ate bad things and spent ALOT of time at the gym or walking the neighbourhood. This was in AUstralia, and now I live in Canada. So sometimes I think the switch to a different environment and not having my family around has helped me start with emotional eating.

If I'm really really stressed, I refuse to eat because I'm not hungry and think I will just throw it up. But after the time of being really stressed, I totally gorge! On EVERYTHING!! It's really ridiculous.

I know I need help, but the last thing I want to do is see a psychiatrist... so I'm really trying to devote my life back into the gym again. The first few days of getting back on track seem to be the worst because I don't have the energy from eating all the crap that I have. I always think 'tomorrow, i will start being better tomorrow' but then I wake up late and it all goes down shit creek!

I hope you have overcome your bad eating habbits as I wish to overcome mine. Maybe a trip home will do me some good :)

February 10, 2011 - 12:10pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Are you actively binging and purging now?

You mentioned that you "gorge on everything" and think "I'll just throw it up", and I wasn't clear on if you actually are binging (eating large amounts of food in one sitting) and if you are actually purging (purposefully vomiting after eating to get rid of food).

Since you have relocated and are away from family, it can be very stressful. I remember when I relocated, and even though I was living with my boyfriend (now husband), I had started a new job and felt alone without my extended family and life-long friends nearby. I am so thankful that I did go to a psychologist (my workplace had an EAP-- Employee Assistance Program that was free and confidential), and the psychologist was basically my sounding board for my stress, anxiety and sadness...until I was able to make some friends (I had acquaintances, but it takes 1-2 years before feeling like you have friends), and find other things that made me happy.

We all have different coping mechanisms, and the trick is to find healthy coping strategies, as we all get lonely, sad or other negative emotions. You are on the right track to a healthy coping mechanism, which could turn into a healthy lifestyle choice, by going to the gym.

Please know, however, that the gym can be another way to cope in a harmful way, if you use over-exercise to purge calories from your body (if you are already in the binge-and-purge cycle). Make sure you are using the gym in a healthy, positive manner!

Do you have a good support system of friends nearby?
Do you have organizations or other groups you belong to?
Do you have access to a psychologist or counselor, either from your workplace or school?

February 10, 2011 - 12:58pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Alison Beaver)

Well, when I am really stressed and feeling in a shitty state of mind I usually wont eat all day then will binge at night and some cases then purge. (so stupid I know! and it's really not me!) But most the time I don't vomit and I just binge on anything thats around.

I live with my boyfriend who I met a couple months after coming to canada so we're been together for 2years almost. He's great but like I said, being away from family is hard, and not having my own girlfriends here really sucks. We move around from city to city for summers and winters so it's hard to get a steady girlfriend or group of friends that isn't his own.

If we have a really bad fight over something like porn, or if we're both stressed, or if he talks rude to me (I always tell him to speak nicer because no one deserves anger taken out on them and he's grown from that) this stress from fighting usually makes me not want to eat. But then when everything is ok i go back to eating everything at once because i'm happy?. Then i want to purge, or i dont, or I take laxatives. And I understand that taking laxatives is also a form of bulimia. I don't want to do this. I used to be a gym junkie but also ate very very healthy and had little stress back home. Sometimes I get on track here for sometime with fitness and staying healthy, but then something always happens that brings me down again to want to not eat... then binge!

We're in a new city again and I have no friends here, no job as of yet because I've been waiting for my 2nd Work Permit to come through. We go to vegas with his family for a week on sunday. Then I'd booked a flight to spend 3weeks at home when we had a relationship threatening fight last week. hopefully that will give me a boost again seeing my family and being around my origin. but then i get scared that we shouldn't be together because sometimes here i feel like i'm being held down. sometimes i want to ask for a break so i can figure out what i want in life other then him, but i'm scared of him finding someone else. i guess i have self esteem issues too, that i never used to. I really think being away from family and friends has had this happen to me. i'm so different and i do things i wouldn't usually. i want to stay here, and stay with him, but i dont want my personality to continue to subside. i don't know how to be 'me' here.

my mum and my sister are great supporters that i could talk to about anything. but i hate letting them know if i'm under stress or not enjoying myself. i want them to know i'm happy all the time so i refuse to email or talk to them on skype when i'm down.

i guess i could see a counsellor, but i hate thinking i have a problem. even though i admit it, i don't want to sound like a head case.

February 10, 2011 - 1:39pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I'm so glad you found EmpowHER!

You have a lot of stuff going on in your life, and talking with a counselor would be the best thing for you. It does not mean you are a "head case" as you describe, but it means you are going through a stressful time in your life, and using unhealthy coping behaviors to deal with it. You can choose healthier coping behaviors and avoid binging and purging (by vomiting or laxative use or over-exercising at gym...you described yourself as being a "gym junkie" which also is a purging-type behavior).

You don't know if you like where you live, you don't know who you are right now, you don't know if your boyfriend is "the one"...these are all very normal feelings, and it actually means you are smart and contemplative to consider your options. It is just hard right now, because you are also dealing with relocation stress...it is emotionally draining to be away from family, meet new people in hopes of finding a friend or two down the road, feel like you have low self-esteem. It is exhausting, and many of us have "been there" in our lives. I know I have, as well as many other Moderators at EmpowHER...and we did talk with a counselor or two in our lives! I can not tell you how tremendously helpful it is to talk with a really good counselor; someone who can basically give you an outside perspective on your life, help you learn new healthy coping behaviors, and help you feel better about yourself.

Can you make a call today to talk with a counselor? Do you have access to a counselor through your school or work (I'm not sure if you are going to school or working full-time)?

February 15, 2011 - 10:40am

Rlyons had some great suggestions that I'm going to take advantage of too!

But it's also good to think about why you're eating emotionally right now. Sounds like that's something that's fairly recent, since you say it's just this past year. I know you say you've had a stressful year; has it been a lot more stressful than ever before? Or have you dealt with your stress differently than in the past?

Emotional eating is a tough one, I know. I do it too. I am working on my weight right now and it's surprising to see how often I'm catching myself wanting to eat when I'm not hungry. Just like you, there are things that send me straight to the refrigerator or to the snack shelf.

Do you have regular exercise in your life? There's nothing better than an exercise habit to make you want to put better food in your body. It doesn't have to be anything as formal as joining a gym -- if you just commit to walking 20 minutes a day for starters, that is enough to build a habit.

Here's a great article from the Mayo Clinic on emotional eating; be sure to notice some of their other articles down the left-hand side of the page:


And here's a test from Psychology Today that deals with emotional eating and eating disorders:


And Prevention Magazine has several articles on overcoming emotional eating. Here's a link to the list of articles. (My favorite is the one titled "Why You Really Eat: Cake Won't Help, But Something Else Will!" (LOL I still think cake rocks, though!):


I hope some of this helps, and that other women who've dealt with emotional eating will tell about their experiences as well. Take care, and realize above all that you're not alone in this.

August 24, 2009 - 10:10am

I've had issues with snacking and what I did was to keep strawberries, blueberries and nuts at hand to snack on when I feel the urge. I don't eat a lot...just a berry or two and a couple of raw walnuts. I would get rid of chips and bready things and only have ice cream occasionally. Fruit is great...also I sometimes have a few pieces of a really good raw vegan cereal...I eat some dry. It's so good for you anyhow. You can get it at a health market.
Overall, good snack foods are fruits, raw, unsalted nuts, cut up raw veggies like carrots and celery, a boild egg or some tofu or chicken.
A lot of snack eating, like you correctly identify, is purely from stress or boredom. Going for a walk can get your mind off worrysome things or doing something else you enjoy.
I also sometimes make a herbal tea and this gets my mind off food and relaxes me!

August 24, 2009 - 12:03am
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