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Are You Really Hungry? 5 Tips to Control Emotional Eating

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In times of stress, do wish you were the type who loses your appetite, but instead, you reach absent-mindedly for the bag of potato chips or box of cookies?

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of us out there who not only eat in times of stress, we eat just because it makes us feel good. That is, until we see the bottom of the ice cream container that we’ve just finished. Then, the guilt begins.

If this sounds familiar, you may be an emotional eater. In an article on Medicinet.com called Weight Loss: Emotional Eating, “Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.” No wonder this country has an obesity problem.

Many situations can trigger emotional eating. It can be something as small as a silly argument with your spouse or as enormous as being unable to pay your mortgage.

Once emotional eating becomes a habit, it becomes your short-term problem solver. However, it’s creating a bigger problem, weight gain.

How can we break ourselves from emotional eating? Try these suggestions:

1. Are you really hungry? If you have just eaten within the last two hours, chances are you are not physically hungry. Drink a big glass of water and if you feel you must eat, keep carrot sticks or an apple on hand and tell yourself you don’t need to go to the vending machine.

2. Control your stress. We look for comfort when we are stressed. Why not think of yoga or meditation as a big ol’ chocolate chip cookie. It takes discipline but it can be done. It’s all in the mind.

3. Keep a food diary. Write down what, where, when, and how much you eat during the day. And, when you eat an unhealthy snack, write down why you ate it. The diary will help you discover your triggers and how to avoid feeding the anxiety with a Pop-Tart.

4. Team up with a buddy. Find somebody who has the same emotional eating habits. It’s just as important for an emotional eater to have support as it is for an alcoholic or a drug addict. It’s a habit that needs to be broken.

5. Resist temptation. Sometimes the most good-hearted friend, co-worker or boss will bring food or snacks into the office. These are the same people who will say, “One piece won’t hurt”. Only you know what’s best for you and if you are an emotional eater, one piece will not be enough.

In order to control emotional eating, it's important to keep a variety of healthy alternatives close by at all times. However, don’t deprive yourself of the occasional slice of birthday cake or scoop of ice cream. But, try to schedule it at a time when you are not stressed. You may find you can do without it.


Reviewed June 29, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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