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5 Ways To Take Control of Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating is a painful pattern of using food to soothe difficult emotions. What happens is somewhere along the line a person wasn’t able to have his or her emotional needs met properly and so she/he turned to food as a source of comfort. Because in the moment it made her/him feel better (food has been shown to trigger our pleasure hot spot in our brains) she/he unconsciously decided to turn to food every time she felt this same emotion in the future.  The challenging part is once the pleasure of eating the food wears off, more often then not the person beats herself up for eating foods that may be contributing to her/his weight gain which leaves her feeling bad about herself. What do we do when she/he feels bad about herself? Well she tries to make herself feel better. And how has she/he taught herself to do that? To eat foods that comforts her in the moment. And thus the cycle begins.

If you struggle with emotional eating there is hope. You don’t have to be caught up in a painful relationship to food that leaves you feeling out of control and hurting. Below are 5 ways to take control of Emotional Eating.


1.    Free Yourself From Dieting: Diets make you restrict and remove certain foods from your diet in drastic, unnatural ways, often leading you to binge on the exact foods the diet has told you to avoid. This is the reason diets can’t be maintained. We aren’t meant to restrict whole food groups, or even our favorite treats from our diet. The key to healthy eating is listening to what our body is asking for, feeding it just that and then stopping when it has had enough.

 2.    Start a FoodEmotions Journal: Because you are turning to food to emotionally soothe, writing down the emotions that are coming up for you right before, during or after you eat is important. Over time you will notice a pattern of what emotions are causing you to turn to food. Uncovering this pattern is the first step in controlling your emotional eating.

 3.    Rediscover Old Hobbies and Activities: As we grow up we can lose sight of some of our favorite hobbies and activities that give us pleasure. Sometimes, as emotional eaters we stop ourselves from taking part in the things we love because of our weight. Take some time to rediscover some of your old favorite things to do. Doing the things we love – for no other reason than because we love them – releases endorphins (our brain’s natural feel good chemical). These endorphins decrease appetite and improve mood, making you feel good about yourself while also leading you to make healthy lifestyle choices.

 4.    Take Time For You: If on an average day you have a To-Do list that has 10 things on it, take time out for yourself is usually number 11. Self –care (taking time to do kind things for yourself) is essential to overcoming your emotional eating because it teaches your mind, heart, and soul that you are worth and deserving of kindness. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, be sure to take some time for YOU!

 5.    Seek Professional Help: Sometimes, despite how hard we try, our old habits stick with us. If this is the case, reach out for help. You can beat emotional eating once and for all. You can create a healthy relationship with food and your emotions. A therapist can help you get at the root of what is causing your emotional eating and give you the tools to set yourself free from these unhealthy habits.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Diego March 6, 2012, 11:36 am

    the reason for this is the hormonal difference between men and women, mainly estrogen.I think both sexes can better control their eating habits in emotional times through healthy exercise routines. Cardio is said to make people more emotionally stable/healthy and reduce depression and other factors that may increase emotional instability.The author hits it right on the head, our mental state influences our eating behaviors. Being healthy in general helps with our mental state and staying active is one of the best things we can do for our health.I’d like to hear what causes other people to over indulge and how they cope with those causes.Jessica@LSAT Preparationb4s last [type] ..

    • kaela March 8, 2012, 3:54 pm

      Hi Diego (or is it Jessica)

      You are absolutely correct that exercise makes people feel better and therefore makes them make healthier decisions when it comes to what they are eating. It also lifts peoples’ moods. I do believe our mental state influences our eating behaviors because so much of what we do is based around how we are feeling or what we are thinking in the moment. There are so many things that cause people to over indulge including stress, emotions (all emotions but particularly the more difficult emotions to feel), distractions etc. What can often happen is someone will develop a way of taking care of themselves with food (ex/ I feel sad and so I am going to make myself feel better by treating myself to ice cream). The challenging part is that how they try to take care of themselves doesn’t usually address the issue (ice cream doesn’t deal with the sadness). Because food can trigger our pleasure center in our brain it can cause us to feel good temporarily which is where the habit starts to form. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Aziza March 24, 2012, 2:05 pm

      I’m trying to eat ehalthy. What have you done to eat ehalthy? I could make a chart of what I eat. Should I watch Calories, Carbs etc. I am 13. I don’t want to loss weight or anything! I’m not anorexic! But, I would just like to watch what I eat and not over eat. But of course I don’t want to under eat or anything. Should I reward my self if I eat ehalthy? Like I could say I can’t go to the mall or movies or whatever until I have ate with out extra food for a week or something? You know? I just don’t know where to begin!! What would you suggest? Thanks, CailinYeah I’ve been doing very little fast food anyways. But could I eat there like once a month? or less acually because we only eat at fast food places on trips

      • kaela April 7, 2012, 3:31 pm

        Hi Aziza,

        Great job on trying to eat healthy! I think food charts can be an excellent idea but wouldn’t encourage you to restrict/limit certain food groups. This week I posted a video on creating your own diet and what I mean by this is when you eat foods listen to how they feel in your body (some foods will give you energy, some will make you sluggish, some will digest easily, others won’t etc.). Your body will tell you what foods to eat more of and what foods to limit. I also think its a great idea to reward yourself when you reach your goals. So if your goal is to eat healthy for the week, reward yourself at the end of it. Going to the mall or to the movies are great rewards. You are already doing an excellent job if at 13 you are wanting to set yourself up for success by creating a healthy life for yourself. Be sure to take time to be proud of yourself for all that you are already doing!

        Thanks Aziza

  • Trenton Kirtner May 31, 2012, 8:28 am

    As a Newbie, I am permanently browsing online for articles that can help me. Thank you

    • kaela June 2, 2012, 9:51 pm

      Hi Trenton,

      So happy you found this helpful. Feel free to post any questions you have that you would like answered and I will gladly respond or write a post about it. Thanks for your comment Trenton,


    • Mary August 19, 2012, 6:55 pm

      I need help in eating hetlhay. I grew up in a family that cooked greasy fatty foods so i wouldnt even know where to begin to eating hetlhay. I go to the gym but I just cant eat hetlhay foods without it being nasty or starving myself. Any ideas on breakfast, lunch and dinner hetlhay meals that are actually good?

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