Emotional Eating: How to Keep Your Feelings and Your Diet Separate

On the Mayo Clinic’s website, the staff describes emotional eating as, “eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness.

Major life events and the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and disrupt your weight-loss efforts.” For people who emotionally eat, food can be an easy and quick method to make one’s self feel comforted and distracted. However, emotional eating can hamper a person’s efforts to be healthy or lose weight.

Emotional eating can be learned behavior

Many who emotionally eat feel they cannot overcome this unhealthy habit because food has always been their method for dealing with issues. In fact, according to KidsHealth.org, “Emotional eating patterns can be learned: A child who is given candy after a big achievement may grow up using candy as a reward for a job well done. A kid who is given cookies as a way to stop crying may learn to link cookies with comfort.”

Recognizing triggers

Yet, emotional eating is something that can be overcome with hard work and persistence. According to HelpGuide.org, “Learning to recognize your emotional eating triggers is the first step to breaking free from food cravings and compulsive overeating, and changing the habits that have sabotaged your diets in the past.” This website offers four tips for helping a person combat their emotional eating habits: identifying triggers, finding other ways to emotionally fulfill yourself, taking a moment to think through your decisions when a food craving hits, and supporting yourself with healthy lifestyle habits.

Improving eating habits

Additionally, the Center for Disease Control recommends a thoughtful process to improve eating habits: reflect, replace, and reinforce. This in-depth process involves creating a list of eating habits, identifying unhealthy eating habits, examining those habits,  listing all of your emotional eating triggers, replacing unhealthy habits with healthy ones, and being patient with yourself as you reinforce these new habits.

Resources for emotional eating

For those emotional eaters working to overcome this frustrating behavior, there are a variety of resources available. A great place to help you identify your eating habits is this quiz from the Cleveland Clinic. Geneen Roth has authored a number of books on eating habits and their connection to emotions but a great place for emotional eaters to start is with her book, Breaking Free from Emotional Eating. Apps such as Recovery Record and Positive Thinking are great tools for emotional eaters. Recovery Record lets you log what you’re eating and how you feel when you’re eating. The Positive Thinking app help emotional eaters remain positive about their efforts by offering inspirational quotes that you can help break the cycle of negative thinking.

Most importantly, emotional eaters must remember they are not alone. An innumerable amount of people  out there struggling with the same issue you are, and  you might be surprised you’re related to or friends with people who also emotionally eat. Let the people who love you serve as a support system while you work to kick your emotional eating habits to the curb.