Have you ever noticed that when you are bored, you head straight to your kitchen, even if you just ate an hour ago?

You may be an emotional eater.

But what exactly is emotional eating?

What is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating is eating in response to any negative emotion. This could mean sadness, anxiety, frustration, boredom, exhaustion or anger. Basically, if you turn to food when you are not feeling at your best, you could be emotionally eating.

Emotional eaters often use food as a source of comfort when they are not feeling as best as they can feel. However, emotional eating can manifest differently for everyone. For example, while some people eat when they are feeling sad, others feel that they have no appetite during these sad times.

Problematic or Normal?

Is emotional eating a problem?

It certainly can be. Often times when we are emotional, we are not mindful about what we are eating. We may eat very rapidly, eat whatever we can find, and binge without thinking about what we are consuming.

And what does binge eating do? It usually causes us to feel bad, which leads to a negative emotion, which may cause us to return to emotional eating. So now, we are locked into a cycle of negative emotion and overeating that seems impossible to come out from.

Breaking the Cycle of Emotional Eating

Fear not! With just a few tweaks, you can help yourself overcome emotional eating and break through the cycle.

Emotional Eating Strategy #1 – Accountability

For starters, we need to figure out if you are an emotional eater. For a week, keep a journal of everything you eat, the times you eat, how you feel before you start eating, and how you feel after you eat.

If you are emotionally eating, chances are you will be feeling a negative emotion before you start eating, and then again feel a negative reaction after overeating.

Once you are aware of your own emotional eating patterns, the next step will be to find an activity to replace eating when you feel that negative emotion. What could distract you from food in your time of need?

If you can distract yourself for just 15 minutes, you will probably stop thinking about food. This can be anything: playing a game on your phone, taking a walk, calling a friend, watching a YouTube video…the list can go on. Make sure to make a list of these activities in advance, so that you can easily look at it when you are feeling emotional and find something to do quickly.

Emotional Eating Strategy #2 – Interference

Another simple but potentially efffective trick for limiting emotional eating is to force yourself to interfere with the immediate act of grabbing food.

How do you do this?

Run any kind of interference to break the negative stimulus-eating response connection. That is, put anything you can between the negative emotion and the act of eating.

Go use the bathroom, call a friend, walk around the block…something active. Stay away from places associated with eating like your kitchen table or couch.

The goal is to put thought into something else. If you can accomplish this, you could very well muster enough willpower to stop yourself from just grabbing food in response to stress or anxiety.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether that comes in the form of a friend or a therapist, there are people out there who want to help you conquer emotional eating once and for all.

Using these tips, you can beat emotional eating, and maybe even find a new hobby!