How I Learned to Stop Eating My Emotions

I want you to draw a picture in your mind of what emotional eating looks like to you. No really. Close your eyes and think about. How does it feel? When do you engage in it? What kinds of emotions do you experience when you are driven to eat? What kinds of foods do you crave?

Explore your idea of emotional eating for a moment.

Ok, now what image came into your head? For most of you, it most likely included stress, chips, chocolate or alcohol somewhere in that discussion.

Emotional eating has so many forms. You may emotional eat when you’re happy, sad, excited, lonely, stressed, bored, and so much more. Today, I’m going to explore the ins and outs of emotional eating and tell the steps I took make better peace with food.

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Typically the image of emotional eating is a distraught women who has been broken up with and indulges in the pint of Ben & Jerry’s, or the overweight one who is sitting on the couch watching TV while eating chips.

But, it’s oh so much more than that.

The actual definition of emotional eating is eating for anything other than biological hunger.

This could mean, you love to celebrate an accomplishment by getting some sort of food. Maybe a graduation, a passed test, or accomplishing not killing your threenager.

Emotional eating can also be performed on the go. Maybe you’re running around like a crazy person to get things done and you grab some chips out the door, or a soda, or you snack on some m&ms in the car.

Maybe you’re stumped with a problem or issue you’re trying to solve and you turn to food to munch on while you figure it out. Its those moments when you are driven to eat out of anything other than your body’s actual need to survive.

Ya’ll… I am total emotional eater. Rough day? Cookies. Stressful day? Wine. Bored at work. You can find me with some snack in my mouth. Flustered in the morning? Bust out the trailmix.

See a pattern?

Typically, people crave sweets or crunchy things when they’re stressed, busy, or frustrated.

Many women report wanting chocolate or sweets when they’re feeling down.

Other times, we feel a desire to eat every time we celebrate something, or feel we deserve a treat for a job well done. We have associated food with some emotion.

And there is some science in there. When your body is tired and you lack physical energy, it sends signals to let you know to refuel. You body releases glucocorticoids, a type of hormones that balance stress and energy levels into the blood stream. These hormones trigger sugar cravings to help the body restore energy lost from stress.

These simple carbohydrates (sugary snacks) can also have an anti-depressant effect. They give us a quick boost of energy and feeling of euphoria. So, couple the snacks with those driving hormones, it’s a recipe for…well, unhealthy sugars and fats.

No wonder it’s so hard nearly impossible to resist the urge. Your brain craves junk food.


Once you’ve identified the emotions that drive you to eat, the next step is to start tackling them one by one.

Are you stressed? Instead of grabbing food, stop and notice that emotion. Pay attention to it before the food even hits your mouth. Then ask yourself if eating the food will serve you in a positive way. If you tend to feel guilty after eating emotionally or realize you shouldn’t have done that, then consider other methods of dealing with the emotion.

This was me. I would get stressed from work or frustrated with E and go straight to the pantry. It wasn’t until I was constantly restocking “treat” foods that I noticed I had an issue. I had to rely on healthier ways to cope. Think about it.

When you’re stressed, what helps you feel calm? Do you like to walk, read a book, or talk to someone? Maybe it’s even something as simple as taking 10 deep breaths and carrying on.

If you’re eating out of excitement or celebration, what other methods of celebration could you implement? Maybe you go out to a movie, out with friends, enjoy a little retail therapy (in moderation of course).

The key once you’ve discovered the emotion that drives you to eat is to then figure out what you can do to deal with that emotion with using food.

Truthfully, it’s all about awareness. If you realize what’s happening before it actually happens, then you can do something about it.

I realized that when I was stressed with parenting, I needed to relive that stress and running was my outlet. When I had a mentally trying day at work, binge watching a little trashy TV helped clear my head. The hubs and I started finding other way to celebrate. We initiated activities to celebrate success and milestones. The more in-tune with my emotions I became, the less I felt the need to eat.

If my day is stressful, I try to get in a run before bed. If E has been extra trying, I take a walk to remove myself from the situation. If people have said things that hurt my feelings and gnaw at my insecurities, I take a social media break.


So, one last point—not all emotional eating is bad.

In fact, it’s ok to eat when you’re not biologically hungry all the time.

Eating is a social endeavor. We eat at parties, we eat to celebrate, we eat to bring friends and family together.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

If you only ate when you were biologically hungry, you’d probably miss out on a lot of fun things in life.

So, the message is really is that emotional eating is a “moderation in all things” concept.

Learn your eating style, your hunger and fullness levels, and how to deal with your emotions in a non-food way. So, the next time you’re at an event, a celebration, or anything with food, you’ll feel confident and in control of what you’re doing.

Food should not be the enemy, but rather a great compliment to a well-rounded life.

It is all about creating balance when it comes to your relationship with food. Learn to enjoy it when the time is right and deal with the emotions that drive you to eat

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