Skip to Content

10 Steps to Freedom from Emotional Eating


Food cravings can be physical in nature, but emotional eating is a response to negative feelings that may seem too overwhelming to actually face.

Emotional eating is a very effective way to suppress, numb, or cope with these feelings, but it can lead to weight gain, guilt, shame, and potentially even more self-destructive behavior.

If you find yourself in the throws of an emotional eating cycle, here are 10 steps you can take right now to free yourself of the madness:

1. Look for the source.

Ask yourself what you're truly running from that you feel you can't face. It might be stress, memories from the past, or something painful about your present. Identifying the source is the first step.

2. Remind yourself there's hope.

Admission can bring about fear. "What if I can never stop?" you might be thinking. Know that there is hope and there are ways to conquer emotional eating. It may take time, effort and even failure - but you'll get there.

3. Identify your triggers.

We don't just eat to avoid emotion. We eat when emotions are triggered. Identify what situations or circumstances trigger emotional eating. For instance, it might be having a conversation with someone who stresses you out or coming home from work to an empty house that makes you feel lonely.

4. Manage your stress.

Stress can make you feel like you don't have control over your life, which may exacerbate the tendency to overeat and find comfort in food. Make every effort to stress less and make your life peaceful.

5. Keep a food diary.

Food journals have long been touted as one of the best ways to track how emotions relate to eating habits. Write down everything you eat for a week and also include how you were feeling when you ate it. Over time, you'll see patterns that show the connection between what you eat and your mood.

6. Get support.

Sometimes we need extra help in dealing with emotional eating. Consider joining a support group or speaking with a therapist. Letting your friends and family know what you're going through can also help lighten the load.

7. Occupy yourself.

Emotional eating can stem from boredom or loneliness, so make sure you have enough fulfilling activities in your life. Schedule fun things to do during times you'd normally turn to food, like late at night or on the weekends.

8.Aim for balance.

Mostly everyone has experienced emotional eating at some point in their lives - we live in a culture where we use food to comfort, but also to celebrate. Realize that it's OK to enjoy the emotions that food brings, but to not use it as a crutch or allow it to become a destructive force in your life.

9. Do your homework.

Books abound on the topic of emotional eating, but one leader in the field is a woman by the name of Geneen Roth. Her books "When Food is Love" and "Women, Food & God" could offer some profound insight and support.

10. Make planning a priority

It's easier to pick up junk food during times of stress when it's readily available. That's why planning meals and keeping healthy foods on hand is so important. Keep your kitchen stocked with foods that nourish you from the inside out - not those will be a temporary bandage for emotional wounds.

Source: Mayo Clinic