Want to learn how to stop emotional eating? This common unhealthy habit affects a wide variety of people. It can be tough to break because you may have learned it during childhood. You may connect food with being rewarded or gaining comfort, and the behaviors that trigger emotional eating are often so ingrained in your day-to-day routine that you might not even realize it. Here's a bit more about common emotional eating triggers to watch out for, plus a few tips to help you curb emotional eating and create a healthier connection with food.
What Is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating happens when you start eating for any reason other than true physical hunger. In other words, if how you're feeling affects when you eat, how much you eat, and what you choose to consume, you're in emotional eating territory. Since emotional eating often occurs when you're not actually hungry, it can easily cause you to eat too much or make unhealthy choices.
Common Triggers for Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is often caused by common stresses, such as pressure to perform better at work, fights or conflicts, exhaustion from a busy schedule, financial strain, or health issues. It can also be caused by more subtle or sneaky triggers, such as boredom or eating just because food is available to you. Many people think emotional eating just happens during stressful situations, but you can also experience it when you're feeling good—whether you're attending a happy hour with coworkers or celebrating a birthday.
Tips to Curb the Habit
Let Your Feelings Out
To stop eating emotionally, start by letting your feelings out. If you're sad, angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed, try engaging with yourself and owning your feelings. Instead of turning away from them and reaching for food, find a healthy way to accept how you're feeling before you do anything else. If you're not comfortable saying how you feel out loud, jot your thoughts down or use an app on your phone. Tina Gilbertson, a licensed professional counselor and author, wrote in her book Constructive Wallowing, "You let feelings 'go' by feeling them fully. Once they're felt, they can leave."
Put Your Phone Down
Try not to eat while using your phone or watching TV. Make a conscious effort to put down your device or turn off anything with a screen. Minimizing distractions is crucial if you want to get back in touch with your authentic level of hunger and away from mindless eating habits. If you have a loved one or coworker who has the same goals as you, ask them to be your accountability buddy, and then eat together and chat without electronic distractions.
Use Your Senses
Take a moment to observe your food, smell the enticing aromas, and notice the different textures (with your hands and mouth). Chew your food completely before swallowing, and take a break between bites to take deep breaths. Creating a stronger sensory connection with your food can bring you into a present state of awareness and increase your chances of putting your fork down before you're too full.
Make a list of things that make you feel good or allow you to have fun, such as taking a hot shower, playing music, or calling your best friend. Commit to turning your attention to feel-good activities when you catch yourself in an emotional eating binge.
If you're wondering how to stop emotional eating, use these tips to try to develop a healthy, mindful eating routine. By filling your body with the right amount of healthy foods, you'll look and feel like the best version of yourself.