Coping with Emotional Eating
1. Don’t beat yourself up about emotional eating.
At some point another, all people eat for comfort, and that’s why some foods are labeled as comfort foods. Still, you don’t ever want to find yourself constantly seeking out food to fill an emotional void. When you notice that you have been eating for entertainment a lot, simply stop the behavior as soon as you can.
- If you elect to punish yourself with criticisms or guilt after emotional eating, it may result in more emotional eating leading to a vicious cycle of unhealthy behaviors.
- Rather than criticizing your mistakes, show yourself compassion. Remind yourself that you are only human and we all make mistakes. Acknowledge that you engaged in emotional eating and, after that, let it go. Don’t hold on to the mistake. Make a plan to do better starting now.
2. Try to identify the underlying need.
If you are eating emotionally, there is some need being left unfulfilled. Take a moment to assess your current feelings. Are you lonely or missing someone? Did you have a hard day or receive some bad news? Maybe you have an impending deadline that is freaking you out and you turn to food to cope with the stress. Whatever the emotional cause is for your eating, you must acknowledge it in order to change the behavior.
- Using a journal can be helpful in figuring out the underlying need of emotional eating. See Part 2 for more details.
3. Learn how to stop feeling lonely.
If you determine that your emotional eating is rooted in loneliness, find ways to overcome this feeling will help you stop emotional eating in its tracks. Find a healthier behavior to fulfill the need rather than reaching for food.
- If you are emotional eating out of loneliness, you can connect with others who have similar interests as you, get involved in activities you enjoy, or adopt a pet to have as a companion.
4. Find ways to deal with stress or anxiety.
If you view eating as entertainment only when you are incredibly stressed, combating stressful situations is your best option to stop these unhealthy eating habits. You may be worried or upset about a health problem, financial difficulties, or strain in a relationship. Any of these stressors can cause you to eat emotionally.
- If eating for entertainment is linked to your stress levels, you may need to find ways to relax. Some ideas may include getting regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and engaging in regular self-care activities like drinking a cup of hot tea or soaking in a long, hot bath. Other suggestions for stress-relief may include practicing meditation or yoga.
5. Recognize when you’re bored.
You may be viewing food as a source of entertainment because you are not stimulated by other things. Mix up your everyday routine and do something out of the norm to prevent boredom. Research shows that people often feel bored and think food will offer them a pick-me-up.
- If your eating is based on boredom, think of fun and interesting things you can do to overcome boredom that don’t involve eating. Create a list of fun activities to do and tick them off one by one to ward off getting bored with your daily routine. Get out of your house and explore your city. Read a book. Do something that you love.
6. Ask a family member or friend to hold you accountable.
If you live with someone, you may be able to reach out to them for help in coping with emotional eating. For one, this person may offer their listening ear for you to vent frustration or simply talk to and combat loneliness. On the other hand, this person can also help you to monitor your eating behaviors.
- Even if you live alone, a friend or relative may allow you to call them or come over when you have the urge to eat for entertainment. This person might keep your thoughts occupied in other ways by talking, playing a game, or listening to music.
7. Seek out other forms of social support.
You can also join a support group like the 12-step self-help program Overeaters Anonymous. In such groups you can hear the personal stories of others who often use food for entertainment. Their testimonials and encouragement can help you to learn how to overcome your emotional eating issue.