Emotional eating is when you eat in response to feelings rather than hunger, usually as a way to suppress or relieve negative emotions. Stress, anxiety, sadness, boredom, anger, loneliness, relationship problems and poor self-esteem can all trigger emotional eating. When emotions determine your eating habits rather than your stomach, it can quickly lead to overeating, weight gain and guilt.
If you find yourself regularly eating in response to emotions, try to break the habit with some of my strategies below.
Learn to recognize your hunger
Before you automatically pop something into your mouth. Rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being ravenous and 5 being full. Make every effort to avoid eating when you’re a 4 or a 5.
Find alternatives to eating
Prepare a list of activities that are personally appealing and handy. Perhaps go for a walk, call a friend, listen to nostalgic music (anything that brings you back to a happy time), take a hot shower or bath, clean your house, polish your nails, surf the Internet, schedule outstanding appointments, watch something on TiVo, clean your purse, organize your closet, look through a photo album, etc.
Keep a food journal
Logging your food will help to identify your toughest timeframes. It will also make you accountable, so perhaps you’ll be less apt to reach for unnecessary food.
Make the commitment to first eat three specific healthy foods before starting on comfort foods (i.e., an apple, handful of baby carrots and a nonfat yogurt). If after that, you still want to continue with your comfort foods, give yourself permission. However, most of the time, the three foods are enough to stop you from moving on.
Daily exercise relieves stress and puts you in a positive mindset, which provides greater strength to pass on the unhealthy fare.
Get enough sleep
Research shows that sleep deprivation can increase hunger by decreasing leptin levels, the appetite-regulating hormone that signals fullness. Furthermore, with adequate sleep, you’ll be less tired and have more resolve to fight off the urge to grab foods for comfort.
Joy Bauer is the author of “Food Cures.” For more information on healthy eating, check out Joy’s Web site at