Emotional Eating – What is it and how can I get a handle on it?

Picture this: You hit the snooze button one too many times, had a last minute project thrown at you at work, and then sat in an hour of evening traffic.

Finally home, you breathe a sigh of relief, head into the kitchen, and decide you deserve a snack after the day you’ve had. Maybe you reach for a few crackers, then a bit of chocolate.

Before you know it, you’ve munched your way through the entire kitchen without eating a proper meal. You’re stuffed, ashamed, and wondering what the heck just happened – WTF?!

Sound familiar?

It’s called emotional eating, and in a nutshell, it is eating for any other reason besides actual physical hunger, fuel or nourishment.

3 Trademarks of Emotional Eating

  • Binging – usually on high-sugar and carbohydrate-rich comfort foods (i.e. junk food). How many people do you know who reach for avocado and apples when they’re upset?
  • Mindlessly eating – you’re not aware of what or how much you’re eating or how those foods are making your body feel
  • Eating to numb, soothe, please, relax, or reward self, i.e. “I had a bad day and deserve it” kind of thinking. Eating during these times provides temporary relief, but often leaves you feeling worse than where you started!

The trouble with emotional eating is it overrides your body’s natural hunger cycle and can promote things like:

  • weight gain
  • an increase in your risk for inflammation and chronic disease
  • create an unhealthy relationship between you and food
  • lead to more danger types of disordered eating

What Triggers Emotional Eating?

Even though it’s called “emotional eating” because people often reach for food to cope with their feelings, there are a lot of other non-hunger reasons that can prompt you to eat.

Some common non-hunger reasons include:

  • Uncomfortable emotions, like anger, guilt, fear, and sadness
  • Stress
  • Boredom
  • Need to feel pleasure and/or comfort

Six (6) Tips to Help You Get a Handle on Emotional Eating…for good!

If any of those scenarios sound familiar, know that you’re not alone! Emotional eating affects a lot of people at one point or another.

Want to know what you can do to stop emotional eating in its tracks? Here are 6 great tips!

1. Have a non-food outlet to process uncomfortable feelings.

  • Try journaling, exercising, or talking to a trusted friend or counselor.

2. Manage stress.

  • Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, getting enough sleep, and not taking on more than you can realistically handle can help decrease stress levels.

3. Recognize boredom.

  • Call a friend, take a walk, pick up a book, or tackle a DIY project or engage in a hobby you enjoy when you know boredom is likely to strike.

4. Practice self-care.

  • Pamper yourself with a bubble bath, manicure, or curl up with a good book – whatever makes you feel good!

5. Practice mindful eating.

  • Avoid distractions at meals. Your focus should be on the food in front of you.
  • Eat slowly, chew, and savor each bite. This helps give your body time to receive the signal from your brain when it’s full.
  • Stop eating when you feel full.

6. Eat a balanced diet.

  • The majority of your diet should be nutrient-dense whole foods.
  • Allow for occasional treats and indulgences so you don’t feel deprived.
  • Include protein, fiber, and healthy fat at each meal to promote satiety.

The next time you are feeling emotional and your thoughts turn to snacking, take a minute to check-in with yourself. Acknowledge the emotion and support yourself by choosing a healthier option. Once the emotion passes, you’ll be glad you did.

Here’s a healthy (and yummy!) ‘pick me up’ option: Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Energy Balls.

Thanks for stopping by.

Be healthy. Be happy.


As the founder of Live Wise Coaching, and a practicing integrative health & wellness coach, Cheryl specializes in supporting women in their 40’s and beyond to reclaim their health and sense of well-being through nutrition, movement, mindset and lifestyle choices so they can live healthy, happy, and more active lives.

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