8 Ways to Avoid Emotional Eating

Stop the sabotage with these tips.

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No matter how hard you exercise or how much you alter your dietary habits, emotional overeating can sabotage even the most determined efforts to lose weight. Learn 8 ways to avoid emotional eating so that you can stay on track.

Why do people engage in emotional eating? Triggers vary from person to person, and some folks have more than one trigger. Here are three common reasons:

Unpleasant emotions: Eating, and, in particular, indulgence in sweets, raises levels of the natural feel-good hormone serotonin while lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, giving the mood a temporary lift.

Social situations or pressure: One of the most surprising triggers for emotional eating is the social factor. For example, you might feel pressured to eat unhealthy foods to fit in with the gang, or perhaps you eat or drink things you’d rather not just so friends will stop teasing you.

Family history: Emotional eating can also have its roots in childhood. It may have started with a well-meaning mom who broke out the cookie jar whenever you had a boo-boo, or with the grandmother who showed her love with comfort foods high in fat or sugar.

No matter what your triggers might be, don’t despair! These emotional eating tips will help you kick the habit so you can live a healthier life.

1. Keep a food journal.
Keeping tabs on how much you eat is a smart idea because it helps you identify calories you might not have realized you were consuming. Along with when and what you’re eating, make note about how you feel too. Are you frustrated? Stressed? Once a week, go over your notes so you can pinpoint why you’re indulging. Learn all the Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal.

2. Indulge in a bite, and then wait 15 minutes.
Another of the top emotional eating tips is to wait out cravings. For instance, when the urge to snack hits, eat one bite and then wait. Researchers found that people who ate a tiny portion of food and then waited 15 minutes reported significantly decreased cravings [1].

3. Find healthy alternatives to eating.
For example, if you’re eating out of loneliness, call a friend or arrange to have coffee with a loved one. When you eat because you’re stressed, unwind by taking a bath or cuddling on the sofa with a blanket or furry friend. If you’re stuck at your desk doing a mind-numbing task, try the desk-based options in these 11 Stretches Every Desk Worker Must Know.

4. Ditch processed snack foods.
Many store-bought snacks are loaded with sodium, sugar, or artificial sweeteners—ingredients that trigger the body to consume more. Keep healthy, whole food snacks on hand, such as 50 Clean Eating Snacks and 9 Weight Watchers Snacks with 3 Points or Less.

5. Exercise regularly.
Working out raises levels of endorphins, the body’s natural mood booster. Committing to a regular exercise routine will help you feel less stressed and naturally raise your mood level. Whether you’re a beginner or a gym pro, find a workout that’s right for you by visiting Skinny Ms. Fitness.

6. Get the right amount of sleep.
Proper sleep is a must-have when it comes to ways to avoid emotional eating because it helps regulate important hunger hormones. What’s more, feeling rested will reduce feelings of stress throughout the day. Try this 6-Minute Workout for Better Sleep.

7. Meditate.
Meditation has long been used as a natural way to reduce stress and anxiety. One study found that binge eaters who practiced meditation significantly reduced their number of binges per week in comparison to participants who received just support and education [2]. Check out Finding Time to Meditate.

8. Be persistent.
It takes time to break habits, especially those that bring comfort or ease stress. When you find yourself eating emotionally, don’t beat yourself up! Instead use it as a learning opportunity so you can make a better choice the next time you’re stressed or sad.

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[1] Cornell University

[2] Prevention


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Amy Wagner

Amy is a writer specializing in health & wellness, business, and entrepreneurship. She's a long-time martial arts teacher who has earned a 4th degree black belt in tae kwon do. When Amy's not writing or kicking, she's wrangling sons, reading fiction, or crushing on BBC actors.

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