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Is Stress Keeping You Fat? 5 Tips to End Your Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating

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This is a guest post written by Andrew of How to Stop Emotional Eating.

Emotional eating is when you consume food to deal with tough emotions rather than to satisfy actual physical hunger. Emotional eating is where the phrase “comfort foods” comes from. Comfort food is usually junk food or fast food. It’s food that you probably wouldn’t consume on a daily basis because of it’s high fat or sugar content. Often we eat comfort foods to soothe tough or negative emotions.

Have you ever came home from a long stressful day at work and skipped your planned workout? Instead, you just head straight for the fridge and before you knew it were eating your favorite comfort food? Maybe it was ice-cream, pizza, cookies or potato chips. Afterwards, you probably felt lazy, and relaxed the whole night, probably watching tv or surfing the net. You probably woke up the next day feeling guilty about sabotaging your weight loss efforts the previous night. You maybe even promised yourself that from now on you will never do this again. However, deep down you know that when you engage in emotional eating you lose control. If you were honest with yourself you might even admit that sometimes you are powerless over your junk food cravings.

Here are 5 Tips to End your Emotional Eating:

1. Become Aware of Your Emotional State. You need to start becoming more aware of your emotions throughout the day. It’s not a good idea to let stress, worry, disappointment or any other negative emotion build up. Otherwise that emotion will take over you and you will engage in emotional eating. A technique you can use is asking “how do I feel?” at different random times during the day. This will help you catch yourself when you are starting to feel stressed out. Becoming aware will help you pause before you reach for food to deal with tough emotions.

2. Identify your Trigger Emotions & Events. You need to identify your emotional eating triggers. To find your emotional eating triggers think of the last time you engaged in emotional eating. You know the time you weren’t really hungry but ate anyway? Or the last time you ate lots of junk food and ruined your diet? How were you feeling that day? Were there any stressful events that occurred? Any tough emotions or circumstances you experienced? Become aware of your emotional eating triggers, so that next time they come up, you wont automatically engage in emotional eating.

3. Journal. Journaling will help you become more aware of your emotions and stress levels. I recommend carrying a pocket sized pad and a pen with you throughout the day. And at random intervals, start writing down your thoughts, emotions, worries, anxieties in your journal. This will help you point out the reoccurring events in your life that cause you repeated stress. Lets say you find out that your job is a big source of stress then you need to ask “what can I do about it?” You might talk to your boss about making some changes or just decide to look for a new job.

4. Come up With Alternative Relaxing Activities. Often we engage in emotional eating to relax and comfort ourselves. To stop emotional eating you need to make a list of other relaxing activities you can do. Some common ones are going for a long walk, going for a bike ride, taking a nice warm shower, taking a nap, calling a friend and sharing details about your day, listening to your favorite music, or watching your favorite movie. Keep this list in a visible spot, preferably on your fridge. This way when you are about to reach for comfort foods, you are reminded of your alternative relaxing activities.

5. Forgive Yourself. To stop emotional eating you will need to forgive yourself. You will need to go easy on yourself. It probably took you years to build unhealthy emotional eating habits. As a result aim for slow gradual progress rather than perfection. There will be times where you consume food for comfort, accept that and forgive yourself when you do it. At the same time, work on becoming more aware of your emotional eating. Also work on eliminating the events that trigger emotional eating in your life. You will gradually see progress and be able to finally lose that extra weight.

Andrew Bolis writes on the subject of binge eating at How To Stop Eating You can subscribe to his Free tips newsletter on how to end your emotional eating.

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38 Responses to Is Stress Keeping You Fat? 5 Tips to End Your Emotional Eating

  1. Anne August 19, 2008 at 5:30 am #

    This article made me smile, it made my spirit alive and makes my whole day complete. A very good and relaxing one.

  2. Shelley August 20, 2008 at 9:20 pm #

    Emotional eating is SUCH a big deal for so many people (including me!!) Another thing I have found is that I do not allow myself to eat anywhere but at the diningroom table. This forces me to THINK instead of mindlessly munching!
    I think I am going to enjoy your blog. I plan to visit frequently!


  3. wilson August 21, 2008 at 2:47 pm #

    I totally agree with what you’ve mentioned above…

    Believe it or not, some of the people that having the depression/bipolar disorder will stuff themselves with lots of foods, as they thought that this will calm down their nerves…

  4. Melvin August 24, 2008 at 6:26 pm #

    Oh, how I wish I was like that.. Me, when Im emotional I tend to skip eating and loses a lot of weight.. Nice article though

  5. Mike August 24, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

    It’s very true if you keep a journal that it will help stop you from eating. I’m not saying this because I ‘think’ it’s a good idea. I’m saying this because I’ve done it, and got good results.

  6. Meg August 28, 2008 at 4:41 am #

    hello there..I know lot of us have eating disorders .Since i was little I had to struggle with some few extra pounds and I can now affirm that a realize that I`m eating more when I am bored and have nothing else to do ..That is why i guess the best thing you can do is starting an activity that would get your mind off from eating.You should also try not to think of food too much because this will also make you wanna eat.The battle with extra pounds is a hard one..and i guess it`s ended and you have become victorious in the moment you stop seeing it as a battle.You should try think of a diet as a way of life , a healthy life.

  7. Mirjam August 28, 2008 at 4:55 am #

    great to see this post, it is something that I am personally struggling with as well and when I first started identifying my triggers things really started to get better LOL or atleast the gaining part was put to a hold.

  8. grumpyjack sa September 3, 2008 at 1:28 pm #

    Now you tell me……

    where were you like….. 3 years ago ?

    just kidding. sound advice. still wish i knew earlier, though.

  9. UptakeInOH September 7, 2008 at 12:28 am #

    Melvin, those of us who eat wish we were more like you! Between grad school, work, parenting, and the rest of life, I can pile on the pounds thanks to stress in no time. And Wilson mentioned another factgor–I have an anxiety disorder, too. I’m a hot mess! Believe me, I have bookmarked this to read thru more in-depth. I can use the tips!

  10. Jan September 7, 2008 at 5:35 am #

    Thank you for the helpful and practical tips.
    Really there are a lot of emotional eaters out there.

    I am was (and sometimes still am) an emotional eater. It took me awhile to admit this. But since I have faced the issue, I have been able to deal with it better.

    One particular form of “alternative relaxation” that I find very useful is yoga (There are many kinds, but what i have tried is taught by a lady named Wai lana

    It is a good diversion when I feel like just drowning my sorrows in a big bag of chips.

    I learned that yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach. So before I go and dig into my box of favorite cookies, I take a deep breath, step away from the kitchen, I remind myself that I still have to do some yoga. I pop in a yoga video and just start. By the time I’ve finished my yoga session, I’m stress free and no longer craving for junk food.

    This gives me an inner sort of satisfaction or feeling of victory knowing that the bag of potato chips didn’t beat me this time =)

    if you are an emotional eater, don’t worry. there are a lot of solutions out there.

    thank you for the helpful article, I am passing it on to my friends.

    Keep up the good work!

    – jan

  11. Jan September 7, 2008 at 5:46 am #

    “Believe it or not, some of the people that having the depression/bipolar disorder will stuff themselves with lots of foods, as they thought that this will calm down their nerves…”

    actually eating foods, in particular carbs do have the initial effect of calming down one’s nerves. It actually provides temporary relief and that’s why people do it. At least that is why I would do it.

    Of course that relief is soon shattered by the harsh reality of weight gain and the fact the original impetus for emotional eating is still there.

    so it becomes a vicious cycle and the problem just gets compounded.

  12. Clairvoyancy September 13, 2008 at 5:58 pm #

    Emotional eating is a curse for most people, including for me. I agree that being aware of what you’re doing is one of the best things you can do. I’ll visit your blog regularly. It’s cool!

  13. Ahmike September 15, 2008 at 4:51 am #

    Thanks ! In Malaysia, you can find many students are in stress.. Thx once again for this great tips!

  14. surflovers September 16, 2008 at 11:13 pm #

    geez… it’s so hard to do #5 tips. Honestly those tips (and others i guess) are work for me just for a week…

  15. Acomplia September 17, 2008 at 2:02 am #

    Your right Melvin a lot of people tend to stop eating and reduce weight during any emotional crisis. If it were up to me i would suggest that no matter what happens it is best to stick to a normal diet. When you become happy again you cant celebrate if your not fit.:)

  16. Belleza October 1, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    I have to find relaxing activities, or anything to keep my mind away from food.


  17. General Specifics October 2, 2008 at 7:35 am #

    Nice post, I should probably start a journal. I bet it would help my stress levels, however I am not currently obese, I’m actually eating less.



  18. Pocket Bike Relief October 5, 2008 at 1:25 pm #

    To avoid stress we all need to find something fun to do each week. i am buying a new pocket bike to race and to perform cool tricks in. keeps my mind from going crazy and gives me down time. plus it’s crazy fun.

  19. surveillance cameras October 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm #

    One thing I do is brush my teeth. I don’t want to eat so I have to brush them again so it stops me from snacking.

  20. judith October 14, 2008 at 6:31 am #

    If I’m upset I tend to think to myself “oh what the h–l” and proceed to eat, and sometimes drink, like there’s no tomorrow. This is not a good way to behave. I know I shouldn’t do it, but when I get in that mood I just don’t care.

  21. Diy Conservatories October 15, 2008 at 4:45 am #

    Absolutly! I never though food was something to enjoy, it was a case of just fuel for my body.
    But now I have some certian foods, I.e. curries, crisps and a certian fizzy drink, I just love to have all the time.
    The more I eat, the less In feel like moving my body, to keep fit

  22. Stella October 15, 2008 at 5:27 pm #

    So true and well said! I have experienced this emotional binge-eating myself too and believe me you feel distressed a bit at first, but later on you need to join a gym or do regular workouts yourself. Whatever, those tips seem really practical. I am applying few of those to get rid of this “habit” (it can become a habit too if you experience these emotional turmoils on and off!). Thanks for a well written post Mr. Andrew and thanks agentsully for sharing it!

  23. Website Design Australia October 16, 2008 at 5:00 am #

    This one is good. I m aware about my emotions but was not able to control. I liked you last three tips a lot, especially the last one. I have to forgive my self. I punish my self a lot. I need to learn that.. Thanks

  24. mortgage calculator loan October 16, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    To avoid stress we all need to find something fun to do each week. You have to have crazy fun.

  25. Cory October 28, 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    Great tips. I’d add that surrounding yourself with healthy foods, and eliminating junk food is also a good idea. That way if you are tempted to eat emotionally, you can forgive yourself more easily since its healthy food you’re eating.

  26. Dan from Hat gadgets blog November 3, 2008 at 2:54 pm #

    Relaxing Activities will keep the stress level to minimum

  27. DDS November 23, 2008 at 10:45 pm #

    The worst part about having to lose weight for an event is that you stress about looking good for the event, and you don’t lose as much weight as you would if you didn’t stress about it.

  28. YOR Health December 22, 2008 at 8:07 pm #

    As one of my doctors always said, being in a good mood(e.g. happy) is important to maintaining good health. Sincerely focusing on not worrying about the “small stuff” and focusing on trying to be happy can make a dramatic improvement on your health.

  29. Ernie Small December 27, 2008 at 11:07 pm #

    great post.i used to have a terrible habit of eating food AS i prepared it (like making burritos and eating them as they are put together). i found that by deciding how much i was going to eat and then eating it, 9 times out of 10 it would be much less food than i would have eaten using the previous method.

  30. Exercises For Shoulders January 15, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    Great article.

    I’m the opposite. When I’m stressed, rather than eat, I exercise..

    If only everyone did that instead 🙂

  31. diet cooking January 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm #

    I know stress double my food need. And i am getting faster fat.

  32. DIY Ceiling Advice May 26, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    I work in the opposite way. When I get stressed I cannot eat. I find it equally frustrating.

    • agentsully June 6, 2009 at 11:44 am #

      @DIY – I used to be that way too. I know how hard that can be.

  33. Nadine Ann June 5, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    I agree with you 100% that stress is a major influence for binge eating disorder. I highly recommend anyone suffering from binge eating to find a good stress reduction program right away!

    Thanks for your article.

    Nadine Ann

    • agentsully June 6, 2009 at 10:42 am #

      @Nadine Ann – thank you for chiming in!

  34. cicatrices August 19, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    I am trying to change my anxiety habits and try to work out when i am stressed instead of eating

  35. Bipolar Symptoms September 4, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    Wilson, given your comment I doubt you know anything about bipolar disorder at all. Bipolar disorder is due to physical causes rather than psychological ones, a predisposition for an overflow of neurotransmitters in the brain under some circumstances. It is chronic, and there is nothing you can do about it other than medicate yourself. Regarding your comment on getting fat, some medications used to treat the illness actually induce weight gain themselves, without any need for extra caloric intake. Google it and educate yourself before posting, please.

  36. Dream Body October 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    me too! dude what a helpful blog post.

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