Three Tips to Combat Emotional Eating

Nutrition research studies suggest that the connection between what we are feeling emotionally and our food choices can be strong. Different individuals tend to eat for various reasons. Some of us eat while we are stressed, tired, bored, happy, sad, or angry. If you think you may have an emotional eating problem, taking the following steps will assist you in breaking the habit!

The first step is to identify your emotional triggers. Keeping a food and emotion diary can help. As a Dietitian, I always encourage my clients to keep a food log. It increases our awareness of what we put into our bodies and helps us to plan the day’s choices. In addition to your food choices, logging or journaling emotions in that same diary can help you identify what you are feeling and how that impacts your intake. For instance, some individuals may be very tired and end up consistently buying a 300-400 calorie coffee beverage in the afternoon. Some individuals may turn to cookies or ice cream after having a bad day at work. Other people find themselves opening the fridge 10-15 times while bored only to find the same choices each time.

Once you have identified your emotional triggers, you can be more aware of when you are prone to making not-so-great choices. The second step after recognizing your feelings is to check in with your hunger level. Using a hunger scale, you can identify your physical hunger in that moment. Are you feeling stomach emptiness and hunger pangs? This may be a good time to eat a meal or snack. If you check in with your body and find you are not hungry, your grazing or searching for food may be related to boredom or fatigue.

Lastly, it is imperative to find a couple different activities to help cope with our emotions. After you have recognized a food trigger and established that it is not actually hunger, trying to find an alternative activity for about 10-15 minutes can often help you avoid eating poorly. Activities such as calling a friend, taking a walk, starting a word search, beginning a crafting project, or even coloring can help alleviate stress and distract your brain from food.

Do you struggle with emotional eating and need a concrete plan? Contact your Registered Dietitian to assist.


Christine Steinmetz