Effective Ways to Overcome Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is a problem a lot of people in the United States, and other parts of the world are facing.

According to one study, people who eat emotionally turn to food a few times a week to suppress their negative emotions (1).

If you have this problem, it may be difficult for you to lose weight and become healthy, as you will be consuming more calories than your body can burn.

If you continue with this practice, you may even become obese and have a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions.

But the good news is that there are practical things you can do to turn things around and stop yourself from wolfing down a lot of unhealthy foods when you are sad.

In this article, we are going to be looking at some of them.

Before we dive right into the gist of this article, we are first going to look at some common causes of emotional eating.

Causes of emotional eating?

There are a plethora of reasons why people turn to food when they are not happy or are experiencing negative emotions.

According to one study, everything from health problems and financial worries to relationship issues can be the root cause of emotional eating (2)(3).

While emotional eating is a problem that affects both men and women, studies have shown that women are more prone to this problem than men (4).

Filling the void                         

Negative emotions affect people in different ways. For some, it makes them feel sad for a short time.

For others, it creates a feeling of emptiness or void inside them. To fill this void, they resort to food, thinking that eating as much as they can will give them a sense of wholeness or fullness.

How to take charge of your mood

Do you sometimes feel that you are at the mercy of your emotions? If yes, you are going to find the following tips helpful.

Walk away

Most times, we feel negative emotions because of an event that happens during our day.

Your boss, workmate, or even family member may say or do something that can make you experience negative emotions.

Learning to distance yourself from heated situations or excusing yourself before things spiral out of control will go a long way in helping you curtail your emotions (5).

For example, if you eat emotionally when you are angry or sad, you should distance yourself from things that can make you feel such emotions.

Distancing yourself can be as easy as walking away from an upsetting situation or creating mental distractions that take your mind away from what is making you angry.

Note that blocking your emotions or distracting yourself isn’t a permanent solution, but a temporary fix that can prevent you from making poor choices (emotional eating) that will sabotage your health and make you gain weight.

Below are some easy things you can do to distract yourself.

  • Watch a funny video
  • Spend some time with your pet
  • Listen to an uplifting song
  • Take a walk
  • Talk to a loved one

Take a close look at the impact of your emotion

Truth be told, emotions make our lives more vibrant and exciting. Without them, our lives may be somewhat dull.

However, if we let our emotions get the best of us, we are likely going to make poor choices that may ruin our lives.

If you tend to eat mindlessly when you are sad or experiencing negative emotions, you should set some time aside to think deeply about how that action will affect your life presently and in the future.

Think about how you will look and feel in a year or two if you keep doing what you are doing.

If you don’t like the future you saw, you should start taking steps to turn things around and ultimately overcome the habit of eating emotionally.

Take a deep breath

Don’t race to the pantry the next time you feel negative emotions, instead take a deep breath.

Note that taking deep breaths won’t make your negative emotions magically go away.

Instead, it will give you some time to think about how the action you are about to take will affect your life in the long run (6).

Do you know how to take a deep breath? If you do, then move on to the next tip. If you don’t, read on to learn how.

How to take a deep breath

Breathe slowly

Breathe from your diaphragm and your chest. You can do this by visualizing your breath rising slowly from your belly.

Hold it for a few seconds

Hold your breath for three to five seconds before letting it out gradually.

Find a mantra that calms you

You can take things further by repeating a mantra like “I am relaxed and calm” or “I am in control“.

Reduce your stress level

When we are under stress, it becomes even more difficult for us to manage our emotions. Super disciplined people succumb to their emotions when they are stressed or in high tension (7).

So if you can reduce your stress levels, it will be easier for you to manage your emotions and hold yourself back from eating mindlessly.

Below are effective ways to cope with stress.


Exercise cannot only help you lose weight but can also help reduce your stress level.

One study shows that people who exercise regularly are likely to experience less stress and anxiety than those who don’t (8).


Omega 3 fatty acids

As can be seen in this study in medical students, taking omega 3 supplements can help reduce stress and anxiety symptoms by 20%.

Green tea

Green tea is loaded with a unique type of antioxidant that can help reduce stress by lowering your serotonin level (9).


The soothing smell from scented candles can help reduce your stress level and improve your sleep quality (10) (11). Below are some calming scents you should give a try.

  • Vetiver
  • Yiang yiang
  • Rose
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Sandalwood

Easy ways to stop yourself from succumbing to emotional eating

Clean out your pantry

Loading your pantry with unhealthy food and snacks is only going to set you up for failure.

So make out time to trash or donate the unhealthy foods in your home that you usually reach for when you are down or unhappy.

Inspect your home and remove foods that are sweet, high in fat and calories like chocolate, chips, and ice-cream.

And remember that going to the grocery store when you are feeling upset is a terrible idea, as you may end up buying unhealthy foods.

Look at the amount of food you are eating

A lot of people consume tons of food without realizing it because they don’t measure out portions. They often just grab a bag of chips or other foods and eat mindlessly.

Eating without measuring portions is by no means a good idea, as you will be more likely to overeat without realizing it.

Using smaller plates can help you reduce the amount of food you consume. Give yourself some time before going for a second or a third plate.

Developing mindful eating habits is also going to help you become more conscious of the amount of food you are eating.

Get rid of distractions

People tend to eat more when they are distracted or aren’t paying attention to what they are eating (12) (13).

So when you are eating, it is wise that you turn off common sources of distractions like your TV, computer, video games, your phone, and focus on your meal.

Below are some helpful tips that may help you eat less.

  • Chew your food a couple of times before swallowing
  • Drink water before meals
  • Don’t get too hungry before eating

When to consult a doctor

For those who don’t make an effort to address their emotional eating problems could potentially develop disorders like BED (Binge eating disorder).

Do well to consult a doctor if you think you have an eating disorder or if you’re eating pattern is out of control.

Your doctor will likely refer you to a dietitian that will help you address your issues.

The bottom line on ways to overcome emotional eating

Whether you have been struggling with emotional eating for weeks, months, or even years, you need to keep in mind that change is possible.

The fact that you are reading this article is a sure sign that you want to improve your health and become a better version of yourself.

Applying the tips discussed in this article, we not only make it easier for you to control your emotions but also help you consume fewer calories.

Remember that the path to change isn’t a straight one. Along the way, you may make a few mistakes and even slip a few times. Don’t sob or feel sorry for yourself when you do.

Instead, pick yourself up and keep working hard. You can be confident that you will be able to overcome emotional eating if you do not give up.

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