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Can’t stop munching? 10 ways to give up emotional eating

The urge to reach out to a tub of ice-cream or a bag of chips kicks in, in hopes of drowning all those negative emotions

Racha Adib

Published: Updated:

After a long day, you may find yourself feeling stressed, bored or anxious. The urge to reach out to a tub of ice-cream or a bag of chips kicks in, in hopes of drowning all those negative emotions. Although emotional eating might make you feel good in the moment, it often leads to feelings of regret, guilt or shame.

But it is common practice to many. As a child, we are nurtured and rewarded with food so having emotional connections to food is normal. But if we keep using food as a coping mechanism, it’s a surefire way to gain weight. It can be even more problematic if you already have existing health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Fortunately, like any habit, emotional eating can be broken. Here are ten tips to get you back in control of healthy eating habits without letting your emotions get in control of them.

Keep your home healthy

The best way to reduce binge eating is to cut down on your go-to temptations. Keep your pantry free from processed food such as chips and chocolate. Instead have some handy healthy snacks at home such as vegetable sticks with a hummus dip, corn for popping, or home-made fruit yogurt.

Think about your triggers

If you’re having the urge to binge, pause for a moment and then write all the emotions you’re feeling in a diary. Ask yourself if you’re hungry, upset, anxious, lonely, or just plain bored. With time you may see patterns emerge that can give you insight on the connection between your moods and emotional eating.

Manage your emotions

Once your figure out which emotions make you reach out for food, find alternate ways to manage them. Learn to cope with emotional eating is one of the most important aspects of management. You might want to fight boredom by taking up an afternoon hobby such as painting. If stress is your problem, you can pick up any form of exercise as a stress reliever. Time your exercise session during the time you are likely to binge. A great way to handle negative emotions is by practicing yoga, listening to relaxing music, meditating, and talking to a friend.

Give into cravings occasionally

Sometimes labeling food as bad for you or banning them may lead you to overeating them later on. Give yourself permission to have small amounts of your favorite cravings occasionally as to not feel tempted.

Get enough sleep

Being sleep deprived may lead to emotional eating. Less sleep time can impact hormones involved in appetite and increase it. So instead of resorting to food to boost energy levels, choose to take a nap or go to bed a little earlier.

End restrictive dieting

Strict diets may seem like the solution to your weight problem, but they are likely to backfire. Food deprivation and strict dieting can leave you feeling hungry, cranky and generally less in control. On the other hand, when you’re eating balanced meals and you’re feeling physically satisfied, you are less likely to resort to emotional eating

Listen to your hunger cues

You might think you’re hungry, but before you head to the kitchen, pause for a moment and analyze what’s really going on. Learn to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger. If you ate recently and don't feel hungry, give the craving time to pass. Drink a glass of water and get busy doing something else.

Seek support

Emotional eating is a difficult habit to break, especially on your own. If you find it difficult to overcome, then working with a counselor can help you deal with the emotional triggers. Even if it’s not with a professional, talking with friends or family helps and gives you a feeling of accountability.