Emotional Eating

Although stress is a normal part of life, excessive amounts may lead to weight gain and other health challenges. Many people respond to stress by overeating. If you find yourself reaching for a doughnut or a slice of pizza when you’re worried about an approaching deadline, for example, you’re engaging in emotional eating. By making a few lifestyle changes, you can learn how to stop using food to cope with stress.

Food and Stress Connection

Stress often causes people to eat more food than they normally would. Eating is an instant distraction from boredom, anxiety, depression, and other difficult feelings. Planning and eating a meal provides a temporary escape from problems that trigger emotional eating.

Unfortunately, the underlying issues still exist and the stress will soon return.

Emotional eating tends to run in families and is sometimes a behavior learned in childhood. Parents may comfort their children by offering them treats, which creates a habit that may lead to emotional eating in adulthood.

Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal can help you understand what’s causing your emotional eating. Recording what you eat and how you feel emotionally and physically when you’re eating it. After a few days, you may begin to notice a pattern in your eating habits. Perhaps you tend to turn to sweets when work becomes stressful. You may grab a bag of chips when you feel bored or lonely.

Seeing the connection between your stress level and eating habits will help you admit to yourself that you’re engaging in emotional eating. Acknowledging the results is the first step in your journey to overcoming your condition. Writing down your feelings provides an outlet for negative emotions such as frustration and anger. Managing your stress will help you overcome emotional eating.

Recognize True Hunger

Stress can cause you to crave food when you’re not physically hungry. Before eating, recall your last meal. If you’ve eaten recently, you’re probably not physically hungry. Ranking your hunger using “The Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale” developed by Geneen Roth in her book Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating will help you determine if you need to eat. This scale uses a number from one to 10 to describe your level of hunger or fullness:

Although stress is a normal part of life, excessive amounts may lead to weight gain and other health challenges. Many people respond to stress by overeating. If you find yourself reaching for a doughnut or a slice of pizza when you’re worried about an approaching deadline, for example, you’re engaging in emotional eating. By making a few lifestyle changes, you can learn how to stop using food to cope with stress.

Food and Stress Connection

Stress often causes people to eat more food than they normally would. Eating is an instant distraction from boredom, anxiety, depression, and other difficult feelings. Planning and eating a meal provides a temporary escape from problems that trigger emotional eating.

Unfortunately, the underlying issues still exist and the stress will soon return.

Emotional eating tends to run in families and is sometimes a behavior learned in childhood. Parents may comfort their children by offering them treats, which creates a habit that may lead to emotional eating in adulthood.

Keep a Journal

Keeping a journal can help you understand what’s causing your emotional eating. Recording what you eat and how you feel emotionally and physically when you’re eating it. After a few days, you may begin to notice a pattern in your eating habits. Perhaps you tend to turn to sweets when work becomes stressful. You may grab a bag of chips when you feel bored or lonely.

Seeing the connection between your stress level and eating habits will help you admit to yourself that you’re engaging in emotional eating. Acknowledging the results is the first step in your journey to overcoming your condition. Writing down your feelings provides an outlet for negative emotions such as frustration and anger. Managing your stress will help you overcome emotional eating.

Recognize True Hunger

Stress can cause you to crave food when you’re not physically hungry. Before eating, recall your last meal. If you’ve eaten recently, you’re probably not physically hungry. Ranking your hunger using “The Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale” developed by Geneen Roth in her book Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating will help you determine if you need to eat. This scale uses a number from one to 10 to describe your level of hunger or fullness:

10.  Stuffed to the point of feeling sick, in a food coma

9.    Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt

8.    Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed

7.    Very full, feel as if you have overeaten

6.    Comfortably full, satisfied

5.    Neutral, neither hungry nor full

4.    Beginning signals of hunger

3.    Hungry, ready to eat

2.    Very hungry, unable to concentrate

1.    Starving, dizzy, irritable

Try to eat when your hunger level reaches three or four. Skipping meals increases stress levels and makes you more likely to overeat later. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration; thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Stop eating at level five or six, when you no longer feel hungry and are not overly stuffed.

Develop Alternatives to Emotional Eating

When you’re tempted to use food as a way to cope with stress, try to soothe yourself by taking part in a different activity. Do something you enjoy that will take your mind off eating, for example:

  • read a good book
  • listen to music
  • practice a hobby
  • take a bubble bath
  • exercise

If pleasant distractions are not enough to keep you from overeating, try relaxation exercises or enroll in group or individual counseling.

Try to eat when your hunger level reaches three or four. Skipping meals increases stress levels and makes you more likely to overeat later. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration; thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Stop eating at level five or six, when you no longer feel hungry and are not overly stuffed.

Develop Alternatives to Emotional Eating

When you’re tempted to use food as a way to cope with stress, try to soothe yourself by taking part in a different activity. Do something you enjoy that will take your mind off eating, for example:

  • read a good book
  • listen to music
  • practice a hobby
  • take a bubble bath
  • exercise

If pleasant distractions are not enough to keep you from overeating, try relaxation exercises or enroll in group or individual counseling.