Dealing with Emotional Eating

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Have you ever had a bad day and then headed home only to blow your calorie count out of the water?  How about those days when you are so frustrated that you can’t even wait to get home and repeatedly hit the vending machine for a treat?
Emotions of any kind can bring on the cue to our bodies to want food.  If we are joyful, we celebrate with cake. In times of sadness we take casseroles to comfort the grieving. In anger, we punish ourselves by eating everything in sight.  Often times we console our own sadness, loneliness, or boredom with food. 
Since times of old, there have been celebrations with food, and it has been at the center of a society.  No wonder it is so engrained in us to desire it.  Society as a whole is very centered on eating and dieting.  How do you fight it?
I can speak from my point of view, how I won my personal war over emotional eating to lose 150 pounds with SparkPeople.  First of all, I read everything I could on emotional eating on the site.  I found the Mind Over Body program very helpful.   Reading allowed me to identify what I was dealing with and give me ideas for coping.  I still had to come up with some of my own, as not everything works for everyone.
One of the things I do is get my feelings out now.  I blog, talk to friends, write poetry, or do whatever it takes to deal with my emotions.  Sometimes that means praying and sometimes that means telling someone just how I really feel, even if they don’t like it or agree with me.
I eat to soothe a particular emotion, to feel some physical relief or comfort from food.  So, it makes sense to me that what I should do is find something else that gives me the emotional or physical relief I am trying to get.  For me, a warm bath scented with candles works to make me feel safe, secure and comforted.  Other times climbing in bed with a big comforter and a movie works better.  Whatever your ways of dealing with emotional eating, make sure it soothes you in a physical and emotional way, the way food does.
Sometimes I eat to avoid.  I want to avoid thinking of something or put off something that I have to do that I don’t necessarily want to do.  My thought pattern goes something like “Okay, after I eat this _____, I’ll ____.”  Then, after I eat the food, I feel guilty, so I stew over what I just ate and start loathing my failure.  I guess the self loathing is easier to handle than whatever it was I was supposed to do and wanted to avoid.  Instead, I now get a glass of my favorite sugar-free beverage or a light beverage with vitamins in it to perk me up.  It feels like a treat.  Then I slowly make a plan to tackle the obstacle.  Sometimes advice from a friend can even help with your perspective on a situation.  Becoming aware of eating to avoid was a critical step for me.
Another thing I do is stay full with mini meals.  I eat 300-400 calories every 4 hours or so to keep from getting hungry. I divide my calories for the day into five or six mini meals--it makes a tremendous difference in how much fuller I feel.
I exercise now, which helps me relieve stress.  A mix of cardio and resistance seems to do best for me.  I put on a very upbeat playlist and then really hammer out a workout.  I feel so much better then.  It’s like an anvil got lifted off of my shoulders.  Sometimes a bit of quiet yoga can help settle nervous energy.
SparkPeople also has a team for Emotional Eaters, which is particularly helpful.  The Dealing with Depression team is another team that can help you cope during rough times.  Be sure and search through the SparkPeople teams for a team that suits your personal issues and emotions.  There are answers out there for each of us.  We just have to find them.
What do you do when you feel like emotional eating?

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NEPTUNE1939 12/5/2020
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Some great ideas Report
Thank you for another excellent blog. I appreciate the Mind Over Body link as well. Report
Yeah I think I need to check that out. Problem I have is I am on fluid restriction. So I can not have a low cal drink or water. I think I was OK on a liter per day before I got sick. Then with the kidney failure I drank lots more. My body needed it. But once you are stage 5 you have to restrict fluids and it's so hard on me mentally. After a year it has got worse on me. I feel like if they had never told me I am restricted I might have less problems. When I was ignorant about it and just drank with my meals I did great. But I never felt hadn't been pounded into my brain. Report
Boredom is my eating curse. If I get bored I think about eating. My coping method now is exercise. Not a frantic workout session but getting up and putting on my iPod and dancing. Maybe I’ll take a walk. What I no longer do is head to the kitchen. If my distraction doesn’t work, I drink a full glass of water and wait. If none of these things work, then and only then do I have a portion control snack of something satisfying. Most of the time it works. I am still a work in progress but I am learning as my journey continues. Report
Thanks for the info. It is soo easy to and quick to fix how you are feeling with eating something you shouldn't eat. As you say, it is important to think of the long term goal. Report
Emotional eating cab be a real hindrance in weight loss. I do have times that when I am
tired, bored or just lonely, I guess, that I eat thinking it is a comfort to myself. I am trying to get out of this bad habit. I'm back walking and going to fitness class and that helps so much. Keeping busy at home with projects helps too. Thanks for sharing this great blog. I need to check out some of the INFO you suggested. Report
Thanks so much for the info. I am def. an emotional eater and new to sp. So ur info really helped me to find the teams and tools I can put to use to make my goal a reality!!! Report
I am definitely an emotional eater. I used to munch away all day because I was bored in my home office and didn't want to be there. One key change I made was to switch to herbal tea after my first cup of coffee. I don't use sugar or milk in my tea, but I use cream in coffee, which is fine in one or two cups, but a lot of fat if you keep drinking all day. Also, I'm getting hydration in as opposed to coffee, which is a diuretic. Finally, it gives me something to do, to keep pouring from the tea pot on my desk. Rather than hop upstairs for another cracker, I'll have another cup of tea. The tea helps keep me full as well. One other thing I do is bring small sugar free mints to work (I no longer work at home), or a bag of veggies, and allow myself to eat those when needed. I allow myself to open those veggies any time after 10:30, when I start to get hungry, and just munch away till they're gone. It's a big help to keeping my mind occupied on those boring days in front of a computer. Report
This was very helpful for me. I'm at the start of my diet (2nd week) and I know emotional eating is a huge problem for me. Thank you for the link to the Mind over Body Program! I know I do best if I read something to motivate me each day and that is one of my fast break goals. You have given me a lot of usful information to read! Report
great article! I am definitely an emotional eater and am going to check out some of these links!! I eat when I'm bored and/or stressed Report
What makes me want to eat more is socializing. I overeat particularly at night, but am fine during the day. What I am finding is that I can eat to sooth myself and it is not a problem if it is healthy fruits or vegetables low in calories. Anything high in carbs I avoid like bread, donuts, ice cream, cookies, etc. Believe it or not, red seedless grapes are a great comfort food. Report
Thanks for the tips and the link to the mind over body program. This is something I really struggle with. I would be at my ideal weight were it not for this one hurdle. Thanks again! Report
Thank you so much for sharing, going now to check out the 'Mind over Body program. A lot of us are on this same road and we need each others help!! Report
As a movie fanatic i can binge on anything. It really takes a lot of self discipline to stop with it. And if i can manage my stress, it would be easier. Report
Great topic. Thanks for the link to Mind over Body. It mentioned negative self talk which I identified in my profile as major problem. Emotional eating is something I am well aware of but I can't say I ever planned tactics for dealing with it other than calling a friend. I'm not certain that strategy is full proof. Funny how relaxing baths and soothing aromatic candles are always welcome in my life but I've been rarely indulging in these pleasures. That's a good check in to have with myself. Report
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can identify with a lot of it! Report
Thanks for this timely message Report
Thank you for the helpful information. Just this morning I was trying to work out an action plan to work on my emotional eating. Report
After a long day at work, if I am not feeling very well or am especially tired and a general sense that my world is not right I tend to cave to easy "comfort food" which entails either calling in pizza or going out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Not only does this add pounds to my already excessive "surplus", but it's money that should not have been spent which adds to my stress level and adds to my feelings of guilt for not feeding my children better. Report
Emotional eating has always been a sore spot for me. I struggle everyday not eat when my emotions are in turmoil. It is very hard for me but I am not going to give up. I will read this article over and over again. Report
I am a terrible emotional eater! Thanks for the advice and encouragement! Report
I have read a lot about emotional eating while trying to find answers to it. However, this is the first time avoidance was mentioned. I have a strong tendency to do this just as you described. I try to fight it by giving myself permission to avoid for a little while as long as I do something instead of eating. Doesn't always work.
Thanks for an honest and helpful blog -- and the link to Mind Over Body.... Report
I end up feeling really bad about myself Report
I choose to workout whether walking or a tape, but if need something - eat something healthy. Report
Thank You! I hadn't explored some of the sections of the site that you mentioned yet. I think they will be very helpful for me at this particularly stressful time. Report
I'm still wrestling with this--vry often I don't even realize that what I was doing WAS emotional eating till the food is down the hatch. At least now, I can laugh at myself as often as I get irritated--I can be so darned sneaky, I fool me. Report
Go for a walk. Report
This is definitely my problem, emotional eating.!! I wouldn't be as fat as I am if it wasn't for my emotions. I am lonely at night and food is my hug, my kind words, my back rub,I am a very affectionate person and I love to give affection and I love to receive it but---------------. It also is a big help to blog my feelings like I am doing right now. This site is a wonderful place for venting. And for kind loving support and encouragement. Maybe I can whip this weight problem after all.

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I do it, and then feel awful. Sometimes I use food, for comfort. I have a problem with eating in the evenings, mostly because I'm bored. Thanks for the tips. Report
I definitely suffer from emotional eating problems. It's definitely better now than it used to be, but it hasn't quite gone away. Report
some sort of workout (either calming or invigorating), read a *good book (I'm working on my master's degree, so school books don't distract me from eating), gardening, playing with my cats =)
Great Information, Thanks for sharing!! Report
A well-written, comprehensive take on a subject important to me. Thanks for sharing! Report
Another great blog, Beth. I love your gentle firmness. It helps me keep stay on an even keel and not waste time--and calories--on mood swings. Report
You've got some very wise, obviously road-tested suggestions here, INDYGIRL :) Thank you! Report
Emotonal eating is a huge problem of mine and to top it off I have an emotional disorder. I am going to try the suggestions offered dealing with one type of emotion at at time. Report
I've never been an emotional eater, but I have read ROGER GOULD, M.D.'s fine book "SHRINK YOURSELF", so if you are an EE, I recommend reading it. He says we all can lose weight, but until we learn to manage stress, we will regain the weight. I did regain when my son was having Chemotherapy for Testicular Cancer, as I just didn't stay true to myself with tracking closely. Dr. Gould has a 12 week course to deal with Emotional Eating & many have taken it and found it to be very helpful. Report
Excellent blog........It was like you were sitting beside me all my adult life. You really hit my problem head on. Report
Great article and great ideas. Report
This is very helpful, because I am a very bad emotional eater. Sometimes I am beyond full but still cannot control my eating. Thanks! Report
Right on. I think I need to find some good recipes and have alternative food on hand. I'm beginning to get bored with the foods I'm eating and am getting more and more tempted to stray from my dieting. Report
I sort of knew this info already. For me it is realizing the emotion for what I really need before I eat a sleeve of cookies. :(
I still have to learn to be mindful. But until then I stock the house with healthy low cal, low fat foods. :) Report
I feel really bad, I was eating M&M Peanuts while I was reading this article. But the information is great. Report
Good information!! I will keep some of these tips in mind. Report