8 Steps to End Emotional Eating

Binge and emotional eating are tough to overcome.
It can be hard to stop the voices in your head that are compelling you to eat. It's like an out-of-body experience as you feel your arm reaching for another snack, but you feel powerless in stopping it. 

Throughout most of my life, I used food to cope with stress, anger and fear. I turned to food when I was most vulnerable and ate until I felt numb. Cereals, chips and other foods that I could grab by the handful were my weakness. 

I've tried the philosophy of "just eat a bite and the craving will be satisfied," but when I want to binge, I'll eat the whole damn thing and probably another. My thoughts typically change to, "Well, you've eaten a piece, you might as well finish it." I eat the whole thing and my thoughts changed yet again, "Now, you should probably eat another."

Fruits and Nuts

When I tried to heal my bad days with food, I always felt worse. I knew a binge wasn't going to help me, and yet they kept happening. 

As I cleaned up my diet, I knew I had to change this habit. I also knew these foods had to go. I replaced cereals with dried oats and chips with carrot sticks. I was less likely to binge on carrot sticks and other healthful foods. I had to limit what healthy treats I kept the house, and often times, I hid things in the freezer--out of sight and out of mind. 

I also changed my way of thinking. I analyzed my feelings and as I would open with the refrigerator, I would ask myself, "Why do you want to eat?"

And because I only had good-for-me foods in the fridge and pantry, I didn't want to waste those tasty things on a binge. Slowly, it became easier to manage my feelings and my binges became less frequent.

There are still times that I struggle (mid-afternoon work stress is still a weakness), but I'm stronger now and more equipped with mental tools and better-for-me foods.

But there are strategies to put in place that can absolutely help break the cycle.

  1. Listen to your mind and analyze your thoughts and feelings. What is causing you to feel this way? Why are you stressed? Why will eating make it better?
  2. Drink a glass of water. Our bodies send the same signal when its hungry or thirsty. Before you reach for that comforting cookie, drink a glass of water and see if it helps. 
  3. Get away from the fridge. When you want to emotionally eat, the kitchen is a dangerous place. Get out of the kitchen and maybe get as far away as you can.
  4. Find a hobby to occupy your mind. Whether it be crossword puzzles, needle point, running/walking, reading or cleaning the house, find a hobby to distract your thoughts away from the desire to eat.
  5. Get out of the house. If nothing seems like it's working, get out of the house. Hop in the car and go for a drive, or simply walk around the block. Clear your head for a few minutes and see how you feel. 
  6. Write it out. Find a scrap of paper or a journal and write down exactly how you're feeling. Write about what caused the frustration. 
  7. Start creating a plan. To better prepare yourself for the next binge, create a plan of action. Be ready and be mindful. Know how to analyze your thoughts and what you can do to make it better.
  8. Acknowledge you're having a bad day. It's ok to admit you're having a bad day, and it's ok to admit these feelings want to be soothed by food. Acknowledging that these moments happen is a huge step in ending them.
As you get stronger, the binges and desire to eat while emotional slowly go away. Remember, one binge or one "bad day" doesn't dictate the rest of the day or week. You can always hop right back into your healthy routines.