Emotional Eating 101

How to Avoid Eating Your Feelings
Nutrition
Written By:
Zoe
Halbert
RD
LD
CEDRD

It may surprise you that emotional eating is actually a part of normal eating. Most of us have all eaten for comfort at some point. Eating in response to emotions only becomes problematic when we are relying on it as our primary way of dealing with feelings. When food is our go-to coping mechanism, we may wind up overeating and not solving the underlying issues we have going on.

There are a few things that can put us at higher risk of eating emotionally:

  • Lack of Sleep
  • Inadequate nourishment
  • Overexercising
  • Lack of Work-Life Balance
  • Poor stress management
  • Specific emotional triggers

What are some things we can do to start tackling recurrent emotional eating?

  • Check in with yourself regularly and ask whether you are meeting most of your basic needs. Are you getting enough sleep every night? Are you finding time for your relationships and hobbies? Are you eating enough throughout the day? Do you often feel overwhelmed and stressed? It’s helpful to regularly evaluate these things to find out where you can increase self-care.
  • Seek support. Lots of people struggle with emotional eating. If you find yourself in a pattern of emotional eating, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from a therapist, dietitian, or support group.
  • Identify your emotions specifically. Often when we feel emotions we try to push them away or we identify them very broadly as “sad,” “mad,” “happy,” etc. There are so many different types of emotions though, sometimes we are not accustomed to using more specific language. For example, when you are sad you may be grieving or you may be disappointed, or depressed, though all sad emotions are different and indicate different needs not being met. When we identify emotions specifically, we can make sure to choose a coping mechanism that will be effective rather than just turning to food or other vices that won’t be as helpful.

I like to use this emotion wheel to help identify emotions:

to help with emotional eating use an emotion wheel to find out where you are in your emotions

Emotional eating is not a crime or a disease. It’s a normal, and sometimes even effective, coping skill! If we want to feel our best physically and mentally, it’s important to look at our relationship with food and make sure we are using a variety of healthy coping skills to work through our stress and emotions. What are some of your favorite self-care practices?

Some people may eat when they are anxious to try and calm themselves down. Others might eat when bored or lonely to fill the time. Some may eat when frustrated, stressed after work, or depressed. If you find yourself eating emotionally often, notice if its triggered by the same emotions.