Strategies to Overcome Emotional Eating

Many people who struggle with weight issues tell me they turn to food to help them deal with stress, anger, or other emotions that are too difficult or painful to address head-on. A lot of these people recognize that food won’t solve their problems, but because they feel incapable of changing things, they numb themselves with food.

The first thing I tell folks who identify as “emotional eaters” is to try to get at the root cause of their negative feelings. Forcing yourself to think about problems instead of brushing them under the rug isn’t easy, but it’s the first step to making a change and gaining control. If the problems are just too complicated to resolve immediately, and you can’t stomach another bout of emotional eating, the following short-term interventions can help:

  • Write about the emotion you’re experiencing. It’s often incredibly cathartic to put things down on paper or in a journal.
  • Find alternative activities that get your mind off food. Good “distracters” include calling or emailing a friend, reading a fun magazine, playing a game on your computer or phone, or engaging in a hobby. If you want to be virtuous, you can always clean your house, pay bills, or organize a neglected closet.
  • Choose three “interference” foods. These are healthy, low-cal items you’ve committed to eating before you launch into something calorific. Produce is your best bet; perhaps two handfuls of baby carrots with salsa, one red bell pepper, and an apple will do the trick.
  • Go for a run. Or take a walk. Or do any other type of physical activity you like. Exercise boosts endorphins (feel-good chemicals produced by your body) and relieves stress.
  • Try some of these stress-busting techniques. They can give your mood an instant lift.


For tips on slimming down, check out 7 Secrets to Losing Weight and Keeping It Off.