Emotional eating is defined as eating in response to feelings, as a way to comfort oneself, instead of eating to satisfy physical hunger.  Everyone eats occasionally when under stress or feeling bored. However, regularly engaging is stress eating or eating for reasons other than physical hunger can make it very difficult to lose weight.  If you find you are turning to food to avoid conflict in your life, distract yourself from problems or delay completing a task, you may be struggling with emotional eating.

Set Yourself Up for Success:
It is important to eat a balanced diet every day (at least three meals per day) in order for your body to be physically satisfied and properly nourished.  Research has shown that individuals who eat regular meals (eating something at least every 5 hours) don’t engage in emotional eating as often.
When eating a meal or snack try the following mindful eating strategies:
-Sit down at a table to eat (as opposed to eating in the car, on the couch in front of the tv, or at your desk).
-Create a pleasant eating environment. Turn on relaxing music. Have a clean eating area. Try not to begin a meal in an unpleasant emotional state. Practice 10 deep breaths to help relax yourself before beginning your meal.
-Remove distractions - Turn OFF the television. Do not read while eating.
-Eat slowly (try to take 20 minutes to eat your meal)
-Enjoy every bite (truly taste your foods.  Try to pay close attention to the flavors, texture and temperature)
Why might you be turning to food?
Some people turn to food in response to negative emotions.  One reason may be that food is convenient and easy and eating temporarily eases the intensity of the emotion. It’s important to understand that eating when you have a problem often makes your emotional response worse.  Simply speaking, eating doesn’t solve the problem.  At most, it acts as a temporary distraction.  It is also important to notice if you might be turning to food in response to a pleasant feeling.  For example, do you often celebrate by eating cake?
Answer the following questions to help you better understand emotional eating:
  • What need, if any, does “emotional eating” provide in your life?
  • Do you have some emotional connections to food that you are afraid to let go of?
  • Who might you talk to (family members or friends) about this?
  • What might you do to manage difficult times/feelings/celebrations without the use of food?
 Distraction List
Next time you have a negative emotion, and want to eat in response, try the following exercise:

1.   Take note of what time it is.  Write it down.
2.   Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings.  What are you feeling?  Are you upset?  Frustrated?  Bored? Sad? Tired? Etc...
3.   Practice positive reframing such as, “I am just upset, I am not actually having stomach hunger” or “I am frustrated that my computer froze, I am not really hungry. I just ate lunch.”
4.   Take steps to solve the problem that is bothering you.
5.   Write down your feelings in a journal or a scrap of paper. 
6.   Talk to someone about your problem.  Try calling a friend. Did this help you to change the way you were thinking about the situation? Consider seeing a therapist if needed.
7.   Try to distract yourself further. Perhaps you could try some deep breathing or play with your pet.  Make a copy of your distraction list and keep it at work, home and in the car.
8.   When the urge to eat diminishes, see how long it took for the urge to go away, writing down the time on a piece of paper.  Pat yourself on the back and give yourself some credit for any amount of time you
resisted eating.
9.   What did you learn about yourself?  What did you learn from the situation?

Shrink Yourself:  Break Free from Emotional Eating Forever by Roger L. Gould
Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Life is Hard, Food is Easy by Linda Spangle