Are You An Emotional Eater?

Does emotional eating control your life?

Stress can trigger bingeing

You’ve had a bad day and suddenly the urge to eat sugary or salt foods is so uncontrollable that you cave into your cravings.

Whether your eating is conscious or unconscious, satisfying emotions through food can completely sabotage your weight-loss efforts. If you are honest with yourself and admit that you are an emotional eater, then you can take steps toward regaining control.

Stress Triggers Reaction

We all find ways to soothe negative emotions. Daily stress, anger, resentment, fear, and loneliness can take a huge emotional toll on our well being.  Different emotions can trigger different eating habits. Certain stressors may actually cause you to eat less, while others may cause the impulse to binge.

Bingeing can occur to numb painful emotions, distract from nervousness, provide comfort when under stress, or satisfy an unmet need. Regardless what emotion drives you to bingeing, you always end up in the same place.

Once your emotions subside, you feel guilty, shamed, and wear the burden of sabotaging your own goals. This leads to a perpetual cycle of unhealthy eating habits, which may eventually lead to an eating disorder.

Creating An Awareness

I talk all the time about awareness, and I think it is so important in every aspect of weight management, and your overall health. Here are a few suggestions to help stave off emotional eating when you feel the urge coming on:

  • Understand your triggers: get to know what sets you off, and become aware of your emotions. It may be work or relationship stress, feeling inadequate, or an argument with someone you love. Figure out which emotions cause which reactions so you can learn to control how you behave in certain situations.
  • Manage stress: One of the largest mistakes we make is brushing things under the rug. We let stress build up by ignoring different stressors in our lives. It finally gets to the point where we can no longer cope. This will lead to bingeing, which then leads to other unhealthy emotions. If you are feeling stressed, admit to yourself that you need a break. Exercise is one of the best stress relief mechanisms. Take yoga class, go for a walk, or find the nearest punching bag and get it all out.
  • Keep a food journal: If you notice your weight fluctuating, or that you’ve plateaued in your weight loss efforts, start tracking what you eat. This will help you see and understand your emotional eating cycles, and perhaps help identify the triggers so you can better manage your cravings.
  • Avoid deprivation dieting: The guilt of a binge may lead you to starvation afterward. This cycle will lead to endless emotional eating because your body will attempt to make up for lost calories. Depriving yourself of nourishment will only trigger more stressors, and cause you to binge again. If you do binge, acknowledge it and move forward.
  • Eat intuitively: I know plenty of women who have successfully lost weight through intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is an awareness of hunger. Simply put, know when you are truly hungry versus when you are bored, stressed, or upset. Feed your body when it asks for nourishment, and find other things to do with your time when your emotions ask for food.
  • Don’t tempt yourself: you control what foods go into your house and on your plate. If you are prone to emotional eating, don’t keep tempting food in your kitchen. Avoid eating out when you are feeling stressed, and make your family aware of your needs. So often we blame our loved ones for keeping junk food in the house, but getting the whole family involved in your healthy lifestyle will prevent this.
  • Talk about it: don’t keep your emotional eating bottled up inside. It isn’t anything you should feel ashamed of, and you will be surprised at how many others can empathize with you. If you need help, open up to those with whom you are close, and share your experiences. You can also find many great online communities to provide advice and support for your emotional eating.

You Are Not Alone

Emotional eating is very common, so don’t think that you are alone in this. Learn what causes it and find other ways to relieve stress. Learn to eat for nourishment, and control your emotions through other therapeutic avenues such as exercise, hobbies, and relaxation techniques.

Most importantly, if you do binge, acknowledge it and move forward. Don’t shame yourself into food deprivation, and don’t think yourself a failure. Recognize that you did binge, and find those emotions that caused it so you can learn to better control them.

I have fallen victim to emotional eating more times that I can count. Learning to control it was one of the best things that ever happened to my overall health. Yes, I do slip sometimes, and I am okay with that. I recognize what I did and develop an awareness for why it happened. You can do the same.


Do you know what triggers your emotional eating? Are you conscious or unconscious of your bingeing, and how do you react when it’s over? Have you learned to control it? If so, share with us how.



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  • Thank you for the share! Keep on posting such related topics. Great work!

  • Wonderful reference! I will have to check that book out, Molly. I am sure it’s very insightful. Thank you!

  • I have a great workbook out on this topic- The Food and Feelings Work book by Karen Koening. It is quite a journey. It will really take you to the bootom of your issues. It actually helps with other goal setting, not just eating concerns.

  • It is very common in women. But, I think men do it too. They just don’t think about it in that sense. That is great that you’ve learned to listen to your body. I think it is by far the most important part of recovery. Rather than just complaining about how you feel afterward, you recognize and react to it. Imprinting that memory of the next day, or even the next hour will definitely help you think twice with your next onset urge.

    Thanks again, Rebecca!

  • Bingeing is so very common, especially among women. Men seem to find binge drinking more appealing in times of stress.

    I used to binge eat so often, but knowledge about why it happened, and listening to my body (all those horrible side effects from eating too much poor quality food) have helped me reduce the bingeing and made me realise that I CAN control it. In fact, it’s not even about control anymore; it’s about CHOICE. I CHOOSE to eat well. I CHOOSE to eat good quality, nutritionally dense food. I CHOOSE my portions. My life is full of choices ☺

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