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Stress and Emotional Eating: How To Stop Emotional Eating

Try These Healthy Alternatives to Emotional Eating!

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Updated March 27, 2007

Stress and Emotional Eating: How To Stop Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating: Reach for a pen, a friend, or a carrot stick and you'll feel better!

As anyone who’s watching their weight will tell you, hunger is just one of many reasons that people eat. Those with a tendency toward emotional eating are especially vulnerable to making poor diet choices for reasons outlined in this article. If you’re an emotional eater, you may find yourself eating to deal with uncomfortable emotions, using food as a reward when you’re happy, and craving sweets or unhealthy snacks when stressed. (Don’t worry; you’re not alone!) The following ideas can help you to cut down emotional eating and develop healthier eating habits—even when stressed!
  • Find Relaxation Techniques: When you’re under stress, your body is likely producing higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that tends to make people crave sweet and salty food—the stuff that’s generally not good for us. If you’re experiencing stress on a regular basis and aren’t finding ways to relax your body relatively quickly, cortisol could be creating these cravings, as well as contributing to other health problems. The following stress relievers for busy people can help, or you can find stress relievers that fit with your specific situation with the Stress Reliever Personality Tool.
  • Cope In Healthy Ways: Many people use food to deal with uncomfortable emotions like anger, frustration, fear, and other feelings. While we need food for survival, there are healthier ways to cope with emotions:
    • Talk To A Friend. Social support can go a long way toward helping you process your feelings, gain support if needed, and move on. (Just don’t meet your friend at The Cheesecake Factory!)
    • Try Journaling. Processing one’s feelings in a journal has been found to have many health benefits beyond mere stress management. When you feel like reaching for unhealthy food, reach for a pen instead.
    • Exercise. Getting your body moving is a great way to blow off steam and get your endorphins going, and is a much healthier option than overeating.
  • Face Your Problems: If you’re using food to muffle your feelings in a difficult relationship, try assertiveness instead. If food is your only treat at a job you hate, try techniques for finding satisfaction at your job, or get a different one. Cut down on the stress in your life and you won’t need food to help you cope.
  • Try Healthy Alternatives: If these techniques don’t completely eliminate your emotional eating urges, go ahead and indulge—but use healthier fare. Drink Perrier instead of soda; munch on veggies or healthy snacks instead of chips; savor one small piece of dark chocolate instead of binging on a whole chocolate muffin from the coffee shop (it’ll help you live longer!). All of these things can be good for you, so you’ll still come out ahead without feeling completely deprived.

Scroll down for additional resources, including the Stress and Weight Gain Self Assessment Test and the Free Weekly Newsletter.

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