Have you ever reached for a pint of ice cream or pizza and zoned out on the couch with your favourite show after a stressful day? Do you feel guilty about your eating habits or out of control around food?
If so, you may struggle with emotional eating.
Food is meant to fuel our bodies rather than numb our feelings. However, many people find themselves struggling with the urge to use food as a coping mechanism.
In this blog, we’ll look at tips on how to stop emotional eating so you can build a healthier relationship with food.
What Is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating refers to using food as a way to numb, change, or escape certain feelings rather than eating in response to physical hunger. Often, these feelings include stress, anger, boredom, anxiety, or even happiness.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed, bored, or stressed, eating certain foods can cause the release of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. This is a key part of what makes emotional eating so appealing.
What Causes Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is influenced by various factors, including:
- Stress (cortisol triggers the body to desire fried, processed, sweet, or salty foods)
- Relationship issues
- Financial stress
- Health problems
- Strong emotions (anxiety, fear, boredom, loneliness, sadness, happiness)
- Social situations (it can be easy to overeat when enjoying a night out with friends or family)
- Pressure and influence from society (just watch any ad or commercial to see how often food is portrayed as a mood booster)
- Childhood influence (Were you rewarded for good grades with food? Was food a big part of celebrations? Were you told to ‘finish your plate’ even if you were already full?)
- Dieting (being overly restrictive and focused on food can backfire and lead to binge eating, stress, and an unhealthy relationship with food)
- Seasonal Shifts (many of us reach for ‘comfort’ food when the weather gets cooler)
What Are the Signs of Emotional Eating?
There are various signs of emotional eating, including:
- Craving certain foods (often highly processed, sugary, carb-heavy foods)
- Seeking comfort in food
- Sudden cravings
- Eating as a response to boredom, anxiety, stress, happiness, sadness
- Eating when you aren’t physically hungry
- Feeling guilty or shameful after eating
- Using food as a reward
- Feeling out of control around food
When Does Emotional Eating Become A Problem?
While most of us have experienced emotional eating at some point, it can become a problem if it is:
- Interfering with your relationships
- Affects your daily life in a negative way
- Causing you to feel guilty after emotional eating
- Affecting your overall wellness
- Affecting your self-esteem
Tips on How to Break Emotional Relationship With Food
There is no easy way to quit emotional eating, but there are steps you can take to build a healthier relationship with food and learn to manage your feelings.
1. Pay Attention to Your Diet
Fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods is key for nourishing your body and preventing cravings. It also helps build a healthy relationship with food by shifting your mindset about eating. Eventually, you’ll learn to view food as fuel and get better at pinpointing true hunger versus emotional hunger.
Try incorporating these diet tips into your daily life:
- Keep healthy snacks on hand
- Avoid keeping highly processed foods in your pantry
- Avoid going to the grocery store if you are stressed, emotional, overwhelmed, or upset
- Do not grocery shop on an empty stomach
- Fill your diet with nutrient-dense foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, including fruits, vegetables, lean meat, whole grains, nuts, and seeds
- Eat foods that support a good mood, such as foods rich in Vitamin-D rich and Omega-3 fatty acids
- Use small plates for serving food as an automatic form of portion control
- Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry
- Include protein with each meal to help you stay full and satisfied for longer
- Eat foods that help boost serotonin and dopamine levels — salmon, nuts, seeds, pineapple, turkey, and poultry
2. Face Your Feelings
Instead of trying to avoid your feelings and numb them with foods, test different strategies for acknowledging what you are going through:
- If you feel anxious, try to work off some negative energy through a game of tennis, an intense hike with a friend, mountain biking, a dance class, or another fun activity that gets you sweating
- If you are dealing with loneliness, call a friend or loved one to chat or meet up for a walk
- If you are overwhelmed, stressed, or exhausted, relax with a hot bath, watch your favourite funny movie, enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea, and find other healthy ways to calm down
- If you are dealing with boredom, explore a new hobby, find a new hiking spot, try a new class, check out some books from the library, or plan a get-together with friends
3. Follow the 5-Minute Rule
Next time you are facing a craving, tell yourself you can go ahead and eat — after you wait 5 minutes. Give yourself the chance to pause and reflect on what feelings you are experiencing.
Sometimes, this small break can be enough to lead to a healthier outcome. If you still want to eat after 5 minutes, that is okay. Each time you successfully wait the 5 minutes, you are learning more about yourself and building up your willpower. The waiting period also offers powerful insight into what triggers made you turn to food as a source of comfort.
4. Consider Hypnotherapy for Emotional Eating
Resolving the underlying issues is the only way to stop emotional eating for good. You may be self-sabotaging yourself, facing emotional blocks, and stuck in old habits.
Hypnosis for emotional eating sessions guides you into a dream-like state where you are in total control but open to positive suggestions. In this trance-like state, your mind is more receptive to lasting change.
Hypnosis for emotional eating can help:
- Identify the root cause of your emotional eating
- Overcome emotional blockages
- Help break cycles of self-sabotage
- Break unwanted eating habits
- Support a healthier relationship with food
- Teach you healthier ways to cope with your feelings
5. Practice Mindful Eating
Emotional eating tends to involve scarfing down junk food without paying much attention. Suddenly, you’ve eaten ½ a pizza or a container of ice cream while watching your favourite show.
Consider mindful eating the opposite of emotional eating. Mindful eating focuses on being in the present moment, savouring your food, and paying attention to how the food makes your body feel.
By practising mindful eating, you’ll improve your ability to recognize true hunger and build a healthier relationship with food. Eating mindfully also allows more time for your body to signal to your brain that it is full.
Try following these tips for mindful eating:
- Turn off the tv when eating
- Do not eat while driving
- Avoid looking at your phone or computer during meals
- Take a few deep breaths before each meal or snack
- Ask yourself how you are feeling before you eat
- Pay attention to the taste, texture, appearance, and smell of the food
- Try chewing each bite of food 10 to 30 times before swallowing
6. Make Exercise a Priority
Exercise has a powerful influence on mood and overall well-being and is a key way to fight the urge to overeat or binge eat. If you need to, start small. Aim to walk 20 minutes a day or find a gentle 15-minute free workout online to follow along with.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can lead to an increase in cravings and a decrease in willpower. It also has a negative impact on mood. Together, these set you up for unhealthy food choices and an increased risk of emotional eating.
Make sure to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night by following these tips for better sleep:
- Aim to fall asleep and wake up at the same time each day
- Keep your bedtime slightly cooler
- Use blackout shades to keep your bedroom dark
- Develop a calming bedtime routine to help signal to your body that it is time to go to sleep
- Avoid caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime
- Try Hypnosis for sleep insomnia if you are struggling to get high-quality sleep
8. Manage Your Stress Levels
If you find that you can’t stop stress eating, it may be time to look at how you handle stress and what factors contribute to your stress levels.
- Make time to decompress and relax each day by doing something you enjoy
- Spend time around positive people
- Write in a journal
- Read a book
- Try a calming exercise such as yoga
- Call a friend or family member
- Learn deep breathing practices or meditation for relaxation
9. Keep a Food Diary
A food diary can be a powerful tool for identifying emotional eating triggers. Whether it’s a small snack or a meal or a late-night bite, record everything you eat, the portion size, and any emotions you were feeling at the time.
Try keeping a food diary for a week or two before looking back at the entries and watching for common themes, such as:
- Are there certain times of day you notice emotional eating? (indulging at night after a long day at work)
- Are there certain feelings that coincide with certain foods?
- What are the foods you eat when you are hungry vs. the kinds of foods you reach for when you are stressed or bored?
10. Pay Attention to Self-Talk
Feelings of guilt, regret, and shame often accompany emotional eating. If you find yourself talking down to yourself and feeling negative after overeating or binge eating, work on improving your positive self-talk.
Negative self-talk contributes to the cycle of emotional eating:
- Struggle with feeling down, anxious, ashamed, guilty, stressed, or overwhelmed
- Eat junk food
- Feel guilt over what you ate and your lack of self-control
Positive self-talk can help break the cycle of emotional eating. View each episode of emotional eating as a chance to learn more about yourself and improve your well-being.
Want to Learn More About the Benefits of Hypnosis for Emotional Eating?
If you are looking for an easy way to quit emotional eating or a quick fix for binge eating, there isn’t one. Fortunately, with the right tools and support, you can learn how to control your eating and improve your relationship with food.
Hypnotherapy for weight loss is one of the best ways to tackle the root cause of your emotional relationship with food. I recommend 5 to 8 sessions for long-lasting results.
I specialise in weight loss and emotional eating hypnosis and I would be honoured to help you on your journey to building a healthier relationship with food.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or book your free clarity call to learn more.