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4 Steps to Overcome Emotional Overeating

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Dragonfly Transformation & Wellness

July 2021


What is emotional overeating?

Emotional overeating is a complex topic, but it has essential elements that are easy to recognize.

Emotional overeating is a form of disordered eating characterized by the compulsion to eat even if you're full. It tends to be a response to negative emotions or thoughts. Often it's a coping strategy for those who are under stress or who have suffered abuse.

Overcome Emotional Overeating
Overcome Emotional Overeating

Food provides comfort for emotional eaters. Sadly the comfort is only temporary. Emotional overeating can sabotage your diet and weight-loss goals, as well as negatively affecting your physical and psychological health.

There are steps you can take to stop emotional overeating. The next time you feel the pull to seek comfort by eating your favorite sweets or snacks, try these strategies:

1. Figure out your triggers. In many cases, emotional overeating is triggered by an event, thought, or feeling. Take time to journal about what you're feeling in the moment, digging deep to determine what's triggering you in this way. Go beyond "I'm stressed" or "I'm angry" and break down the specific details of what happened in this particular moment.

  • Pinpointing your triggers will make it easier to control them and stop them from encouraging you to overeat.

  • The most common triggers are stress and negative emotions. Other triggers can be difficult days at work, fights with your family or spouse, and issues with friends or coworkers.

  • Therapy may be highly beneficial in the task of identifying and acknowledging your triggers.

Emotional Eating as a Coping Tool
Emotional Eating as a Coping Tool

2. Eat only when you're hungry. Food is intended to fuel our bodies. Eat food only when you're hungry instead of viewing it as a constant source of comfort. This mindset shift is critical.

This step will take time as changing your eating habits can be challenging. However, you can take small steps, learn to listen to your body, and pay attention to real hunger pangs and cues. Building mindfulness while eating can help tremendously.

Physical Hunger vs Emotional Hunger
Physical Hunger vs Emotional Hunger

3. Create a plan. Failure to plan is planning to fail. If you know that you overeat after a difficult meeting at work each week, plan ahead to prevent it. Substitute a more positive action that also brings you comfort or reduces your stress.

By creating alternative plans that don't involve eating, you will be setting yourself up for success. For example, you can plan a long walk or gym workout after work to get rid of stress.

Instead of turning to your fridge and ice cream after an argument, you can take a relaxing bath, go for a run, or get on the phone with a friend. The key is to find other ways to deal with stress and negative emotions.

Take 10 minutes now to brainstorm alternative methods you could use to do this.

4. Surround yourself with people who care and support you. One of the main reasons many people turn to emotional overeating is because they feel like they don't have a support network.

Reach out to family, friends, coworkers, a coach, and others for help. Even an online group of peers can assist in encouraging you to make healthy choices. Lean on those who will support you and create your tribe of those who uplift you to do better.

Build a strong support network around you that can help you deal with negativity and stress. Find those whom you can call or visit without worrying that you're intruding.

Be vocal with friends and loved ones about emotional overeating so they can understand your triggers. Discuss effective techniques that can motivate you to stick to a diet or exercise plan. They can remind you of these techniques when you need help, building accountability, and get you back on track.

Emotional overeating doesn't have to control your life. There are few things as empowering or rewarding as getting control back over your habits and your life. Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels!


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