3 Steps to Break the Emotional Eating Cycle

How many times have you picked up food, knowing you didn’t REALLY want it, but you ate it anyway? Or how many times have you not being able to stop eating that box of cookies until you finished every last one, knowing you weren’t really hungry?  Have you rewarded with a bowl of ice cream after having a tough day at work? Or decided it’s fine to eat the entire cake because you just went through a break-up?

I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there - I know I have.  I struggled with emotional eating for years.  College midterms? I deserve a batch of cookies while I study.  In a funk for no reason?  I’ll get myself an iced dirty chai and some chocolate macaroons, than I’ll feel better.

It isn’t really that surprising that we act that way if you think about it.  We have desserts at almost every holiday, birthdays are celebrated with cake, promotions, engagements, and other life events are celebrated with food and drink.  Yes, all of those things are more positive, but if we’re rewarding ourselves with food in all those situations, why wouldn’t we reward ourselves with food in a more “negative” situation?

So how can you begin to stop this cycle of emotional eating and rewarding yourself with food?

1.     Look at food as fuel – When it comes down to it, that’s truly what it is.  Your body needs food to function. It needs protein to build muscle, carbohydrates to fuel activity and fat to form hormones and construct cells.  And those are just a few of the many important roles food has to keep to your body functioning properly. 

2.     Be mindful – Learn to be more mindful when eating.  This means sitting down to eat, with the t.v. turned off and your cell phone not in front of your face.  No eating and driving.  Concentrate on your food when eating and thoroughly enjoy it.  Savor every bite.

3.     Dig deeper inwards – Why are you choosing to emotionally eat or reward yourself with food? What is going on in your life that’s causing you to turn to food? Does it get worse when you’ve got stressful situations in your life, or has it just been a life long habit?  Is there a certain event or time or day that triggers your emotional eating? Try journaling and meditating to dig deeper.  Come up with ways to reward yourself for a good day and ways to de-stress when things get tough that DON’T revolve around food – take a bath, buy yourself a new book, go for a walk or do something else you enjoy instead.

Daily commitment to these three steps will help you to break the cycle of emotional eating.  Remember, it will be a journey, and probably a tough one, to take a hard look at your habits and make changes but the freedom from emotional eating will be well worth it.

To hear my own personal story with emotional eating, sign up for my newsletter here.  I’ll be sending out the story of my struggle (and success!) tomorrow morning.  My newsletter is where I share my more personal stories, which you won’t find on my blog.