How To Overcome Emotional Eating for Good

June 15, 2023

If You're an Emotional Eater, You're Not Alone. Use This Information To Help You Understand Eating As a Coping Mechanism and How You Can Leave It in the Past.

Emotional eating is the inclination to eat in response to strong emotions, particularly eating rewarding foods, such as those with very high sugar content.

So why do we do it? It's been shown that when you consume sugary foods, stress-reducing hormones are released into the body. This teaches your brain to desire these comfort foods, especially during times of stress, which then reinforces your emotional eating habit.

Dieting puts you at increased risk for emotional eating. When you restrict calories, your body can't distinguish self-imposed food restriction from real food shortage and acts as if it's starving. Your metabolic rate slows down which increases hunger and appetite in response. As a result, you may feel deprived and start experiencing increased cravings, making you vulnerable to abandoning your diet completely. This is particularly true during times of stress.

In addition, the inability to know when you're hungry or full can also increase your risk of emotional eating. This decrease in self-awareness can occur if you are constantly dieting or food restricting, but it can also be a result of how you grew up. Certain parenting styles have been linked to increased emotional eating. For example, if you grew up in a household that was more authoritative and you were told to finish your plate or eat all your vegetables, you're no longer relying on your own internal cues. With a decreased ability to self-regulate what or how much you eat, you're at increased risk of not being able to regulate your emotional eating.

Becoming a Mindful Eater

Mindful eating is an approach to eating that might help you better control emotional eating. It's rooted in general principles of mindfulness — being aware of the present moment in a non-judgmental way. Practicing mindful eating increases sensual awareness of the eating experience by focusing on what you can see, hear, smell, feel, and taste as they eat. A mindful approach to eating can help you better recognize reasons for eating and bring awareness to the amount and types of food you eat.

When practicing mindful eating, you first note how you feel physically and mentally. This helps you determine whether hunger or other factors are driving your desire to eat. When you do eat, use your senses to focus on each bite of food and acknowledge how your body responds to each bite. Eating mindfully is a practice you can develop over time. See below for an example of how to eat mindfully:

  1. Get a raisin (or any piece of food) and set it down in front of you.
  2. Look at the piece of food and pick it up.
  3. Feel its weight.
  4. Examine its surface — the various ridges, shiny parts, dull parts; really look for the first time at this strange object.
  5. Smell the object and notice your reaction.
  6. Move it between your fingers and listen to hear what sounds it makes.
  7. Notice what you feel about this object.
  8. Place it between your lips and just hold it there for a few moments. What do you notice happens inside you?
  9. Let it roll back into your mouth, but don't chew yet; just move it around. Is there a taste? Do you salivate? What do you want to do?
  10.   Now bite down, just once. What do you notice?
  11.  Slowly begin to chew, noticing what each bite brings.
  12.  Chew the food until it is completely liquefied before you swallow.
  13.  After swallowing, close your eyes for a few moments to notice the consequence of what you just experienced.


Emotional eating is the inclination to eat in response to strong emotions. While many people use emotional eating to cope with their feelings, doing so can create health issues and worsen any chronic conditions. Practicing mindfulness can help you combat your emotional eating habit. A mindful approach to eating can help you better recognize reasons for eating and bring awareness to the amount and types of food you eat. Practicing new stress management techniques will serve you well going forward, and you'll feel better knowing you have control of your behaviors and food choices.

If you're concerned about your eating habits, talk to your primary care doctor or Find a Doctor.