Cravings for food can occur when you are emotionally drained, and emotional eating can cause you to eat foods that are not the best choices.
Foods that people often eat in response to emotions tend to be high calorie, sweet, and fatty foods.
Emotional eating can suppress or soothe negative emotions like anger, stress, fear, boredom, loneliness and anxiety.
Anything that can trigger negative emotions can lead to emotional eating. Relationship issues, work stress, heath problems, fatigue, and major life events like the death of a loved one are other examples.
There are strategies you can use to avoid emotional eating:
Tame your stress. Stress management techniques include yoga, meditation and/or relaxation.
Are you really hungry? If you ate just a few hours ago and don't have a rumbling stomach, you're probably not really hungry. Give the craving a little time to pass.
Keep a diary. Write down what you eat, how much, when you eat it, how you’re feeling when you eat, and how hungry you are. You may identify patterns that reveal the connection between mood and food.
Identify your support system. You're more likely to give in to emotional eating if you don’t have a good support network. Lean on family and friends or consider joining a support group.
You’re bored. Instead of snacking when you're not truly hungry, take a walk, watch a movie, play with your pet, listen to music, read, surf the Internet or call a friend.
Remove the temptation. Don't keep comfort foods in your home if they're hard for you to resist. Also, don’t go to the grocery store until you're sure that you have your emotions in check.
Don't deprive yourself. Depriving yourself by banishing the treats you enjoy, limiting calories too much, and/or eating the same foods all the time may just serve to increase your food cravings, especially in response to emotions.
Keep healthy snacks handy. If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose fresh fruit, or vegetables, cheese, or hardboiled eggs. Avoid sugary, processed, packaged snack foods and crackers/chips.
Setbacks are normal. If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Learn from the experience and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive changes you're making in your eating habits and give yourself credit for making changes that will lead to better health!
Mayo Clinic Staff. Weight loss: Gain control of emotional eating. Mayoclinic.org. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047342?pg=1. Published December 1, 2015. Accessed March 13, 2019.