How to Stop Emotional Eating

You’re aware that you are an emotional eater. Logically, you’re probably now wondering how to stop emotional eating.

There’s good and bad news.

The bad news – the longer you’ve been emotionally eating, the harder it will be stop emotional eating.

The good news – it is possible to stop emotional eating. 🙂

Stop Emotional Eating

Here are some steps you can take to stop emotional eating.

Step 1 – Vulnerability

You have to allow yourself to feel everything you might be feeling in a given moment. This sounds obvious, however, many of us – especially emotional eaters – have trained ourselves to suppress, ignore, or “eat away” our emotions depending on the situation.

While you might not be able to easily stop “eating away” your emotions with the snap of your fingers, you can pause.

Action stepbefore you eat, set a timer for 5 minutes to promote self-awareness and self-reflection. Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. Acknowledge those emotions. Silently name the emotions. Ask yourself why you are feeling this way. What happened – did something specific occur? Are you tired and more easily upset as a result? Have you been eating poorly and it’s impacting your mood in a negative manner?

The only way this action step works is if you are being completely honest with yourself and fully immersing yourself in self-reflection for the full 5 minutes. Go somewhere where you can be alone, if possible, or work to reduce the distractions around you as much as possible.

If you don’t know how to begin acknowledging, naming, and analyzing your emotions, please check out my course on Emotionally Empowered Fundamentals. It’s a quick, deep dive course that will teach what you need to know to successfully address Step 1 (and beyond).

You’ll need to perform this action step for as long as it takes for you to consciously start assessing your mood and emotional state before you put food in your mouth. Maybe it will take you a few weeks, or maybe it will take you a couple months. The more you hold yourself to this action step, the more likely you are to start building this habit without the need for a forced 5 minute reflection.

Step 2 – Gather Data for Pattern Identification

Once you are able to consistently reflect before you proceed to emotionally eat, you will be in an excellent position to start identifying patterns. You’ll want to pay specific attention to what feelings or emotions make you more inclined to eat, as well as what sort of foods you’re reaching for. Maybe you reach for potato chips when you’re stressed. Perhaps you search out dairy products when you’ve been too hard on yourself and feel shameful or unworthy. Do you crave bread when you’re feeling bored or apathetic? Do sugary treats seem to be your cure for the blues or when you’re in a funk?

Only you have the unique positioning to see these types of personal patterns. Of course, this step heavily relies on the work you did in Step 1 – there are no shortcuts here! In addition, this step requires you to document what you’re eating.

Action stepdocument how you’re feeling and what you eat. This is not about self-judgment or counting calories. This is purely to help you gather truthful and accurate data between what you’re feeling and what you then choose to eat. Our brains can work well for us, but they can also work against us if we want to remain in denial about our choices. The only way to truly move forward from your emotional eating is to know what patterns (I feel this, so I’ll eat that) you’ve developed. You only need to do this this for about 30 days (45 days, if you’re able) if you’re being consistent with this every day. If you stop for a few days, you’ll have to start back over. This step really relies on your ability to be accountable. If you struggle with this, see my notes at the end of this article.

You can document your feelings and food choice for next to free with a good old notebook and pen, or you can use a combination of apps on your smartphone. If you’ve purchased access to the Emotionally Empowered Fundamentals series, then you’ll have access to the Emotionally Empowered app, which you can use to document your feelings. Then, you could use an app like LoseIt to document what you eat (documenting food and drinks should be free on their app). If you’re good about remembering to bring something with you everywhere, the notebook and pen option will work well for you; if not, you’ll want to go the route of using the apps since they will be accessible with while you’re on the go, provided you have access to wifi.

Step 3 – Review Data for Pattern Identification

This is the quickest, and perhaps most interesting step. It’s time to assess the data you’ve collected from Step 2.

Action step –  cross reference the data in the apps. Review your entries in the Emotionally Empowered app for the times you felt, for example, angry. Then, look for the entries you made on the LoseIt app for those dates and times to search for  commonalities in the foods you chose to eat around those times. Alternatively, if you documented via pen and paper, you can make an organizational chart to note what you ate for which emotion(s). Do this for all the emotions you reported to see what patterns you can identify.

Step 4 – Develop Plans of Empowerment

Now that you’ll be armed with invaluable information about your habitual emotional eating patterns, you can work to break the cycle of emotional eating.

This step is covered in the Emotionally Empowered Fundamentals series and the app is designed to help you create a plan of empowerment, just like you’ll need for this step. However, if you don’t have the app and haven’t taken the course, you can still perform this action step.

Action stepcreate a plan of empowerment for each pattern you identified. If you only noticed one strong pattern – great, you only have one plan of empowerment to make. If you discovered multiple patterns, then, you’ll want to create a plan of empowerment for each pattern.

In general, your plans of empowerment will serve as a rule you will hold yourself to when you feel the emotion to which it relates. For example, if you create a plan of empowerment for when you feel anxious, then when you feel anxious, you’ll work to make this plan of empowerment your go-to strategy instead of defaulting to your undesirable action of emotional eating.

You’ll structure your plan of empowerment with “When I feel {insert emotion}, I will {insert desirable action}.”

In general, the desirable action works best when it aligns with a goal you’ve set. If you have a goal for weight loss, then maybe make the action related to cardio or movement. If you have a goal for improved health, then maybe the action will relate to drinking water, or eating something healthy that you can always plan to have around the house or at the office. If you have a goal to reduce your stress, maybe your action will center around breathing, stretching, or taking a hot bath.

Keep in mind that these plans of empowerment should be realistic to your daily life. If you’re at the office and your plan is to take a hot bath, that simply won’t work. You could make two plans – one for the office, one for when you’re at home. Maybe you need more than one plan per emotion depending on your lifestyle.

This final step really is key to stop emotional eating. It’s all about practicality and accountability. If you struggle with practicality, creativity, or accountability in this step and you are very serious about stopping your emotional eating, please consider investing in coaching sessions with me. We’ll work together to make plans catered around your patterns and lifestyle that will compliment your goals.

How to (Finally) Stop Emotional Eating

After you complete the action steps outlined in this article, you’ll have a very good idea of where you stand in relation to emotional eating.

If you continue to struggle, know that this process takes time and please be kind to yourself in the process.

You may find you need to tweak your plans of empowerment based on the realties of day-to-day life. This is also a tricky component to conquer. With a little creativity and the endless pursuit for solutions over forfeiture, you will become emotionally stronger and food will become a less dominating aspect in your life. Emotional empowerment never tasted so good!

If you are an emotional eater, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of accountability and vulnerability to overcome emotional eating. You simply won’t break free from emotional eating without these crucial changes to your lifestyle. Please join the free community on this site and join the Emotional Eating forum. It’s a small step, but one with potentially large payout for you in the future.

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