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Emotional Eating

pies and tarts

It's Time to Conquer Emotional Eating

    by Judee Algazi



Positive Strategies to gain control of Emotional Eating;

  • Delay and Distract: Make a list of ten activities that make you feel good and keep it handy. Recognize your negative feelings and be prepared to remind yourself to try to do the things on your list before you turn to food. Suggestions for your list of alternatives: : Take a hot bath, call a friend, take a walk, go to the gym, watch a movie, clean out a drawer, look at old family pictures, listen to music.

    • Guided Meditation:  When you feel like eating emotionally, if you can't convince yourself to feel better, let someone else do it. Buy a guided meditation CD that is intended to raise self-esteem. Keep it handy or even on your I-pod. (There are many guided meditations available on line) When you want to eat, listen to the positive programming on the CD instead.
    • Do ten sit-ups or ten jumping jacks: Before you reach for food, do a few sit-ups or jumping jacks.  Sometimes, a quick energy bolt can release hormones that change your mood and eliminate cravings.
    • Never shop for food when your are feeling emotional. When you are feeling sad, lonely, anxious or stressed out,  do not go to the grocery store. You will buy foods that appeal to your emotions, not your nutrition.  In addition, do not keep comfort foods handy in the house. When you have company,  buy healthy snacks you don’t mind having left over like fruit salad, vegetable sticks, almonds, real cheese.

      shopping cart

    • Get rid of it.  If it is in the house, and you start getting cravings, you will not only eat them, but finish them. When you have company, get rid of any goodies that are left over. Do you really think you are not going to eat the leftover candy or cookies?
    • Take care of yourself first:  Know what helps you feel balanced and make sure you do what your need to do before you do anything else. Before you start eating, ask yourself, " What do I need to do right now to feel balanced?" Try any of these ideas before you start eating.  Exercise, make a fresh green juice, meditate, .take a hot bath. Relax, Rejuvenate, Rebalance before you get too tired, too hungry or too stressed out.  If you skip your morning exercise, you may set off a cycle of emotional eating because you are low on energy. By taking care of yourself, you will feel good and others will like being around you too. You will not need use food to feel better.
    • Keep your blood sugar stable. Make sure you are getting adequate nutrition to keep you energized and keep your blood sugar stable. A drop in blood sugar could send you running for something sweet and that could trigger emotional eating.
    • Don’t skip breakfast or any meal. If you allow yourself to get too hungry, you increase the odds of overeating and getting out of control. Schedule and eat healthy snacks like fruit, popcorn, protein shakes, veggies and nuts, etc.   If you're energy gets low, you may be more likely to give in to emotional eating. 

      fresh fruit

    • Make sure to exercise: Exercise boosts your energy and helps you manage stress. Regular exercise is very effective in curbing cravings. Don't underestimate the importance of boosting your energy levels. Many times we turn to sugar, carbohydrates and caffeine to give us the lift  that a half hour of daily exercise could do.
    • Don’t get too tired: Many people try to eat to bring up their energy when they are tired. This may also lead to emotional eating.
    • Improve your self-esteem. Invest in yourself. Take classes ,go for coaching, or read books to work on building self acceptance to raise self esteem
    • Remind yourself of something that is coming up like a vacation or party

  • Emotional eating is defined as eating in response to emotions instead of eating in response to actual  hunger. Studies reveal that seventy-five percent of all overeating is emotional. When feeling stressed, lonely, anxious, bored or unhappy, emotional eaters turn to comfort foods to try to make them feel better. Food does not satisfy you because you are not hungry! Comfort foods are caloric and high in fat, salt and sugar, they can affect both your weight and your health negatively. In addition, comfort foods can your elevate mood temporarily, but after overindulging, you feel bloated, uncomfortable and guilty.  Even though this destructive eating pattern can make you feel powerless, there are things you can do to take back control. 


    • First, you need to understand that how you to talk to yourself may create a desire for comfort food
    • Second, you need to understand how advertisers use food to create an image
    • Third ,you need to avoid food with addictive qualities
    • Fourth, you need to learn to accept yourself and form your own opinions
    • Fifth, you need to have a daily eating plan 

    Right now you may be using only one strategy to deal with negative feelings and emotions: Food! 

    Instead of repeating the old habit of turning to comfort foods, this article will provide you with other alternatives to help you overcome negative feelings .

     The Connection Between Your Thoughts and Food

    If you don't know what it means to stop eating when you are full, you are most likely an emotional eater. Your appetite is dictated by your emotions and your perceptual response to other's opinions, your expectations, and whether you feel like a success or a failure .When you feel discouraged, you eat emotionally. Therefore,  when you make a mistake, you may tell yourself that you are inadequate;  it is not the mistake that sends you running for food, it is your thoughts about how you judge the mistake that sends you heading for something to make you feel better. That something is most like like a sugary, salty, fatty or starchy comfort food..

    Positive Self-Talk is the key to conquering emotional eating.

    Key Point #1:  Encourage Yourself..

    Do your remember when your young children were upset and you said things to try to make them feel better. You didn't say, " you are a loser or you probably will end up failing". On the contrary. You encouraged them by saying things like, " this is just one mistake, with practice you will get better" or everybody has ups and downs, things will get better". Emotional Eaters need to learn to use those same strategies with themselves! 

    You have to learn to talk yourself into better. You can remind yourself that making a mistake does not make you inadequate. Learn to accept and correct the mistake and go on. Don't beat yourself up verbally. Instead, practice saying things to yourself that make you feel better. When you do lose, don't lose the lesson.

    Remember that positive thoughts generate positive emotions. Positive emotions do not drive emotional eating.

    Learning to talk to yourself positively does take practice, but the more you try to talk yourself into feeling better, the easier it gets and the faster you experience a positive mood change.  So, when you make a mistake, consciously talk yourself into feeling better. In the beginning, you may need to coax yourself.  To help comfort yourself so you can experience a positive mood change, you might say things like:

    • I am usually pretty careful; this is not like me
    • I don't like making mistakes
    • This was unusual situation
    • I was able to fix it; things are fine now.
    • Everyone makes mistakes; it does not mean I am not good at this
    • I am competent but I am human.
    • Mistakes will happen to everyone sometimes.
    • I don't have to be perfect and I can still do a good job
    • Most of the time I am great at my job
    • My boss is fortunate to have me; this mistake does not change anything.
    • I forgive myself and am ready to move on.

    By learning  to encourage yourself  and talk to yourself forgivingly and positively, you can eliminate many of the negative emotions that lead to emotional eating. 


    • When you are supportive of someone or yourself, you bloom
    • When you are critical of yourself or someone else, you shrivel up..

    The Relationship Between Socializing and Emotional Eating  

    It is not only negative emotions that can lead to emotional eating. Parties, holidays, and socializing tend to encourage emotional eating. The advertising industry influences our perception of the importance of food at social gatherings. Therefore you may associate being happy with eating and drinking . Television commercials bombard you with messages about happy, sexy, attractive people having fun eating while socializing. This picture remains in your mind and acts as a role model for your eating  behavior at parties and social gatherings.

    To avoid falling into the emotional eating trap when socializing, you need to be prepared.  Before you get to a social gathering, plan how and what you are going to eat. chips, dips, cheeses, appetizers and spreads are loaded with fat and calories. Decide in advance if you think that emotional eating and continuous grazing will really make you happy. Do you think you will be happier after a bowl of chips and sour cream dip? Will you feel better after a few handfuls of chocolate covered raisins? Visualize yourself looking and feeling good. Visualize healthy foods, exercise and balance . Decide in advance what you want to eat. Develop greater self confidence and learn to be self accepting.

    Try Color Breathing ( A tip from Rebecca Marina's newsletter )
    Imagine you are breathing in color and letting it saturate your whole being.
    Imagine that you are breathing that color right into the food and seeing the
    molecules come to life.
    Red revitalizes the food.
    Yellow makes you feel fuller.
    Green gives even more life.
    Blue makes you feel calm and

     Tips for social events:

    • Be prepared; plan in advance
    • Offer to bring a healthy appetizer of vegetables and low calorie dip. 
    • Eat something before the social event so you are not too hungry and dependent on snacks.
    • Drink lots of water.
    • Exercise just before you go to the social event
    • Be aware that eating "happy food" at social events can be one of the most difficult times for emotional eaters.
    • Take Control:  Keep asking yourself, " Will I really be happier if I wolf down a bowl of chips or chocolate candies?"

        Food with Addictive Qualities:

    Avoid Foods that give you a rush . It is not just emotions that trigger emotional eating; beware of foods that chemically  lift your spirits. Foods with sugar, chocolate, caffeine, salt and fat have addictive qualities which makes it hard to stop eating them. Very few people crave celery or lentils. However, chocolate, potato chips, bread and ice cream are often some of the greatest offenders. Chocolate triggers the release of a hormone called serotonin, which can give you a rush that you don't get from eating celery. Carbohydrates like bread and pasta also release hormones that trigger a soothing response. These hormones make you feel good and keep bringing you back for more.  The old potato chip commercial that used to boast, " Bet you can't eat just one" banked on the addictive qualities of carbohydrates.  It is important to find other ways to boost your mood without food.



    Choose exercise for the same rush. Fortunately,  you can get the same type of hormone release from exercising. Just a half hour brisk walk can begin to release endorphins that make you feel better. Be conscious. Don't wait until  you are feeling lonely, anxious, blue or just tempted by a chocolate bar, be prepared in advance to have an alternate plan. There are many suggestions below. If you do get stuck in a negative spiral and find yourself eating emotionally or craving chemically addicting foods, it is important to be aware of what you are eating


    Happy Foods:

    Be aware that some foods remind you of happy times from your childhood. We call these, "comfort foods." When you feel anxious or stressed out, you may automatically reach for these memorable foods to trigger feelings that help your feel better. Foods like macaroni and cheese, French bread and butter, cookies, pizza may be associated with happy times and these emotional substitutes may sabotage your food choices today. A grown women does not benefit from a 900 calorie bowl of macaroni and cheese. The reason you feel better is because of the memory you associate with it. You can get those same memories by looking at childhood pictures. Again, it is important to be prepared, be conscious and use alternatives that can make you feel good  instead of turning to food..

    Self acceptance is Key to conquering emotional eating:

    Emotional eaters eat to escape uncomfortable feelings. In addition, many emotional eaters have poor self esteem and rely on the opinions of others.  If you do not accept yourself the way you are, you will never feel better or truly happy because you remain a victim to your own self criticism.  " You are doing a great job", "You look terrific" " You are a good mother", " You make a difference". If you rely on others to give you reasons to feel good, then there will always be times that you feel uncomfortable or unhappy.

    Don't wait to hear positive feedback from others, give yourself positive feedback. If you think, " He didn't call" it must mean I am worthless, If you think things like, " He didn't even say thank you , I am never appreciated. " I work so hard for my kids and they never even notice." you are looking for others to make you feel better. This is not healthy and can lead to overeating as a source of soothing oneself. 

    Don't look for others to acknowledge  you; appreciate yourself.  Most importantly, don't judge yourself . Start taking positive steps to feeling good. Overweight is a symptom of the problem, not the problem. So, you must understand that until you accept yourself the way you are, you may rely on food to make you feel better. 

    Be more aware of the way you talk to yourself  and become pro-active and conscious of what and how you are eat. Avoid foods with addictive qualities, foods that you associate with happy feelings, avoid associating food with socializing and most of all learn to be accepting of yourself . Here are some strategies to help you take control of emotional eating.  


     In conclusion:

    Emotional eating is responsible for most of the empty calories that Americans over consume on a daily basis. A bag of chips or two candy bars will raise your spirits momentarily but ultimately leave you feeling defeated and powerless.

    •  Be prepared and plan in advance( carry almonds, cheese sticks, 100 calorie snacks, in your purse)

    •  Have a plan; know what you will do before strong feelings start to get the best of you.

    •  Be prepared by knowing how you will distract yourself with anything but eating.

    •  If you do end up eating emotionally,  stop and ask yourself, What do I need to do to bring order back into my life right now?  

    •  Delay gratification.  Tell yourself, " In 3 weeks when my pants fit me better, I can eat that ice cream if I still really want it".

    • Try Color Breathing ( A tip from Rebecca Marina's newsletter )
      Imagine you are breathing in color and letting it saturate your whole being.
      Imagine that you are breathing that color right into the food and seeing the
      molecules come to life.
      Red revitalizes the food.
      Yellow makes you feel fuller.
      Green gives even more life.
      Blue makes you feel calm and serene.


    Judee Algazi is an educator and intuitive coach. In her private practice, she works with individuals to release negative emotional patterns.

    Call 215.481.0321 for information or email: mario@naturesoptionsllc.com

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