Break Free From Emotional Eating

Break Free From Emotional Eating and Six Tips to Accomplish It!

June 14, 2021

How You Can Break Free From Emotional Eating: Emotional eating gets a "bad rap" sometimes. Mention the phrase emotional eating, and many people will share stories of the last time they found themselves wrist-deep in a carton of their favorite ice cream. 

Many people ask me how to "turn off" the emotions that cause them to give in to emotional eating.  However, the emotions of emotional eating are not the problem. 

When seeking to find a way to cope with an unresolved challenge in their lives, any feeling can be the button that triggers and sets off the need to overeat. Emotions are not the problem – lacking the right tools to surf through life's challenges is! 

In this article, you will learn to break free from emotional eating with these six tips. You will know why you emotionally eat and come away with step-by-step approaches so that you can decrease your emotional eating episodes' intensity, duration, and frequency.

Emotional eating can be tricky sometimes, so please know that you are not alone. Emotional eating can be so problematic because it starts with innocently sitting down to eat. 

Suddenly, more food was eaten than initially planned. This often occurs (especially for those that emotionally eat at night) because this is the first time one has had to relax and avoid being distracted by the day's responsibilities. 

Often this is why one can refrain from emotionally eating during the day.  Many women that I speak to frequently share with me that they are "good" during the day, but something happens once they get home – and they emotionally eat.

Break Free From Emotional Eating With Six Tips

When you feel the urge to give in to emotional eating, do these six things:



First, pause and ask yourself what's wrong. Is there something in your life right now that is out of balance? Is there something in your life that is upsetting to you this week? There is no right or wrong answer because everyone's "trigger" for emotional eating will differ.

For example, I spoke with a woman whose home has been a complete mess since the pandemic began due to the never-ending traffic of her children being home remote learning along with a busy spouse. The sudden home disorganization has been a huge trigger for her. Not per se, because of the cluttered house, but because it's not what she's used to.

When our conversation went more in-depth, we uncovered her irritation didn't rest in the clutter at all. It rested in her identity, value system, and interpretation of what the chaos meant. She was raised in a clutter-free home. She was taught that an uncluttered home is a reflection of an orderly mind (her value and identity), an efficient mind that's always operating at its best.

The pandemic brought never-ending messes and an unrelenting reprieve from those messes – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To keep up with her workload, she would stay up late, often working after the children went to bed since she was homeschooling them during the day. 

This set up a cycle of emotionally eating at night out of frustration, sleep deprivation (which increases weight gain), moodiness, and brain fog during the day. She would feel guilty when she couldn't remember simple things.

As she looked around her home, the clutter only served to worsen her mood. Thus, reinforcing her identity, values, and beliefs that her cluttered home was causing her disordered mind. Perhaps you can relate?


Apply Psychological Techniques to Help

There is a psychology technique that works with one's identity and helps a person find balance, peace, and calm. It is beneficial because it "short circuits" distress and inner conflict.  This technique also helps with emotional eating because it allows the person to get to the problem's root. 

In the young lady's case, I worked on her identity and helped her understand that her identity didn't rest in her house's appearance and her home was not a reflection of her mental state. I also taught her how to use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping, which can be used any time of the day to help her stay calm, focused, and centered. 

Within a short time, her stress levels and anxiety began to loosen their vise-like grip. Her bouts of emotional eating started to recede in intensity, duration, and frequency. She was more present with her children and husband and became happier. 


Ask Yourself, “How Have I Failed To Resolve Emotional Eating?”

Asking this question helps many people pause, examine, and understand the history of their bouts of emotional eating. This approach also helps many people extract needed lessons. Failure to take this step will result in dooming oneself to repeat the same mistakes.

To perform this exercise effectively, grab a sheet of paper right now, as you're reading this article. Write down three times that you vowed to not emotionally eat but resulted in doing so. But with one difference. You're going to write down what you saw, what you heard, and what you felt in each instance. This helps you triangulate and identify the trigger; it enables you to locate and determine your why.

According to an area of psychology called Social Cognitive Theory, you create your precondition for change once you find out your why. Having a precondition for change is extremely important to reducing emotional eating.

Once again, observe the overarching pattern in those three instances where you overate. Observe these patterns as lessons - not failures. Detach yourself from the emotion, pretend as if you're reading the sheet of paper, and it was written by a friend or a distant cousin to help you detach from the situation's emotions.

Once you allow yourself to do that. You will be able to see patterns. If you're unable to do this within the first 10 minutes of this exercise, walk away from the paper for a day or two, then come back and see which patterns emerge. I promise you, patterns will begin to emerge.


Ask Yourself, “What Would I Like To Change?”

I love working with people that struggle with emotional eating. This is because I LOVE puzzles, and emotional eating is a multifaceted and complex puzzle because everyone's emotions are different and everyone's reasons for giving in to the food cravings that lead to emotional eating are different. It's crucial to acknowledge that fact – and begin to bring it into focus.

What is it we would like to change? It is also imperative to clearly define how we will know when we have it. What does being faced with a situation that usually causes you to emotionally overeat look like? Instead of overeating, what can you do instead? Be specific with this, close your eyes right now, and begin to see what you will see, what you will hear, and what you will feel once this change in you has taken place.


Identify the Purpose of Your Emotional Eating Episodes

Why do you want to end this habit? You see, emotional eating, the reason why it's so prominent and prevalent in your life is that your brain gets a shot of dopamine when you emotionally eat. It is a coping mechanism, a comfortable coping mechanism.

To replace the coping mechanism, we must give the brain a pleasurable and compelling reason to replace the dopamine shot. There is no better way to do this than to connect with your purpose.

Ask yourself, "for what purpose do I want to stop emotional eating." Once again, give this more detail. You deserve at least that much on the path to your healing. Ask yourself, "what will I see, hear, and feel once I reach this goal?"

To make this more profound, state your outcome and the end goal in positive psychological language. Work on avoiding stating what you don't want. Your subconscious mind doesn't process the word "no" or "not." Therefore, whatever you say that you don't want, your subconscious mind processes it as something you do want. 


Future Pace

Let's buttonhole this visualization down. Future pace it. For example, you might say, it is now January of next year, and I am so happy (this is what you're telling yourself, by the way). "I am so happy I conquered that emotional eating problem that I had a year ago. I feel confident. I'm able to wear the clothes that I want to wear. I have lost weight, and it wasn't even the goal! I feel more confident. My energy is over the moon!" You get the idea. 

For emotional eating, know that every single day you are changing and seeing things differently. Your brain rewires itself immediately after you learn something new. So, even one second after reading this article, you are one step closer to being the person you want to be. Learn to rest and feel confident in that knowledge. When you break free from emotional eating, you will see your life through the lenses of opportunity instead of obstruction.

Break Free From Emotional Eating
Kristen Grant


Dr. Kirsten Grant is a researcher, speaker, consultant, author, obesity expert, founder of Phoenix Six, LLC, and host of “The Dr. Grant Show.” Her passion is helping women (and a few brave men) that struggle with food addiction and food addiction symptoms (overeating, food bingeing, food cravings, anxiety, emotional eating, stress eating, and withdrawal).
Read more articles by Dr. Grant!