Stop Emotional Eating: Eight Ways to Pause Between the Urge & the Action

Emotional eating usually involves a powerful urge. This urge can remain quite compelling unless and until we are able to put a space between it and the action of eating. Getting help to stop emotional eating will often begin with learning how to take such a pause. While this can be a challenging task, it is absolutely an attainable and worthwhile goal.

What is Emotional Eating?

Have you ever used food to try making yourself feel better? Do you sometimes eat when you’re not physically hunger? Does eating feel to you like a way to satisfy emotional needs? If you answered “yes” to any (or all) of these questions, you may need help for emotional eating.

We may engage in stress eating for many reasons but, in general, this behavior falls into two broad categories:

  • Avoidant Coping: Rather than dealing with a problem, avoidant coping instead involves eating when you are stressed.
  • Emotion-Focused Coping: This approach sees us addressing an emotion provoked by a stressor rather than focusing on the actual stressor. In other words, you comfort your hurt by eating so-called “comfort food.”

Eight Ways to Pause Between the Urge & the Action

1. Practice Mindful Eating

Mindfulness is a method of staying in the present moment. Many people — with or without emotional eating issues — do not focus on their food during meals. This becomes a bigger problem during stress eating.

2. Maintain a Regular Self-Care Routine

Become the best version of you. In this state, you are better prepared to deal with the urges of emotional eating. Self-care includes:

  • Regular sleep patterns
  • Daily exercise and activity
  • Stress management and relaxation techniques

A fourth component is healthy eating habits. Those who have worked up the discipline for the other self-care choices will often find this discipline carries over to how they eat.

3. Discover Your Triggers

There are common, general triggers, e.g. stress, fear, anxiety, and anger. But each of us engages in emotional eating for our own unique reasons. Identifying these triggers can go a long way in controlling urges and stopping emotional eating.

4. Redefine “Comfort”

Stress is inevitable. How you deal with it is not. If you seek comfort at times, it doesn’t have to food-related.

5. Stock Up on Healthy Foods

Don’t expect perfection. There will be times when you feel a strong urge to eat. However, if you limit what options are available, you can reduce the “junk food” factor.

6. Talk Back to Your Inner Voice

When that inner monologue suggests a meal, practice saying no. Empower yourself by realizing how much control you can impose on your situation.

7. Keep a Journal

Often, our stress levels follow predictable patterns. How we manage stress is also something we can monitor. Keeping a written record assists with healing and will come in handy during therapy (see below).

8. Create a Support Team

Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers — whoever you can trust can be part of your support system.

Are you an intuitive eater? Take our quiz to find out which areas you may need to work on to become an intuitive eater.

You Can Ask For Help to Stop Emotional Eating

Use these tips to help stop emotional eatingStruggling with any kind of eating issue does not make you weak or a bad person. Life is very challenging and it’s common for each of us to find ways to cope. If emotional eating has become your coping mechanism, the above suggestions will help. However, studies show that therapy is a proven path toward healing.

As touched on above, getting help to stop emotional eating requires an examination of root causes. It also involves directly dealing with the behavioral patterns you’ve developed. To put a pause to the urge and shine a light on the cause requires assistance. At Eddins Counseling Group, in Houston, TX, we have several therapists that specialize in treating emotional eating and other disordered eating habits. Your weekly therapy sessions with us can guide you on this journey in a safe and sustainable manner. Call us at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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