Pondering Emotional Eating


Last week in one of our brainstorming sessions I got the question, “what do you do with long-term emotional triggers that send you to food.”  During the week many discussions were had regarding short-term coping mechanisms for dealing with emotions that lead us to eat.  Her question seemed to imply that most triggers to eat are occasional and unexpected, i.e.  a stressor occurs at work, you crave food, you eat it and feel less stressed, the end.

I feel that emotional eating is more long-term or chronic.  If my job is stressful, it’s probably stressful most days.  If boredom is a trigger for me to eat, it probably happens most nights, not just once in a blue moon.

If emotional triggers linger for days, weeks, months, then I think it’s a good idea to be proactive.  Plan alternatives to food and maybe even practice those coping responses when you are not at your breaking point and completely focused on the thought of eating.   For example, if my work days are insanely stressful and I’d like to avoid turning to food, I might proactively plan to do these things:

  • mid-morning take a 10-minute break to step outside for some fresh air
  • mid-afternoon while doing some mindless work, listen to my favorite music at the same time
  • after my workshift, set aside 30 minutes of “transition time” to wind down by reading some fiction outside on my porch or going for a 30 minute walk with the dog while listening to a favorite podcast, before dealing with any home-life stressors

If these are part of my regular routine, there’s 3 different events I get to look forward to each day.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  I know I’ll be able to reduce my stress levels that day because I was proactive and planned stress reducers.  Now there’s less of a need to soothe myself with food while I work straight through the entire day with nothing to look forward to but the 5:00 whistle.

Are you proactive in dealing with emotional eating urges?  What are your strategies?

6 responses to “Pondering Emotional Eating”

  1. cindy says:

    I think it would be pretty interesting if we could see our behavior plotted on a chart with lots of maps and graphs. If we looked at it from that perspective, emotionally out of it, we could see patterns that we’d otherwise miss. Because we’re ‘in it’ each day, we have little perspective. Especially on how it looks over the longer haul. I like your thinking.

  2. I like those tips. One of the things that I have to be VERY careful of is baking when I am tired/bored/at night. It’s how I ‘taste’ food and get me emotional eating fix. I think the major thing that I am working on (because I think the strategies that you’ve outlined are good, but it’s dealing with signs/symptoms of a large issue) is taking the emotion out of food. Coping strategies are like advil for pain…it’s masking it. But really one must get to the root of it.

  3. susan says:

    I have gotten to the point where I know when I’ll be in a situation that will trigger emotional eating. I “rehearse” what I’ll do when I get there — sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If I’m really committed to making it work, it does.
    .-= susan’s last blog post..Apparently, I am a quasi-Vegetarian =-.

  4. Many of my clients struggle with emotional eating. The best thing they can do, and what I help them with, is planning in advance. Just like you have a plan of action at work, so too I set a schedule with my clients to help them get through the difficult parts of their days. And as best as they can, I have them find non-food related solutions!
    .-= Nutritioulicious’s last blog post..nutritioulicious™ Live on WBAL Baltimore This Sunday =-.

  5. love2eatinpa says:

    i’ve tried to get to the point where i know that food is not going to solve any of my emotional problems. just having that mindset has made a big difference. sometimes though, if i’m feeling emotional, i will just remove myself from the kitchen and try to do something relaxing.

  6. Cindy says:

    I believe a lot of mindless eating occurs because we want to feel good. It’s a quick fix. The busier we are, the less time we allow ourselves to derive pleasure from other areas of our lives, the more we turn to something that offers us an immediate reward. Under those circumstances, potato chips, cookies, (fill in the blank) can be a pretty tough temptation to ignore. I like the idea Robyn presents. Don’t wait until the thought of food or eating becomes overwhelming, but invest in other behaviors/activities that you actually want to engage in, long before food or eating is even a consideration.

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