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How To Identify and Overcome Emotional Eating?

We do not always eat when we are hungry. We also rely on food for granting us comfort and relieve from stress or as a part of the reward. Emotional eating does not solve any of the problems and it can often worsen the entire situation. When you finish eating, the original problem still persists but you end up feeling guilty for having overeaten. Recognizing the triggers that cause emotional eating is the initial step that you can take to eliminate compulsive overeating, food cravings and altering all the habits that have interfered with your dietary habits in the past.

Reasons for Emotional Eating

What is Emotional Eating?

You are experiencing emotional suffering when you try to dive into a huge bowl of ice cream even after you are full or spare a room for munching on dessert as well. Emotional eating means to eat food to feel better and it is more to fulfill the emotional need instead of hunger.

Using food as a reward or to make an event celebratory is not a bad thing. However, when eating is your only means when you are trying to deal with an emotional phase is bad. When you try coping with anger, loneliness, stress, exhaustion, boredom and your initial step is to go the fridge and grab anything that you find inside it- you are probably following an unhealthy habit where the problems are not addressed.

You can fulfill emotional hunger with food. Eating may make you feel good temporarily but the feelings which compelled you to eat are still present. This can also end up making you feel worse as you have consumed too many calories at once. You hate yourself for not being strong and messing it all up. Making the problem more worse, you deprive from adopting healthier means of dealing with the emotions. Also, you find it hard to control the weight and feel weak to control your emotions as well as food cravings.

Identifying Emotional Eating – How to Know if you are an Emotional Eater?

Answer the following questions to identify whether you are an emotional eater:

Identifying Emotional Eating - How to Know if you are an Emotional Eater?

  • Is food your first and last resort when you are stressed?
  • Do you munch food even when you are completely full?
  • Do you calm yourself by eating?
  • Do you use food as a reward?
  • Do you feel stuffed and keep eating more?
  • Do you count on food as a friend? Does eating make you feel secure?
  • Do you feel uncontrollable or powerless when food is around?

If your answer to the above questions is YES, then you are suffering from Emotional Eating or you are an Emotional Eater.

How To Overcome Emotional Eating?

Tip #1: Identifying the Triggers is the First Step in the Process of Overcoming Emotional Eating

Eating can be done for a variety of reasons. The initial step in stopping eating when you are emotional is to identify the triggers that are causing it. It is also necessary to understand the places, feelings, situations that compel you to rely on food as a means for comfort. Identifying the triggers is the first step in the process of overcoming emotional eating.

While emotional eating is often connected with feelings that are unpleasant, it can also be due to positive emotions like rewarding for achieving something or while celebrating a happy moment.

Most Common Reasons for Emotional Eating

  • Stress as a Reason for Emotional Eating: Have you ever noticed that stress can make you feel hungry? It is not your mind but when stress is unceasing, it can create chaos which can increase the stress hormones called as cortisol in your body. A rise is cortisol can give rise to various cravings to eat fatty, salty, sweet foods that can boost your energy and pleasure. The more stress seems uncontrollable; you will be turning to food for gaining relief.
  • Stuffing Emotions as a Cause for Emotional Eating: You can silence the emotions temporarily by eating. These emotions include sadness, loneliness, anger, resentment, fear and shame. While you are trying to deal with the emotion while eating food, you cannot simply avoid the situations.
  • Emotional Eating due to Boredom or Feelings of Emptiness: You are an emotional eater and you relieve yourself from boredom or stress by simply eating. You will use food to keep your time and mouth occupied when you feel empty. While you are eating, along with filling you up, it will help you in coping with the feelings of dissatisfaction and purposelessness in your life.
  • Childhood Habits as a Reason for Emotional Eating: Go back to the time when you used to love eating food. Were you rewarded with foods like an ice cream or pizza when you got a good score or give you sweets when you were gloomy? These eating habits while you were in an emotional phase during your childhood are carried to your adulthood as well. Or, your eating is completely nostalgic and it related you with the memories that you shared with food in the past. Like enjoying a favorite burger with your dad, baking cookies with your grandmother and relishing on an extended meal time with your family.
  • Social influences: Mingling with other people for relishing on a meal can be a great stress buster but it can also cause overeating to some extent. It is easy to indulge in something in an overly manner as there is food and all the other people are eating. You may also tend to overeat while you are completely nervous. You may also get along with the group and overeat when you have people who encourage you to eat at all times.

Tip #2: Finding Other Ways to Solve your Feelings is the Second Step in Overcoming Emotional Eating

If you are having issues in managing your emotions in a way without the involvement of food, you will lack the ability to gain control over the emotional eating habits. Diets can often fail to work as they tend to offer advice for managing the nutrition levels, as if the only thing which is preventing you from eating right is the knowledge. The kind of advice that one can get over dieting will work only if the individual is willing to control their habits on eating food in a conscious manner. These tactics does not seem to work when the emotions take control over the recovery process and demand a sudden cut off with the food.

In order to stop eating food when you are emotional, you will have to find ways by which you can cope in an emotional manner. Understanding the emotional triggers is often difficult, but it is usually the very first step in handling it. You will have to find other alternatives for fulfilling your emotions so that you can stay away from food.

Tip #3: Becoming Aware When the Cravings Hit will Help to Overcome Emotional Eating

Individuals, who are emotional eaters, do not have any control over their cravings and they often feel powerless. When they urge eating, that is all they can think about. They will feel like the tension is hitting their brain and they need to feed themselves.

You must have tried resisting food in the past but have failed and because this happened, you feel that your willpower is not strong to resist the craving now. However, when you try, you will believe that you have more power than you have imagined. Becoming aware of the cravings when they hit will help you to overcome emotional eating.

Take a Break Before you Give in to a Craving

As said earlier, eating while you are emotional is automatic and mindless to some extent. Before you begin realizing about the things you are doing, you must have already finished eating half a tub of your favorite ice cream. If you can, wait for a moment and think about your cravings, you will be able to control emotional eating and divert your mind from it.

You will have to just stop eating for five minutes or so. If you find that five minutes is too hard to manage, begin by controlling for one minute. Always remember that temptation is caused by prohibition and to stop from cravings, you just have to hold it for a while without stopping it completely. When you try to find the actual cause of these cravings, you will at least be able to connect with the cause that triggered emotional eating and try to give upon it subsequently.

Learning to Be Mindful will help in Overcoming Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is caused when you are unable to control your emotions. You may feel incapable of handling yourself when you are around food. When you tend to eat the food while you are emotionally unstable, you may begin avoiding the problems with food. Learning to be mindful will help in overcoming emotional eating.

Being emotionally uncomfortable can be scary at times. The truth about emotions is that, the more they are not suppressed, the quicker they will subside even when they are more painful. One has to be mindful and learn how to be connected with such experiences. This can help you in handling the stress and deal with all the emotional issues that have led you to emotional eating in the first place.

When you learn to be mindful about the entire situation, you will be able to control the entire situation without any troubles. By dealing with the emotional imbalances, you will be able to discover about your deepest fears and work upon things that frustrate you the most.

Tip #4: Taking Care of yourself with Healthy Lifestyle Practices will Aid in Overcoming Emotional Eating

When you are relaxed and physically strong, you will be able to handle the stress that comes into your life. When you are already overwhelmed, even a small thing has the ability to set you off or compel you to open the refrigerator. Following a healthy lifestyle, exercising and sleeping well can help you in coping with emotional eating to a greater extent. Taking care of yourself with healthy lifestyle practices will aid in overcoming emotional eating.

  • Plan to exercise on a daily basis. Physical activity has the ability to boost your energy levels and keep your mood right. It can also act as stress buster.
  • Take some time out to relax. Allow yourself to take some time from your schedule to unwind and relax. This will help you in getting refreshed and be all set to tackle the problems that come ahead.
  • Develop connection with people. Never try to underestimate the close relationships and various social activities. When you spend time with good people, it can help you in staying away from stress.


  1. Mayo Clinic – Emotional Eating: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/emotional-eating/faq-20432564
  2. WebMD – Emotional Eating: https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/ss/slideshow-emotional-eating-overview
  3. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) – Emotional Eating and Binge Eating: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/emotional-eating-and-binge-eating
  4. Healthline – How to Overcome Emotional Eating: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-stop-emotional-eating
  5. Psychology Today – Understanding Emotional Eating: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inside-out/201308/understanding-emotional-eating-and-binging
  6. American Psychological Association (APA) – Emotional Eating and Stress: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/eating

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 20, 2023

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