Emotional Eating: Find Out If You May Be An Emotional Eater

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Are you an emotional eater? You may be an emotional eater and not even realize it. Many women eat as a way to cope with difficult emotions. Some women find food a means of avoiding feelings that are uncomfortable, of dealing with low self-esteem or as a means of avoiding hurtful situations. Emotional eating often results in an eating disorder, though many women are emotional eaters without having an obvious eating disorder.

Many women inadvertently begin emotional eating when they are young. It may be a result of their parents divorce, a bully at school or childhood teasing. All kids are teased at some point, some just handle it better than others. How do you know if you are an emotional eater? If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you may be.
  1. Do you find yourself often eating when you feel depressed, lonely, bored or sad?

  2. Do you often use food as a reward for yourself?

  3. Do you use food to celebrate?

  4. Do you crave certain foods when you feel emotionally unstable?

  5. Would you rather eat than cry or express your feelings in front of others?
Answering yes to any of these may suggest that you have at some point used food to hide or deal with your emotions. Our emotions are powerful, and can drive us to many unusual behaviors. It is important you recognize if you are an emotional eater, you are not alone.

Steps For Overcoming Emotional Eating
The first step you must take is to learn to embrace yourself and accept and love yourself for whom you are. This includes accepting all the negative things you feel about yourself. Once you embrace yourself for whom you are and learn to love yourself, you can slowly start learning how to address emotions.

Here are some other steps you can take to overcome emotional eating:
  1. Give up your need to get a perfect body or perfect lifestyle. Instead aim to be healthy and feel good. No one is perfect. Perfectionism can lead to eating disorders. Rather than focusing on the things you need to do to be perfect, focus no the steps you can take to improve your health and well-being. Focus on your goals and objectives and pat yourself on the back when you take steps in the right direction.

  2. Avoid the "all or nothing" approach. If you are on a diet and eat a cookie, your diet isn't 'ruined'. There is nothing wrong with an occasional slip. Everyone slips up now and then. No one is harder on yourself than you are. Remember to give yourself a break now and then and avoid beating yourself up if you do something that falls outside the scope of your ideal image.

  3. Don't worry about what other people think. The only person that matters is you. Too often we find ourselves caught up in the practice of comparing ourselves to others. What really matters is how you feel about yourself and your progress. People tend to be too critical anyway. You may do everything right yet there is always someone who can point out something negative. Don't worry about it. That leads us to our next step.

  4. Avoid negative people. They will just bring you down. When your trying to conquer your own feelings and emotions, you don't need other people bringing you down. Stay positive. Surround yourself with happy and motivated people. But remember, don't compare yourself to them.

  5. Accept your limitations. Don't feel bad if you have to say no to people on occasion. You aren't weak or lazy. There are some things you can do and others you can't. We all have limits. There is nothing wrong with accepting them and saying no to people on occasion.

  6. Find a hobby. This will help you cope. You can use your hobby instead of eating when going through an emotionally difficult period. Instead of eating, try journaling, writing, meditating, scrap booking, jogging or any other activity that helps you work through your feelings.

  7. Be honest with yourself and your emotions. It is okay to cry, laugh, scream and shout. We all have feelings. Your body will benefit ten times as much if you express yourself rather than suppress your feelings. There is nothing wrong with admitting your feelings. If you feel sad, sit with it for a minute. Let yourself feel sad and then move on. There is nothing wrong with that.

Remember, we all have the capacity to overcome emotional eating. As women we are all loving, nurturing, caring and important people. You deserve to be the best you can be. Now tell yourself that everyday and you are on your way to overcoming your emotional eating!