When you’ve been in the habit of stuffing your emotions with food, it can be hard to reverse that trend. But, the toll it’s having on your emotional, physical, and mental health probably frightens you. Then, feeling bad, you eat more to try to feel better. It’s a vicious cycle that cannot be broken with food. The effects of emotional eating can only be reversed with a purposeful plan that starts with these five steps. I will warn you, though, that these steps might be simple, but they’re not easy. However, the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Finally, you will be free from the shackles of emotional eating. Let’s discover how to stop emotional eating together.
Please note that I am not a therapist and while these steps have been proven by research to help, every person is unique. The following information should not be taken as a substitute for counseling or psychotherapy.
How to stop emotional eating in 5 simple (not necessarily easy) steps
1.Renew your mind by telling yourself the truth
The toll of negative self-talk
Emotional eating usually has its roots in avoiding negative emotions and negative self-talk. This inner voice speaks to you with words that strike at the heart of your emotions and struggles. It tells you that you’re a stupid person or that you’re weak. It is definitely from the enemy, Satan.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8
It says that you’ll never have the life that you want. In addition, it can prevent you from healing from emotional hurts as well as achieving your dreams. This voice didn’t come from you originally, but was picked up at some point in your life.
It could be from childhood, during your teenage years or even in your adult life. But the effects are still the same. The voice criticizes you and blames you whenever something bad happens.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.Revelations 12:10
It also shames you and steals your self-confidence. If it goes on long enough, you’ll find yourself agreeing with the voice and you’ll listen when it says you’re a failure, you’re ugly, you’re fat, and you’re unworthy. After a while, you’ll accept the words as truth and won’t see them for the lies that they are.
The emotional toll negative self-talk can have on you often leads to anxiety and even depression. But, there is a way to end the critical self-talk. You must speak truth to yourself.
Stopping negative self-talk is essential to how to stop emotional eating
If you want to know how to stop emotional eating, the first step is to stop listening to the little devil in your head. I’ve included some relevant Bible verses here to help you see the importance of this. Jesus loves you. You are precious to him. So, instead of listening and allowing that bad reel to play on, interrupt it. Speak to yourself with the truth of Christ–He sees you as worthy, He sees you as His bride. In addition, when the voice tries to tell you that you’re a failure, stop it in its tracks and think about all the successes that you’ve had throughout your life – even small ones.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,2 Corinthians 10:5
Focus on all of the good things that you’ve managed to accomplish. If the voice points out your physical flaws, counter it with all the wonderful and beautiful things about your body or how it has supported you over the years.
The way you talk to yourself with negative self-talk isn’t a way that you could ever imagine speaking to a friend. Be your own friend. Speak kindly to yourself. Find something throughout the day, every day to speak positively about yourself.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2
Tell yourself how smart you are, how great you look in your outfit, how talented you are, how worthy you are and so on. Lift yourself up, just as you would a fellow believer. If the negative self-talk says something to try to bring you down, immediately correct it with a positive truth. Remember that just because your inner talk says something, it doesn’t make those words facts. Changing your inner dialogue is the first step in how to stop emotional eating.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29
2. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is another important tool for how to stop emotional eating. Mindfulness means that you slow down and focus on what you are feeling and thinking moment by moment without judgment. It can help people become more aware of why they do what they do and why they feel what they feel. Studies show that mindfulness practices help decrease emotional eating. This is because emotional eating isn’t always a conscious decision that you make. Sometimes, it happens just because it’s an ingrained habit. You eat to feed the emotions because you’ve done it for months or even years.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.Matthew 6:34
When you get upset, you turn to food. It’s your response because food fills up your stomach and tricks your emotions into thinking you’re happier and satisfied. But that feeling only comes because the pleasure and reward center in the brain is activated when you eat. It never lasts, which is why people who are emotional eaters subconsciously turn to food again and again in an attempt to silence their thoughts and feelings and find that emotional release.
When eating is your emotional outlet, it becomes easier to turn to it time and again because you do it without even thinking about it. It’s cause and effect. Learning how to practice mindfulness can help you break that automated response process.
When you engage in mindfulness, this can make you aware of the choices that you make. You’ll be able to recognize the times when you’re turning to food in an attempt to appease an emotion. This practice encourages you to see alternatives to food and helps you work through the emotions you’re feeling. Contrary to what some people think , it’s not another way to avoid feelings. Instead, you’ll learn how to see your feelings for what they are and be able to disassociate them from finding relief through food.
It is an important step in how to stop emotional eating because it teaches people how to stop running away from the things they don’t want to deal with–including feelings.
Instead, it shows you how to be open to the feelings, to allow them to simply exist without the need to solve or fix them through a habit like emotional eating. By being open to your feelings, this can allow you to handle them instead of letting them lead you to destructive habits.
3. How to stop emotional eating with the help of writing
Since emotional eating has its roots in avoiding negative emotions, journaling can be an important outlet for venting your feelings.
You can write in a regular journal, or there are specific emotional eating journals that you can purchase. Journaling helps you to not only identify the emotion that you’re feeling, but it lets you liberate yourself from them.
Because you won’t be running from the emotion, but will face it instead, it won’t be able to drive you to et. Identifying what you feel through journaling properly categorizes your emotions and doesn’t allow them to feel so overwhelming.
Emotional eating can sometimes be about the moment, but it’s usually about a past issue that’s causing you pain. This is what drives you to eat. Feelings that are written down allow you to see them more clearly and lets you be mindful of the present.
You can grab my new Stress Journal to help you. It includes prompts!
Write a letter
Another action step that can be helpful to stop emotional eating is writing a letter that addresses the pain you’re going through. This might be to a specific person, too. In the letter, you can pour out your feelings over the pain and this gives you the emotional release that you’d normally find in food.
You don’t necessarily have to give the letter to the person who caused the emotions that triggered your emotional eating. Sometimes just the act of writing it all out can give you freedom from the pain.
If it’s a situation that causes you to turn to food for comfort, then address the situation if you can. This might be a relationship, or a problem with your job. Besides doing these things, you can also go on a self-discovery retreat.
Sometimes, the answers that you need to find to end emotional eating are within yourself. By taking the time to unplug from everything – even if it’s something you do on your own for an hour or two – you can uncover the direction that you need for your situation and for your life. You’ll be able to tap into the inner strength that you possess.
4. Confronting Your Issues
The reason that people sometimes turn to emotional eating is because it becomes a shield. They use this shield to keep pushing back things that weigh heavily on them. When they’re angry, they turn to food. When they’re feeling anxious or depressed, they head for the kitchen. It doesn’t matter if they’re hungry or not. Instead, it’s the emotions that drive people to eat. This might be something that you’ve simply come to accept.
But if you want to end emotional eating, then you need to examine why you feel pulled toward food when your emotions feel like they’re too much to deal with. As with mindfulness and journaling, the key to overcoming the habit is to find what’s powering the feeling in the first place.
But, in this instance, I’m talking about more issues that have developed more recently, such as an argument with a neighbor or a spouse.
And the stress from that causes you to feel anxious, so you’ve turned to food instead of taking the time to handle the issue. When you don’t handle the smaller things, they can turn into bigger issues and can lead to habitual emotional eating.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,Ephesians 4:26
Maybe what’s driving you to eat isn’t something small. It could be something that you just don’t want to face – like a cheating spouse. The worse the emotional issue is, the more it can drive you toward food.
While it might seem like the food is helping, all it’s doing is forcing those emotions down deeper. Ignoring them – or what’s going on – won’t solve anything. By facing whatever it is that’s happening, you will find a solution.
It might be that you don’t want to examine your feelings because you’re afraid of the solution. For example, if you have a cheating spouse, you might think that it’s easier to turn to food because if you confront the issue, you might end up having an argument or you might end up separating and divorcing.
Regardless of what happens when you examine what’s locked inside of you, facing the issue will set your emotions free. You’ll be able to break the connection between trying to eliminate what’s hurting you and food.
5. Get an accountability partner
The urge to eat can hit you out of the blue. When you feel driven to use food as a soothing mechanism, you usually have an emotion that creates the craving. This feeling is telling you that the answer–the relief that you want– is found in your pantry or in your refrigerator.
You might know that’s not true. You know it’s not healthy to turn to food to deal with an emotional issue. But in the moment, that doesn’t always matter because emotions can be powerful and difficult to resist – even for the strongest of people.
So you give in and turn to food and then feel worse afterward. An important key to breaking up with emotional eating is have the support that you need. So when you recognize that you’re feeling the need to eat for emotional reasons, your support system can be there to help you stay strong.
Your support system can be whoever is able to walk you through the moment. This person should be someone who’s able to help you overcome the temptation to turn to food and instead, helps direct you to better choices.
It could be a family member who’s your support person. Family members know you and know your struggles. Often, they can be the first stop to helping you overcome an emotional eating moment.
Or, if part of your emotional pain is caused by a family member, your support person could be a friend. This should be someone that you feel comfortable with when it comes to sharing what you’re feeling in the moment. This person should be someone that you know you can trust to keep a confidence if the emotion is tied to something deep or extremely personal.
Maybe you don’t have a friend or family member that you can turn to when the urge hits. Or you don’t feel comfortable sharing that part of yourself. If that’s the case, then you can find online support for emotional eating.
An online support group or person can help you find strength during the struggle. It can also be a way to encourage you when you feel overcome with negative emotions that are linked to eating.
You’ll be able to find acceptance and others who’ve been successful in working through certain issues that might have triggered emotional eating. You’ll see that you’re not alone and that can be empowering.
Whoever you decide you’d like to have as your support team, you’ll want to be sure that it’s someone who’s able to listen to you without judging. You want to make sure this person or group isn’t critical and doesn’t attempt to blame or shame you.
You need someone who supports you through kindness, sympathy and encouragement.
A good support person or group is one that’s reliable and able to share solutions or strategies when you need help ending emotional eating.
The first step for how to stop emotional eating is to just start!
There are many reasons to address the issue of emotional eating. Not only is it unhealthy to stuff your feelings with food and keep them bubbling beneath the surface, but it’s also something that can contribute to many health issues.
Allowing emotional eating to become part of your stress relief process can pack on the pounds. This isn’t just about aesthetics – only you can determine what look you want to achieve.
What’s more important is that it has the ability to contribute to morbidity health woes, such as diabetes, heart damage, high blood pressure and more. You don’t want to add on to your stress by developing a serious health condition.
Replace food with healthy habits
First, make a promise to yourself that you will begin to explore your problem of emotional eating. Don’t feel as if you have to solve everything in one day. Admitting you have a problem and committing to tackling it is half the battle.
Next, examine why you’re relying on food to help you through rough times in life. There are many soothing hobbies you can turn to other than food to alleviate stress. Make a list of things you enjoy that bring happiness to your life.
Make a plan to focus on awareness first. Identifying moments of emotional eating will be important as you learn how to weed out the unhealthy behaviors. Once you’ve mastered the art of identifying times of stress eating, you can implement a plan of action to change course.
Replace emotional eating little by little with new, healthy habits such as engaging in arts and crafts, using laughter to subside the emotional turmoil, growing a garden, volunteering to help others or even using spa products to create an instant sense of calm in your life.