The first and most important step toward dealing with emotional eating effectively is awareness. Recognizing that emotional eating stems from an inability to deal with negative emotions and experiences, as well as the specific circumstances at work, brings you one step closer to overcoming it. Understanding the emotional eating pattern, as well as self-reflection and self-observation, are the first small steps toward breaking the cycle of emotional eating.

How to stop emotional eating?

Regardless of how powerless you feel over food and emotions, there are a variety of techniques that can teach you healthier ways to cope. These techniques will not completely eliminate emotional eating, but they will help you gain control over it. Developing skills for dealing with emotions in a healthier way and techniques for dealing with food cravings will give you the confidence you need to deal with emotional hunger more easily when it arises. Changing the emotional eating cycle can be difficult, but it is not impossible. You will find some coping techniques listed below.

Keep a journal of your emotions

Emotional eating can turn into a reflexive response to emotions that are difficult to process. Making an effort to understand your feelings and emotions in specific situations considerably increases your chances of transforming your eating behaviour. The more you try to understand what causes emotional eating and the more attentively you observe your inner experiences and conditions that activate them, the more likely you are to understand what activates the emotional eating cycle.

If you try to describe in a journal all moments when you ate without feeling hungry and point out the circumstances, feelings and emotions that you have experienced as a result, after a while, you will turn in more capable of recognizing the patterns which activate the emotional eating cycle.


Physical activity and regular motor exercises have a positive effect on health.  Apart from the benefits for physical well-being, exercises can affect mental health effectively. When you work out or move, endorphin levels rise. They improve mood and raise feelings of happiness and euphoria.  Regular physical activity and even just moderate exercises can help in controlling and managing the negative emotions that often activate the emotional eating cycle.

Try to be more aware

To be more aware means to turn yourself into an observer of your own inner experiences and thoughts at the moment. This suggests replacing automatic reactions and eating on “autopilot” with healthier behaviours. Such include focusing the entire focus on eating and the experiences related to it. Focusing on this moment of eating along with recognizing and accepting your own feelings, thoughts and sensations can help you truly enjoy the act of eating and break unhealthy habits. Here are some steps you can take to help you become more aware of your eating:

  • Know your hunger before you eat by asking yourself where your intentions for that particular meal come from. Are you getting ready to eat because you’re really physically hungry, because you’re bored, or because you just need a distraction?
  • Focus on this moment and how your sensations and experiences change in each moment and with each bite.
  • Eat slowly by paying close attention to your body’s satiety signals.
  • Use all your senses while shopping, cooking, serving and eating your food. What do all foods look, smell and feel like? How do they taste when you eat?
  • Connect more deeply with your food by questioning its origins and thinking about all the people who contributed to it, from those who grew and cared for the raw material to those who made sure it reached you and those who prepared it. Being more mindful of where our food comes from can help you make wiser and more sustainable choices.

Make sure you eat enough

Although physical hunger and emotional hunger are very different, it can turn out that the lack of a regular diet that gets you all the necessary nutrients during the day is the reason for overeating later.

Substitutes for emotional eating

A large proportion of people caught in the trap of emotional eating experience an overwhelming urge to satisfy their appetite with “comfort food”. However, it is possible to overcome this impulse. For example, whenever you find yourself facing difficult emotions and starting to lose control of your impulse, you can replace food with other healthier alternative coping techniques.

  • Call a friend who always cheers you up, play with your pet, or look at photos of your favourite moments if you’re feeling sad or lonely.
  • If you feel your tension rising, go for a brisk walk or play your favourite song.
  • A nice cup of tea, a refreshing shower or a relaxing bath are also possible strategies for dealing with the emotions that are draining you.
  • A good book, a comedy show or a pleasant activity like playing the guitar and drawing can be very helpful when feeling bored.

Seek support

Avoid isolation when having difficulty dealing with your emotions. Reaching out to a close friend or family member can increase your ability to cope with your experiences. Support groups are also other resources you can turn to.

Consider seeking professional help. Choose a nutritionist who has the knowledge to help those struggling with emotional or disordered eating. They can help you identify your binge eating triggers and manage them.

As you transition from using food as a coping mechanism, a mental health professional can help you establish alternative coping mechanisms.