Ways You Can Overcome Emotional Overeating

By Erin Campbell

Emotional OvereatingStress can bring on a serious case of the munchies. Overeating can often lead to anxiety, which leads to more overeating and weight gain. This insightful article defines emotional eating, and suggests some great ways to change the behavior.

We’ve all been there. You get some bad news, a parking ticket or have a fight with a friend or family member, and what’s the first thing you want to do? If you’re like me, some days hit the snack aisle.

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is the consumption of food — usually “comfort” food or junk foods — in response to feelings in place of actual hunger. Feelings caused by emotions formulated to make us believe that food can bring us comfort.

Why you often want to eat the worst foods when you have an emotional eating episode

According to one study, there are various biological factors which link mood, food intake, and brain signaling that trigger the peripheral and central nervous systems as we eat. In more simplistic terms, when you take that first bite out of a piece of cake, your body releases dopamine, which stimulates the area of your brain that tells you that you feel pleasure.

Where’s the harm in seeking comfort in food?

All you want is to feel better, so if that piece of candy or cake makes you feel better, what’s the problem? The problem is that it likely doesn’t stop at one piece, and once you’ve finished swallowing that food your remorse can kicks in, and you feel more powerless than before.

Do you suffer from emotional eating?

The first step to overcoming your emotional eating habit is to admit that you have it. If you think you have an emotional issue with eating, you can complete an assessment, like this one from Psychology Today or seek the help of a professional. A few indications that you may be suffering from emotional eating include:

  • You eat when you’re not hungry or “unconsciously”.
  • You use food as your top source of pleasure.
  • You have a toxic relationship with your body image.

I think I am an emotional eater. What are some ways I can overcome my emotional eating?

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or solution to stop your emotional eating cycles. The only way to actively stop emotional eating is first to be aware of it, and second, find other ways to manage your reaction to triggering situations. Here here are a few of the ways you can manage your emotional eating.

  1. Confide in someone you can trust who can help during times of stress and anxiety
  2. Find ways to reward yourself that have nothing to do with eating. Evaluate other things in your life that bring you pleasure and turn to those in times of need.
  3. Be present and allow yourself to feel. Since feelings such as boredom, anxiety, and sadness trigger some emotional eating episodes, allow yourself to process emotions thoroughly before turning to an external solution

When you become aware of your triggers, you can then seek out a better plan of action to stop feeling helpless and start your healing process going forward. Article Source

Continuing Education Courses on This Topic


Statistics report that Americans are an increasingly overweight population. Among the factors contributing to our struggle to stop tipping the scales is the component of “emotional eating” – or the use of food to attempt to fill emotional needs. Professionals in both the physical and emotional health fields encounter patients with emotional eating problems on a regular basis. Even clients who do not bring this as their presenting problem often have it on their list of unhealthy behaviors that contribute to or are intertwined with their priority concerns. While not an easy task, it is possible to learn methods for dismantling emotional eating habits. The goals of this course are to present information about the causes of emotional eating, and provide a body of cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern.


This course is a self-instructional module that “walks” readers through the process of replacing their self-defeating weight issues with healthy, positive, and productive life-style behaviors. It moves beyond the “burn more calories than you consume” concept to encompass the emotional aspects of eating and of gaining and losing weight. Through 16 included exercises, you will learn how to identify your self-defeating behaviors (SDBs), analyze and understand them, and then replace them with life-giving actions that lead to permanent behavioral change.* Please note – this course contains common material on eliminating SDBs with Living a Better Life with Chronic Pain: Eliminating Self-Defeating Behaviors


This course is designed to help clinicians enhance their working knowledge of the etiology and treatment of obesity, including assessment skills, diagnostic issues, treatment planning, and current developments in pharmacological and surgical treatments. Case studies will elucidate different aspects of treatment. The information in this course will be especially helpful to clinicians who work with obese individuals and want to provide better psychological care.


Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).