Emotional Eating – How to Identify It and Deal With It

I got a phone call last night.  It was my husband on his way home from work.  He has had quite a bit of work related stress for the past few weeks and I am his “safe place” to talk to about it and vent.  As soon as he started venting, I found myself in the kitchen, eating a piece of fudge.  Totally subconsciously.  It wasn’t until the piece of fudge was just about finished that I realized, “Holy crap!  I just ate an entire piece of fudge without even realizing it!”  That my friends, is called emotional eating.

The stress kicks in, we feel sad, overwhelmed, happy, fearful, tired, foolish, and the list goes on and on and on…  ANY emotion crops up and we turn to ole faithful…food!

I really thought I had kicked this bad habit.  I thought I was over this and it was a thing of my past…until school started.  Then, the stress of pretty much a new job kicked in, time restraints were put on me and the emotional eating started again.  Then, there was stress from my husband’s job…more emotional eating.  Then, there was holiday stress, more emotional eating…

This morning, I decided to do a little investigating on emotional eating and how to overcome it.  I found a great article on how to tell the difference between emotional eating and being hungry.  Here are some ways you know you are emotional eating:

  • Emotional eating comes on quickly…physical hunger is more gradual.  Like I said, I was in the kitchen, shoving a piece of fudge into my face in 3.2 seconds flat…HELLO!
  • When you are emotional eating, you crave ONE specific food…CHOCOLATE, or pizza, or chips, etc…  When you are physically hungry, you are open to lots of options.
  • Emotional hunger is a feeling that you need to be satisfied NOW with the craved food.  Physical hunger can wait a few minutes.
  • If you are eating for emotional needs, you will eat and eat and eat, even when full.
  • Emotional eating leaves behind feelings of guilt while physical hunger does not…no duh!

Now that we can recognize when we are emotionally eating, we need an alternative.  First, recognize it (before the fudge is 3/4 eaten) and then have an alternative.  Here are some alternatives I found to emotionally eating that might help:

  • Take a bath
  • Read a devotional and spend time with God.  I love the book Jesus Calling.  It is short and sweet and always hits home with me!
  • Go for a walk.
  • Journal – Sit down and write.  For me, it is my blog.  For you, it could just be a pretty little journal you find somewhere that you write your thoughts in.
  • Organize something – I know there is something in your life that needs organizing.  Go to a room that needs to be picked up and just start picking up.  You will get out your frustrations and feelings while being productive.  Plus, you get something on your to-do list accomplished.
  • Look at old photographs – Do you have your photos on your computer somewhere?  Or how about a box of them?  Sit down and go through them.  The memories will help uplift your spirits.

Now that you know the signs and have an alternative to eating, make a plan ahead of time and stick to it.

Emotional eating is hard.  Trust me…I know.  It is like you are eating and you don’t even know why and it just creeps up on you.  The biggest thing to remember when emotional eating has gotten the best of you –

Whatever Happens, Life Goes On

Keep fighting the good fight.  Don’t let emotions send you on a downward spiral with food and always remember that you are loved and Life Goes On!


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About Jennifer Swafford

Jennifer is an elementary school teacher who is trying to lose 100+ pounds. She has certainly learned how much It Sux To Be Fat and is here to motivate you to live a healthy lifestyle.

  • Nita Dances

    I deal with emotional eating ( when I catch it in time) by knitting or hand quilting…having small projects in my hands also helps with the mindless TV eating.

  • Mary @ A Merry Life

    Like Nita, I try to deal with emotional eating by distracting myself with another task. Anything using my hands helps a lot as it requires more attention and keeps my hands busy without food. :) It’s one of those things you have to stay super vigilant about though because like your story you can be doing it before you even notice it’s happening!

  • Kevin

    nice reading. My brother got the book “Jesus Calling” for my daddy this Christmas as well, love reading that book. thanks for reminding that every time when emotionally distracted to eating, we can chose to do something else to forget the feeling. nice..


  • Tricia Coniglio

    Emotional eating can be a nightmare. I found myself eating while I was relaxing or feeling bored. Matter of fact, when I started my bachelor’s degree a few years ago I was munching while doing researching/writing papers. I found that any kind of ‘down time’ causes me to eat more. Did not matter if I was full or not so I resorted back to staying busy at all times or treating my eating like I do at work. That means my meals were planned and timed.

  • Logan Mathis

    I think emotional eating is one of the hardest things to overcome on the path of losing weight. Not only that, when people are lonely and bored they begin to eat. I think this is due to our evolutionary system for fighting stresses in our body. Emotional stress, even though it’s not physical still takes a toll on the body. Your body fights that by telling certain parts of the brain to eat your high energy, sugary, and filling foods because it takes note that you were satisfied upon eating those foods. Too bad our brains don’t know any better :( If you want, you can check out this site for more information on this topic :
    Here is the site

  • Sandra

    Ladies I can totally relate as I have struggled with this all my life and no matter how hard I tried I could never, ever stop ! Thank God I met an amazing woman that introduced me to a product that has helped me so much — I have lost from 2pants /2top and 3 bra sizes in about 14 weeks — its so easy. Not a meal replacement at all!! Whoo HOO ! If you want more information email me or text me — I would gladly share this wonderful stuff! I am getting my life back — it has taken the carb and sugar cravings totally away from me~ come on y’all lets do this .. Get healthy and laugh as the fat melts away!! whoop.
    anytime you wish to talk about it, let me know.