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Emotional Eating: A Weight Loss Obstacle

Reviewed by Kimberly Cabe, FNP-BC of Forum Health Rochester Hills

Stress, anger, loneliness, frustration, boredom, sadness—each of these can be a catalyst for emotional eating, which plagues many weight loss hopefuls with habitual overeating. When we’ve had a hard day or are coping with unpleasant feelings, we often seek solace in unhealthy treats (a.k.a. comfort foods), but this will do no good for your progress with weight loss.

Though emotional eating can make you feel powerless in your own body, it is a habit, and like any other, can be broken. Because your Forum Health weight loss program is helping you form so many healthy habits and leave so many unhealthy ones behind you, now is the perfect time to make emotional eating a thing of the past.

How do you accomplish this feat? You’ll need to start by learning how to identify the emotional hunger that leads to this pesky problem. Here are a few of the defining factors of emotional hunger:

  • It hits you fast. Unlike true physical hunger, which develops gradually and can wait to be satisfied, emotional hunger will hit you instantaneously and demand satisfaction right now.
  • It’s picky. When you’re actually hungry, you’ll be open to many different options to fill your grumbling belly. Emotional hunger will make you crave one particular (usually unhealthy) food.
  • It’s a guilt trip. You shouldn’t feel bad about eating when you’re hungry, however, emotional eating usually leaves behind guilt and shame that make you feel even worse.

Now that you know how to recognize emotional hunger, you’ll need to learn a few strategies to stop it in its tracks. Next, you’ll need to:

  • Find your triggers. What sets off your emotional hunger? Usually, emotional eating is tied to specific events or feelings, and some may be more likely to cause you problems than others. Try to figure out what emotions and events are most likely to drive you to eat and be careful when you experience them. A food journal that tracks your emotions and eating habits side by side can be an excellent tool for noticing patterns.
  • Redirect your impulse. After you’ve figured out what caused emotional hunger, it’s time to find a more proactive way to deal with your feelings. Stress can often be overcome with a vigorous workout, or with a relaxation technique like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Loneliness and depression may be assuaged with a quick call to a close friend. Boredom can be resolved by occupying your mind with something exciting, like a hobby or a fast-paced action movie. Think about a positive way to address each emotion now and have strategies in mind for whenever these feeling strike.

Emotional eating can be a frustrating habit, but you don’t have to let it slow your weight loss.

To find a Forum Health provider near you, visit our location page, here or call 855-976-5578 to speak with one of our health advisors.