Introduction On How To Stop Emotional Eating

Do you grab a pint of ice cream when you are having a bad day? Do you find yourself heading for the fridge whenever you are upset? Do you find your cookie jar empty in the morning after you binged on them the night before? Then this book is for you.

Learning how to overcome emotional eating is a common problem. In fact, emotional eating is a fairly normal human reaction. There will always be stress factors in the workplace or at home. There will always be deadlines. There will always be telephone calls to make. There will always be someone that will nag you for one thing or another. On the other hand, if you find yourself unable to control yourself eating after you feel any emotion, this is a problem. Fortunately, this is a problem that can be fixed. All it takes is a desire to stop emotional eating, learning about emotional eating and what causes it, understanding that you are the only one responsible for your eating regardless of external influences, and an open mind to the ways to cease your emotional eating. This is the basis for QUIT, the four steps to stop emotional eating.

QUIT is a four step method to quit emotional eating. Like the acronym ROY G BIV you learned in elementary school to remember the colors of the rainbow, QUIT is an acronym to help you remember the four steps.

Q stands for “Question Yourself about Your Emotional Eating.” It is important to question yourself about your emotional eating because this will give you an understanding about why you want to stop and why you binge the way you do.

U stands for “Understand What the Problem Is.” Equally important as questioning yourself about your emotional eating is making an effort to understand what the fundamental problem is. Many people will say they have a problem but have no idea what the problem is. There are many reasons why people emotionally eat and it is important to understand what drives you to emotionally eat.

I stands for “I Am the Sole Decision Maker in My Choice to Stop Emotionally Eating.” It is important that you stop because you want to stop not because someone else wants you to stop. You are the one who makes the decisions about you every moment of every day. You can’t blame others for your decisions.

T stands for “Take control and Think Positive.” We cover different ways for overcoming emotional eating and other information that will aid you in your journey to stop emotional eating.

And there you have it – QUIT, the four steps to stop your emotional eating.

Question Yourself about Your Emotional Eating

It is important that you start this process by questioning yourself about your relationship with food. The only way you can stop and continue to not emotionally eat is by learning and addressing the real reasons behind your binge eating.

Is My Relationship With Food Healthy?

Food is necessary for us to live. If you don’t eat anything for a good amount of time, you will begin to feel hunger pangs in your stomach. Your body needs food to get the nutrients it needs to run properly. If you are reading this book, however, you are eating food even when you are not hungry. This is a problem. It signifies that you have an unhealthy relationship with food and are using food as a coping mechanism for deeper issues beyond your urge to eat. How can you know you are an emotional eater for sure? This is the subject of the next question you should ask yourself.

Am I Hungry At The Moment? How Do I Feel At The Moment?

Before you grab the next cookie, ask yourself if you are actually hungry. Wait for five minutes after you ask yourself this and do one of the following activities during the five-minute period:

  • Drink water. People often mistake dehydration as hunger. When you drink water, it will also fill the void that you need to do something with your hands and mouth.
  • Get active by going for a walk or doing some jumping jacks. Some people eat when they are bored. Doing a physical activity for a few minutes can ease your boredom and keep you away from the food.

If you are hungry, you will have low energy and feel hunger pangs or hollowness in your stomach even after the five-minute period. In this case, it is okay for you to eat something because your body is telling you that it needs food.

If you are not hungry after the five-minute period, you do not need to eat anything. Stay away from the food.

Do I Go For Food For Food Whenever I Feel A Certain Way, Even When I Am Not Hungry?

Write down what you are feeling every time you eat. This will help you discover what makes you emotionally eat. For more on writing in your journal, see “T is for Take Control and Think Positive”.

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Am I Stopping For The Right Reasons?

Take a moment to really think through your decision to stop emotional eating. If you want to stop solely because others are want you to stop, you should reconsider your decision. Read this entire book and then ask yourself this question again. If you decide that you are going to stop because you want to stop, then you are ready to stop your emotional eating and lose weight. You can see more on this in “I is for I am the sole decision maker in my choice to lose weight.”

Your self-esteem also plays a big role in your choice to emotionally eat. Before you can make true progress, you must question yourself about your self-esteem to get a good sense of where you currently stand in how you view yourself. The questions that follow will help you gauge how high or low your self-esteem is.

Do I Look Into The Mirror And See Something I Like About Myself?

Do I Wear Baggy Clothes To Cover Up My Body?

Do I Look At What Is Wrong About Me In Photographs Of Me?

If you have answered yes to all of these questions, then you have some self-esteem issues that you need to address. When you are honest with yourself, you can begin to see how your self-esteem affects your emotions and how you react to those emotions. Only then can you truly begin to stop the process of emotional eating for good.

If you have answered no to any of these questions, you are off to a good start. A good self-esteem is the key to your success in stopping emotionally eating for good.

While you begin the process to stop emotionally eating for good, you need to remember to not beat yourself up if you falter any step. We are not perfect. Mistakes do happen. Do not beat yourself up about any missteps. This will only lower your self-esteem and you could wind up in a downward spiral. Instead, look of the misstep as a learning experience. Each day is a new day that begins with a clean slate. Learn from your mistakes and work to make sure that it does not happen again.

Your time management skills can also impact your emotional eating. If you are not very good at managing your time and always end up stressing out because your deadline is the next day, you put yourself in a situation that is more likely going to get your emotions running high and you will be prone to overeating again.

To improve your time management, ask yourself these questions: 

What Am I Trying To Accomplish?

You can only properly manage your time if you have a clear goal to achieve.

What Am I wasting My Time On? How Many Times Do I Get Up From Desk Or Doing Other Things To Avoid Working On What I Need To Work On?

A lot of people waste their time by avoiding working on what they need to work on. Confront what you need to do head on. When you get what needs to be done first, it leaves more time for you to relax and enjoy other activities. This will make you happier and less stressed, which means you will be less likely to emotionally eat.

Don’t get hung up on being perfect. Perfectionism causes many people to stress more than they need to and makes them justify their procrastination. Procrastination will only lead to more stress for you and make you more prone to binge.

Understand What the Problem Is

Eating food for comfort during an emotional time is nothing new; otherwise, why would we have “comfort food” cooking recipes? However, this can only make you feel better in the short run. In the long run, emotional eating can only add to your issues with self-esteem and stress and can create a vicious cycle that repeats over and over again.

Comfort food does not even have to be chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. It can be healthy food that you binge on and justify that your binge is okay because the food is healthy. Any food that you eat in response to feelings and you end up overeating is unhealthy.

Learning how to overcome emotional eating and stop this cycle is not difficult, but it does take some thought and honesty on your part. The first step is in questioning yourself. See more information regarding the questions you need to ask yourself in the section, “Q is for ‘Questioning yourself about your emotional eating.’”

Emotional eating is more common than you might. In fact, it is a normal response to some degree. However, once you start putting yourself down and allow negative feelings to push you to eat even more food, emotional eating becomes a big problem.

You begin to start eating a little of something and before you know it you are in the midst of a full-blown binge.

Other symptoms of binge eating include binge eating when you are not actually hungry, feeling unable to stop eating voluntarily, dieting frequently, being aware that your eating patterns are abnormal, fluctuations in weight, having feelings of shame, feeling depressed, and obesity.

Emotional overeating can lead to very damaging effects physically. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gall bladder disease, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

You cannot fix this problem by avoiding your favorite foods, eating too little of meals or skipping entire meals. Yes, these techniques can work when you are really motivated but eventually you will feel too deprived and the emotions get the best of you.

Avoiding your favorite foods will not help you. The truth is there are no good or bad foods. You can have a little bit of everything if you eat a well-balanced diet. When you avoid your favorite foods, you can feel like you are being deprived of something that you like. Feeling deprived can make you feel worse and you could wind up overeating once again.

Eating very little for meals will also not work. Unrealistic eating standards can set you up for failure. If you are not eating enough for your proper meals, then your body is not getting the proper nutrients. Your body is starving. Before you know it, you will be overeating to compensate for your lack of a full meal.

Likewise, skipping meals will not help your situation at all. You will end up overeating.

By assessing the real issues and how these issues relation to food and your emotions, you are gaining valuable insight that can aid you in your journey to stopping emotional eating.

Your reasons for emotional eating may be different from your friend’s reasons for overcoming emotional eating so it is important that you only look to yourself for the answer. Some oft-cited reasons for emotional eating include appetite, boredom, comfort, expected, mindless eating, stress, and tiredness. You may binge for multiple reasons. In fact, you may even binge for different reasons at different times. What is important is that you question yourself and begin to recognize what causes you to emotionally eat.

Your self-esteem plays a big role in how you deal with the everyday stresses of life. It is critical that you start the process to stop emotional eating by taking a look at your self-esteem. See “Q is for Questioning Yourself about Your Emotional Eating” for questions that will help you gauge your self-esteem level.

Low self-esteem can be very problematic if you are learning how to stop emotional eating. People with low self-esteem will be more likely to give into defeat when they find themselves in a emotionally challenging situation. If you have a low self-esteem, you need to work on talking positive to yourself. You can see the section “T is for Take Control and Thing Positive” for more information to help you start rebuilding your self-esteem.

Overly high self-esteem can be just as problematic as low self-esteem. People with overly high self-esteem can feel that they are superior to others and can do no wrong. They have no problem talking positive to themselves. Their issue is not being able to criticize themselves constructively.

It is important for both types of people to work on having a healthy self-esteem. A healthy self-esteem is essential to creating a healthy relationship with food. A person with healthy self-esteem will be more likely to find success in stopping their emotional eating for good. A person with healthy self-esteem will not veer off-track easily or let their mistakes ruin their attempt to stop emotional eating. A person with healthy self-esteem will pick him or herself up when they make a mistake and learn from it. A person with healthy self-esteem will not compare him or herself to others in order to validate their own self-worth. If you want to succeed in quitting emotional eating for good, it is important to work on your self-esteem.

When you are trying to build a healthy self-esteem, it is important that you learn and fully understand the difference between harmful criticism and constructive criticism. It is very easy to point out everything wrong and boohooing about it. However, it is much more worthwhile, if you find a way to use that flaw or mistake as a positive influence in your journey to have a healthy self-esteem and healthy relationship with food.

Harmful criticism is a comment you make that does not offer any improvement. Constructive criticism is a comment you make that offers a chance to improve something. Following are examples of harmful criticism and constructive criticism:

Harmful Criticism: I feel fat.

Constructive Criticism: I feel more bloated today. I will drink more water and try to avoid salty foods today.

Harmful Criticism: Ugh, my stomach rolls look horrible in the vacation picture!

Constructive Criticism: I like how tan I look but I see that I need to do more sit-ups.

You can also read “T stands for Take Control and Think Positive” for more ways to build your self-esteem.

Another trigger to emotional eating may be your environment. Your home, work or school environment, and outdoor environment can all affect your emotions. For example, your home is where you eat your food that came out of the refrigerator or pantry while sitting on your couch in front of your television. You might even be eating straight out of the bag or box rather than making a properly portioned plate. At work or school, you may have to sit at a desk for long periods of time. Deadlines and meetings can stress you out causing you to eat emotionally. You may also eat meals on snacks on your way to work or school. These meals may come from unhealthy fast food chains or the snack aisle at the local convenience store. Furthermore, if you live in a cooler climate, you may be more likely to stay inside rather than participate in outdoor activities. While environmental factors can play a large role in your emotional eating pattern, they do not mean that you are forced to live in an unhealthy way. There are ways you can have a healthy relationship with food and live a healthy lifestyle in these environments. For more, see “T stands for Take Control and Think Positive”.

A very problematic trigger for many people is their attempt to conform to the “ideal” that society has placed before us through television, film, magazines, and billboards. It is very easy to compare yourself to models and movie stars but it is not healthy for your self-image and self-esteem. It can frustrate you that you don’t look like them and you could end up binging as a result. Each and every person living on this planet is different and unique in their own way. In fact, there is no “ideal” other than to be healthy.

Stress caused by poor time management can also be a trigger to eat emotionally. Most people feel stressed when they feel that the number of things that they need to do outweigh the things that they want to do. Then, when they are unable to accomplish what needs to be done, they feel like a failure. They get stressed out because it is just more that they need to get done. They turn to food to relax or comfort them in this stressful situation.

In order to gain a better understanding of how you manage time, you can choose a typical weekday and a typical weekend day and then write down all the activities that you did those days in a notebook or journal. Then you will rate the activity. When you rate the activity, be sure to include the time you started and finished the activity, a description of the activity, rating on a scale from 1-10 (1 means that you only wanted it, 5 means that it was a mix of want and need, and 10 means that it was only a need to be activity). This will give you an understanding of how you use your time and where you can make changes in your day. Balancing the wants and needs is important to keeping your stress levels down so that you do not put yourself in a situation where you are prone to binge eating. It will also help you set specific and realistic goals. For more, see “T stands for Take Control and Think Positive”.

Before you go any further on your journey to stop eating emotionally, you also need to identify the naysayers and enablers in your life. These are people who either bring you down or enable your emotional eating. It is very important that you surround yourself with people who support you in any and every way to help you achieve your goal.

Naysayers and enablers are the people who deny that you need to stop your emotional eating and/or continually make food available to you. These people are no good for you. You need to tell them that it is very important to you that you achieve this goal of stopping emotional eating for good. If they choose to not support you and your decision, consider cutting them out of your life.

I Am The Sole Decision Maker In My Choice To Stop Emotional Eating

It is important that you take responsibility for your actions and decisions. You are the only person who can make decisions for you in your life. As a healthy, normal human being, you have the right to put your health needs first. You have the right to make mistakes. You have the right to your opinions. You have the right to say no. You have the right to change your mind and take a different path. It’s okay for you to feel emotions.

If you are having trouble staying focused on stopping emotional eating for good, remind yourself that you are stopping for you. Remember all the benefits. You will have a healthier heart. You will lower your blood pressure. You will be able to perform strenuous exercise and simple tasks such as carrying your groceries across the parking lot or upstairs. You will have more energy to do stuff that you like to do. You will be able to fit in the outfits that you want to wear. You are stopping for you, no one else.

Take Control And Think Positive

Emotional eating is a behavior issue. Once you know the situations that make you feel the emotions that cause you to overeat, you can start replacing your emotional eating with healthier ways to deal with those emotions. You are now taking control of the situation. The following are steps you can take to help you take control of the situation.

Identify What Emotions You Feel When You Want To Eat

We covered some of this in “Q stands for ‘Questioning Yourself about Your Emotional Eating’”. You can start to identify your emotional triggers by doing your normal everyday activities. Whenever you feel the urge to eat, stop. Take a moment to think and ask, “Am I hungry or am I eating because I just felt an emotion?”

Listen to your stomach to tell if you are actually hungry. If you are not feeling any hunger pangs, rumblings, or hollowness in your stomach, then you are not hungry. Calm your taste buds down by chewing sugarless gum or drinking water.

Any major life event or daily hassle can cause you to overeat. This can make you more aware of the specific events that lead you to binge. Again, ask yourself how you are feeling before you eat that piece of pie. If you are in a difficult situation, it could very well be that you are misinterpreting your struggling emotions with those of hunger. If you have just finished bingeing, ask yourself what could have triggered the event.

Allow Yourself To Feel The Emotion You Are Trying To Stuff Down With Food

Choose not to emotionally eat five minutes at a time. During the process of feeling those emotions, talk to yourself. Tell your brain, “I am allowing myself to feel the full range of emotions so that I can live a fuller life”. Sometimes the feelings you are trying to avoid with food can be resolved in a relatively short period of time. You can free yourself from the pattern of emotional eating you have been living for good simply by confronting and experiencing the emotions head on.

Record Your Food, Emotions And Thoughts

A great way to learn about your relationship with food is by recording what you eat and how you feel throughout the day in a journal. This will help you track the exact emotions that cause you to overeat. Once you notice a pattern, you can work to change it. Once you feel that emotion, write it down and allow yourself to feel the emotion (see above). At the end of the day, take a moment to write how you felt about the day as a whole.

There are many ways for you to journal now. If you are more technologically savvy, you can use type a Word document on your computer or use an online journal. There are also smartphone applications available for you to record what you eat. You can always use a good old-fashioned pen and notebook. Don’t limit yourself. Writing down the emotions you feel and what you eat makes emotional eating seem less abstract and will help you process your emotions.

Word of caution: do not worry about counting calories. This is only to help you discover what emotions are causing you to emotional eat. If you count every single calorie, you could wind up stressing yourself out and putting yourself in a situation that will make you overeat.

Rebuild Your Self-Esteem

Make a list of all the qualities you like about yourself. Put this list somewhere you will be able to see it when you are most prone to overeat. For example, you could put it on your refrigerator door, your desk or your mirror. Read through this list before eating. Compliment yourself.

Restructure Your Thinking

Make a second list of constructive critiques about yourself. Be specific and realistic in your goals and how you can address what you do not like about yourself. Setting positive goals for yourself allows you to be your biggest support instead of your biggest critic.

Restructuring your thinking also allows you to change the way you view a situation. For example, say you couldn’t control your emotions for a moment and end up eating a whole bag of cheese puffs. Instead of thinking you are a failure, think of the binge as a single event that happened and that you can learn from. Ask yourself the questions that we have covered earlier to discover what caused this binge and how you can better avoid a similar situation in the future.

Tell Yourself Daily Affirmations

You need to support yourself every day. Daily affirmations may seem silly but the affirmations will only lead to an improved self-esteem and a more positive reaction to emotions. All you have to do is take a moment of each day to tell yourself one positive truth that exist about you. You can tell yourself the daily affirmation in front of the mirror every day or place a list of daily affirmations in places you will see them – the refrigerator door, your headboard in your bedroom, your car radio, and your desk. However you choose to tell yourself the daily affirmations, the most important thing is that you do them. Daily affirmations are essential to rebuilding your self-esteem.

Are you unsure about how to start telling yourself daily affirmations? Here is a good fill-in-the-blank sentence that you can use as the jumping off point for your daily affirmations:

“I like ___________ about myself. I like this because ______________.” 

Set Specific Goals

List all of the tasks that need to be done in order of importance. Break each of these tasks into small manageable steps (think baby steps!). Set a realistic deadline for you to complete each step.

Keep a list of short-term goals that can be accomplished within a week. Short-term goals could be to weigh yourself only once a week, to eat three regular meals a day (breakfast) with one or two snacks in the late morning or late afternoon, and to stop counting calories.

Also, keep a list of long-term goals. Cross out any unimportant or unrealistic goals and keep the important ones. Stay focused on the big picture and that you will have to say no sometimes.

Be sure to reevaluate from time to time. Your goals may change.

Rethink Your Environment 

As discussed in “U stands for ‘Understand What the Problem Is’”, your environment plays a big role in how you live.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle in your home environment, try cooking healthier meals for you and your family. You can also sit at the dinner table to enjoy a meal with no distractions. Portion out your snacks and meals beforehand. Take breaks from watching TV or working on the computer and stretch out your muscles.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle in your work or school environment, you can take breaks from your desk to move around and stretch. Eat meals and snacks at someplace other than your desk. Bring healthy snacks that you have pre-portioned instead of buying something from a restaurant or convenience store. Drink water.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle in a cooler climate, wear weather-appropriate clothing so that you can participate in outdoor activities. You can park further from the entrance of stores so that you can walk a longer distance. You can also invest in a gym membership and participate in indoor physical activities.

Learn About What You Are Eating

Use online resources or talk with a dietician to learn about the food you eat and how what you eat affects your body. Learn about the fiber, vitamins, good fat, bad fat, protein and carbohydrates that are in the food you eat on a regular basis.

Plan Your Meals

Make sure that you have healthy food options available at your home at all times. Plan your meals and snacks for the week before you go to the grocery store.

Establish Regular Eating Patterns

While you were writing in your journal, you may have noticed an unhealthy pattern of eating. You can fix this by eating three full meals and one or two snacks a day. A regular eating pattern like this will help you maintain regular energy levels, which will make you feel better and healthier.

Savor Your Food

Avoid eating while you are distracted by what is on the screen of your television or computer. Eating distracted can make you accidentally eat more than you need to eat. Take the time to savor each bite and really enjoy the taste and smell of what you are eating.

Indulge Occasionally

By establishing a regular eating pattern, you may think you are on a diet. However, you are not. You are more than welcome to indulge yourself with a piece of powdered fudge brownie every now and then. If you deny yourself this pleasure, you will not succeed in your goal to stop emotional eating for good. Food can only be a temptation for you if you deny yourself.

Exercise and Relax To Relieve Stress

Physical activity is one of the best ways to relieve stress. This doesn’t mean that you have to run a mile every day. You can simply walk for 20 minutes a day or try yoga. Indulge yourself with a nice relaxing bath.

Read Or Find A New Hobby

Take your mind off the situation by reading a current book or a passage from one of your favorite books. Try arts and crafts activities such as beading, calligraphy, knitting, latch hook, origami, or sewing.

Get Plenty Of Rest

Make sure to get plenty of sleep each night and to take a nap during the day if you had trouble getting a full night of sleep the night before. No snack will prove as good or effective an energy boost as a full night’s rest will.

Manage Your Time Effectively

Avoid procrastination and get what needs to be done out of the way so that you can focus on the fun stuff. Try alternating easy and hard tasks so that you avoid burnout. Learn how you work best. For more regarding time management, see “Q stands for ‘Question Yourself about Your Emotional Eating’” and “U stands for ‘Understand What the Problem Is’”.

Get Support

Having a support system in place is one of the most important ways you can achieve and maintain your goal of stopping emotional eating for good. When the going gets tough, it always helps to have a friend or someone who has been through what you are going through at the moment to talk you through the situation.

Surround yourself with positive influences. Exercise with a friend. Join a support group. Join an online forum. There are many ways to find support in this day and time.

Consider Therapy

Talking to a therapist may be very helpful for you if you are still having problems with emotional eating and you have exhausted all of the other resources. On the other hand, there is no harm talking to a professional even if you are having no problem with the other steps. A therapist can help you define what your needs and goals in life are more clearly. You can find a therapist through online resources, community support groups, and your general care doctor.

Conclusion

There you have it – your four quick steps to stop your emotional eating for good. All you have to remember is QUIT: Q stands for Question Yourself about Your Emotional Eating, U stands for Understand What the Problem Is, I stands for I am the Sole Decision Maker in My Choice to Stop Emotional Eating, and T stands for Take Control and Think Positive.

Remember, that you are choosing to do this for yourself because you want to stop emotional eating for good. Take baby steps – you can only climb a mountain one step at a time. Enjoy your new free time with your friends and family trying out new activities or doing favorite pastimes. You can do this – all you have to do is QUIT.