Picture this: You hit the snooze button one too many times, had a last-minute project thrown at you at work, and then sat in an hour of evening traffic.

Finally home, you breathe a sigh of relief, head into the kitchen, and decide you deserve a snack after the day you’ve had. Maybe you reach for a few crackers, then a bit of chocolate.

Before you know it, you’ve munched your way through the entire kitchen without eating a proper meal. You’re stuffed, ashamed, and wondering what the heck just happened – WTF?!

Sound familiar?

It’s called emotional eating, and in a nutshell, it’s eating for any other reason besides actual physical hunger, fuel, or nourishment.

It’s no different than the clichéd just-dumped gal who finds consolation in a carton of ice cream.

People eat for all sorts of reasons other than feeling physically hungry — and it happens more often than you may even realize.

The good news is, emotional eating DOES NOT have to get the best of you!

Here is some expert advice from Kristen Jakobitz, INHC, Food Addiction Coach, about how to recognize the warning signs and triggers of emotional eating, and how to get a handle on it. Kristen is passionate about helping people overcome their struggles with emotional eating and yo-yo-dieting so they can make peace with their body and enjoy life again.

Read on to find out what triggers us to eat when we aren’t truly hungry, plus 6 tips for stopping emotional eating in its tracks! BONUS: A sinfully delicious (and nutritious!) recipe that will help you beat the urge to munch on junk food, straight from Kristen’s kitchen.

3 Trademark Signs of Emotional Eating

  1. Binging – usually on high-sugar and carbohydrate-rich comfort foods (i.e. junk food). How many people do you know who reach for avocado and apples when they’re upset?
  2. Mindlessly eating – you’re not aware of what or how much you’re eating or how those foods are making your body feel.
  3. Eating to numb, soothe, please, relax, or reward self – it’s the “I had a bad day and deserve it” kind of thinking. Eating during these times provides temporary relief, but often leaves you feeling guilty and worse off.

The trouble with emotional eating is it overrides your body’s natural hunger cycle and can promote things like:

  • weight gain
  • an increase in your risk for inflammation and chronic disease
  • create an unhealthy relationship between you and food
  • lead to more dangerous types of disordered eating

What Triggers Emotional Eating?

Even though it’s called “emotional eating” because people often reach for food to cope with their feelings, there are a lot of other non-hunger reasons that can prompt you to eat.

Some common non-hunger reasons include:

  • Uncomfortable emotions, like anger, guilt, fear, and sadness
  • Stress
  • Boredom
  • Need to feel pleasure and/or comfort

6 Tips to Help You Get a Handle on Emotional Eating…For Good!

If any of those scenarios sound familiar, know that you’re not alone! Emotional eating affects a lot of people at one point or another.

Want to know what you can do to stop emotional eating in its tracks? Here are 6 great tips!

  1. Have a non-food outlet to process uncomfortable feelings
    Try journaling, exercising, or talking to a trusted friend or counsellor
  2. Manage stress
    Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, getting enough sleep, and not taking on more than you can realistically handle can help decrease stress levels.
  3. Recognize boredom
    Call a friend, take a walk, pick up a book, or tackle a DIY project or hobby you’ll enjoy when you know boredom is likely to strike.
  4. Practice self-care
    Pamper yourself with a bubble bath, manicure, or curl up with a good book – whatever makes you feel good!
  5. Practice mindful eating
    Avoid distractions at meals. Your focus should be on the food in front of you.
    Eat slowly, chew, and savour each bite. This helps give your body time to receive the signal from your brain when it’s full.
    Stop eating when you feel full.
  6. Eat a balanced diet
    The majority of your diet should be nutrient-dense whole foods.
    Allow for occasional treats and indulgences so you never feel deprived.
    Include protein, fiber, and healthy fats at each meal to promote satiety.
  7. BONUS TIP: Create a support system
    Get rid of the “negative nellies” in your life who cause unnecessary mental stress – you don’t need them!!
    Surround yourself with people who uplift, support, and encourage you to be your best self in all aspects of life.

Conclusion

People eat for all sorts of reasons other than feeling physically hungry — and it happens more often than you may even realize.

Emotional eaters tend to reach for high-calorie, high-sugar foods that soothe or comfort them – but the result is always just temporary relief.

The good news is, emotional eating doesn’t have to get the best of you! The first step to overcoming emotional eating is being aware that you’re doing it and recognizing what triggers it in the first place.

 

Find Out More: visit Kristen’s website at kristenjakobitz.com

Recipe

Beat the urge to munch on junk with my recipe for Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Energy Balls. They feel like an indulgent snack but are made from whole food ingredients with just enough protein, healthy fat, and fiber to keep you fuller longer.

Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Energy Balls

Ingredients:

1 cup natural almond butter (or other natural nut butter)
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup dark chocolate chips
¼ cup maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, stirring until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 tbsp of water at a time to help the mixture come together.
  2. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the mixture and use your hands to roll into a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture.
  3. Store energy balls in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

References

Study: Current Diabetes Reports, 2018 — Causes of Emotional Eating and Matched Treatment of Obesity

Study: Journal of Health Psychology, 2015 — Boredom proneness and emotion regulation predict emotional eating

Healthline: Mindful Eating 101 – A Beginner’s Guide

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