5 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating and Embrace Health

5 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating and Embrace Health

Emotional eating is a common struggle that many of us face. It’s a habit where we reach for food, not out of physical hunger, but as a means to cope with our emotions.

In today’s world where instant gratification is easily accessible through food, emotional eating can become a habit that takes a toll on our physical and emotional well-being.

This in my experience is one of the harder habits to break as it has a multifold hold on us – at a physical, emotional, psychological, and social level.

One needs to be strong, and strategic to overcome this habit, especially as one has to make a constant and conscious decision every day, every meal, every time your hand strays to that plate or packet of anything edible!

Simply put, Emotional Eating is eating to feel good, and in psychological terms, eating your emotions.

It is a coping mechanism that so many of us rely on (to some extent) which takes its toll on our physical and emotional well-being, and before we even realize it, we are addicted to these habits, without even realizing when and how we fell in so deep. I should know, I say this from experience – my own and of others that I have seen struggle with this habit and its eventual and negative impacts.

Here are five tips that I have found to be helpful when trying to break free from emotional eating and lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.

5 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating and Embrace Health

Plan and Prepare

For me, this is the number 1 tool in my arsenal. I know that I tend to do emotional eating, and sometimes, before I know it, I have slipped up. So having a plan and being prepared is a good strategy. This means you have a system set up that works for you and that you don’t have to spend time and effort on every day or fear slipping up on an especially tough or forgetful day.

Prepare healthy, satisfying meals and snacks in advance, so you’re less likely to grab unhealthy options when your emotions run high. Stock your kitchen with nutritious foods that you genuinely enjoy.

More importantly, stash healthy snacks and goodies in your midnight snacking spots.

This will make it easier to make healthy choices when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Trust me, when it’s the middle of the night, I am tired and anxious about something, the last thing that even occurs to me is how healthy or how many calories the food I am holding in my hands has.

Between a poor sleep cycle and no-set meal times, my diet (the nutritious and fat-loss kind) is always one of the concern areas.

Identify Triggers

Now lets talk about what really gets us started on Emotional Eating – It is our triggers, it is what sets us off (literally and figuratively) as we chase the feel-good sense again.

The saying, ‘To each his own’ is very true here.

To combat emotional eating, it’s essential to identify your triggers.

What are the emotions or situations that lead you to reach for food as a comfort?

A good idea is to keep a journal to track these triggers. Remember emotional eating is actually an attempt to cope with your emotions.

Journaling will help you recognize patterns and provide insights into why you turn to food. Once you’re aware of your triggers, you can begin to develop alternative coping strategies, like deep breathing, taking a walk, or engaging in a hobby, to address your emotional needs. Or just not engaging with that person or that situation if that is possible.

(I know I used to struggle with saying no – until I realized that for my own health (mental and physical) and well-being, I’d better start saying no, even when it was a NY cheesecake calling my name).

Mindful Eating

One of the most powerful strategies to curb emotional eating is practicing mindfulness.

Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating, savoring each bite, and being present in the moment.

When you eat mindfully, you’re more likely to recognize true hunger cues, allowing you to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger.

Before reaching for a snack, ask yourself, “Am I truly hungry, or am I eating to escape my emotions?” This simple pause can make a world of difference.

I did a program on healthy eating and this really stayed with me –



Are you thirsty, bored, cranky, have the habit of eating at this time/with this activity or don’t have anything to do, so lets eat?


Are you simply procrastinating? Avoiding doing what you need to do right now, and trying to postpone it to after you finish eating/drinking.

Asking these questions has really changed how I react in that moment! I have this written on a sticky note, posted where I can see it from the seat where I tend to make most of my emotional eating decisions.


It is through the act of journaling that I identified that I tend to be sitting at this particular chair when I make some of my best and worst decisions!

Seek Support

Breaking free from emotional eating can be challenging, and you don’t have to do it alone.

Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist who can offer support and guidance. Sharing your journey with someone you trust can be a source of motivation and accountability. You might also consider joining a support group or seeking professional help if emotional eating is severely affecting your well-being.

Practice Self-Compassion

Emotional eating often arises from negative emotions like guilt and shame, which can perpetuate the cycle. To break this pattern, practice self-compassion.

Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend. Remember that everyone has moments of emotional eating, and it doesn’t define your worth or character. Forgive yourself for past slip-ups, and focus on making better choices moving forward.

Now if you don’t know how to practice self-compassion, use your journal and write to yourself, like you would write a letter to your friend and offer your compassion and non-judging acceptance of who you are and that, even if you are still eating due to your emotional triggers, its still okay – YOU STILL LIKE YOU.

BONUS TIP – Understand the Science behind Emotional Eating.

The science behind emotional eating is a complex interplay of psychological, physiological, and neurological factors.

Researchers have explored various aspects of emotional eating to better understand the mechanisms and underlying causes.

Key aspects of the science behind emotional eating:

  1. Hormonal Regulation:
    • When we experience stress or strong emotions, the body releases stress hormones like cortisol. These hormones can trigger an increase in appetite, especially for high-calorie and comfort foods.
    • Ghrelin, often referred to as the “hunger hormone,” increases during stressful situations, further stimulating appetite.
  2. Reward System:
    • Emotional eating often involves seeking foods that provide a sense of pleasure or reward. This is associated with the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine in the brain’s reward centers.
    • The consumption of palatable, high-sugar, or high-fat foods can lead to a temporary improvement in mood and a sense of comfort.
  3. Psychological Factors:
    • Emotional eating is closely tied to the use of food as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, sadness, and boredom.
    • It can also be influenced by past experiences and associations between certain foods and positive emotions.
  4. Conditioning and Habituation:
    • Over time, individuals may develop a habit of turning to food when they experience emotional distress. This can create a conditioned response where emotions trigger the desire to eat, even when not physically hungry.
  5. Mindfulness and Self-Regulation:
    • Mindfulness and self-regulation play an essential role in preventing emotional eating. Developing an awareness of emotional triggers and the ability to regulate emotions in healthier ways can reduce the reliance on food as a coping mechanism.
  6. Genetics and Environment:
    • Genetic factors may influence an individual’s propensity for emotional eating. Some people may be more genetically predisposed to certain eating behaviors and emotional responses.
    • The environment, cultural norms, and societal pressures can also contribute to emotional eating. For example, food advertising, social gatherings, and family customs can influence eating patterns.
  7. Social and Cultural Aspects:
    • The social and cultural context in which individuals live can have a significant impact on emotional eating. Social gatherings, holidays, and celebrations often involve food and can reinforce emotional eating habits.
  8. Neuroplasticity:
    • The brain is adaptable and can develop neural pathways that associate specific emotions with eating. This can lead to emotional eating becoming a conditioned response over time.

Understanding the science behind emotional eating can really be helpful, especially as you recognize how some of your own habits and triggers relate to one or more of these.

An informed approach to address behavior which involves a combination of strategies, including stress management, mindfulness, and the development of healthier coping mechanisms to disrupt the cycle of using food as a primary emotional regulator has the highest chance of success and permanently (or long-term) changing your habit of emotional eating.

In a nutshell. Emotional eating is a challenging habit to overcome, but with dedication and the right strategies, it’s possible to develop a healthier relationship with food and yourself. Remember that emotional eating is a common struggle, and you’re not alone in your journey to break free from its grip. By planning and preparing, identifying triggers, practicing mindful eating, seeking support, and practicing self-compassion, you can reclaim control over your eating habits and nourish both your mind and body in a more balanced and fulfilling way.

Start today (coz before that fresh Monday start, a hot-chocolate Sunday/sundae can come in your way), and watch how your life transforms for the better.

5 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating and Embrace Health

Trigger warnings –raw, vulnerable, and honest account, an insightful look at a struggle that is still struggling!

A Personal Account of Emotional Eating –

Salt and Sugar are a high that take you into a world of taste and away from your present.

I learnt about the power of food in some of my darkest times.

At the time, I did not know of the fancy term ‘emotional eating’ or its psychological and physical effects which would control me and spoil me till my ripe current age.

The more I was judged for my looks and the assumption that it was because I was over-eating or just eating wrong – the more it made me think that something was wrong with me.

Its taken a lot of reading and maturity to understand that I am eating the ‘right’ foods, but the ‘problem’ lies not in the food, but somewhere else.

Being Fat also brings out unsolicited advice from everyone and their aunt. And let’s not even talk about the discrimination and ostracization.

Friends who frown at you when you pour in a single packet of sugar into your coffee—because you ‘should’ drink your coffee without sugar – so what if it tastes like acid going down my throat, that one teaspoon of sugar is what will destroy my organs.

(I know it is not about that one teaspoon, but about sugar (or any other food for that matter) as a whole and what it is doing to your body).

And don’t even get me started on the benefits of black coffee and quitting dairy, wheat, rice, and everything nice!!!

On the face of it, I wanted to say, I know, and I am okay, and I am working on it, and the new/changes/improved me coming soon….

But in the middle of the night when you are awake, worried and see very dim lights, that bag of chips and a book or drama series or movie is an escape – a very welcome one!


My own laughter has become precious to me – as I hear it so little.

And as right or wrong as it may be, on some days, I am willing to give in to my emotions, and binge-eat to feel good and binge-watch some series to feel good about a life that isn’t mine.

Truly yours, a work in progress.

Truly Yours Holistic Emotions Blog Hop

I thank the lovely  Rakhi Jayashankar and Roma Gupta Sinha who gave me the opportunity and motivation to deep dive into this topic write for their joint venture – Truly Yours Holistic Emotions Blog Hop.

30 comments found

  1. I have been on anti-depressants all my life. I was this slim, trim, young woman at 35 who turned into an obese woman in a couple of years of taking steroids. I eat very healthy; I never eat processed foods or eat much outside. Yes, I have digestive issues which i guess are because of my mental state.

  2. I really appreciate how honestly you have shared your own struggle with emotional eating and have come up with a detailed plan to identify the triggers and how to overcome it. Knowing is half the battle won, so thanks for sharing!

  3. Emotional eating is an important aspect when it comes to weight loss programs. I try to maintain a healthy weight always but due to my emotional turmoil I am unable to do this. I can understand how it feels when we are emotionally drained and that time food indeed helps.

  4. Food and emotion… the connection I was not aware about till few minutes back when I read a post on this topic which proved to be an eyeopener for me and helped me connect with your post so easily. In my stressed and depressed hours I do get inclined towards sugary products mostly chocolates and it helps me to overcome the emotional imbalance. Overeating and that too for emotional disbalance thankfully never happened to me. Mindful eating is very important and that you for talking on this topic in length to enlighten us.

  5. It’s so true, we tend to eat a lot when we are upset. Now that I have hit menopausal age, I find my period cycles really make my appetite go for a toss. My cravings go up and my mood swings are high. I guess, I need to work on all this, else I mind end up being a fat couch potato. Bad habits are easy to inculcate. Good ones take time and diligence. Knowing the science really helps in overcoming the problem.

  6. I had heard about emotional eating but never knew the details. As you rightly pointed out, if we can identify the triggers, practice mindful eating, and journal then it becomes easy to keep away from this. Very informative…thanks for sharing.

  7. Your post on emotional eating and the science behind it is really insightful. It’s fascinating to learn how mindfulness and self-regulation can help prevent emotional eating. The part about genetics and environment influencing our eating behaviors is eye-opening. And the discussion about social and cultural aspects makes a lot of sense. Understanding the science behind this issue can indeed be helpful for self-awareness. It’s clear that emotional eating is a complex issue, and your experience adds depth to the discussion. Thanks for sharing this valuable information as I was not aware of this much.

  8. Earlier when someone used to tell that I eat more when I am tensed I used to laugh it off but now when emotions and diet clash, it is a formula for disaster. Identifying it and applying in our lives is tough but possible l. Mindfulness is the best way to beat it.

  9. Now-a-days many of us eat without thinking. Not only because we are all stressed. But because there is so much GOOD and TASTY food around us that we are unaware of what it is doing to our system. Emotional eating is the worst. You don’t realize it until it is too late. Good tips.

  10. I have always been a fitness freak but post covid when I came back to Mumbai from my home town, I started eating a lot in the night, watching Netflix. I realised I missed family and friends, although I kept convincing myself that I am living again independently and want to spend time my way. thankfully, I got back the gym and my emotional eating was controlled. It has been one year since but sometimes I make wrong food choices still. It is difficult post 40 for me as I am experiencing many normal changes as well.

  11. Thank you for these helpful tips! Identifying triggers and finding healthier alternatives are great ways to break emotional eating habits. Taking it one day at a time and being kind to yourself throughout the process is so important. Wishing you the best on your journey toward a healthier relationship with food!

  12. I hear you. I put on weight due to steroids after the injury and was judged as lacking willpower or just plain lazy. In fact, I cannot eat if I am stressed. That said, identifying triggers and acting on them is the best way to proceed with emotional eating.

  13. Emotional eating though comforting, makes us feel guilty afterwards. There are many other side effects of emotional eating that can make life a misery. Liked your tips for saving ourselves from emotional eating sequences.

  14. Emotional eating is a common challenge that many of us face, and your personal account provides valuable insights into this struggle. It’s important to recognize that you’re not alone, and there are strategies, like planning, mindfulness, seeking support, and self-compassion, that can help in overcoming emotional eating. Thank you for sharing your experiences and tips.

  15. I used to binge eat at night, the mini-me came out saying- you have been taking care of everyone and everything all day so now it’s my turn. Once I was able to identify my 7 vital needs, I was able to fill the cup incrementally all day and the need for binge eating went away. We are humans and occasionally I encounter triggers that leads me to night time eating but now I give in yet recognize the signs early enough to take action next day when my will power is stronger.

  16. Your piece eloquently captures the complex struggle with emotional eating and offers a thorough guide to navigating this challenging habit. It’s commendable how you’ve covered triggers, mindful eating, and self-compassion, and emphasized the importance of planning, preparation, and support to overcome this issue.

    Your personal story about the impact of social judgment and coping mechanisms provides a relatable and insightful perspective on the emotional eating journey.

    Your ability to describe this raw experience with vulnerability and honesty is both engaging and relatable. Your account of the emotional battles faced is something many can empathize with, offering a beacon of hope and understanding for those undergoing similar struggles.

    Well done on creating a narrative that is both authentic and informative, offering a glimpse into the journey of battling emotional eating while guiding those in similar circumstances. Your account is an encouragement for others to embrace their emotions and strive towards healthier coping mechanisms.

  17. I love your refreshing honesty in this post. I think another trigger for emotional eating (speaking as someone who suffers from it too) is the judgement we face from people because we are overweight. I have publicly feuded with bloggers who have fat shamed people in their posts. There is nothing wrong with being overweight unless it’s harming your health, and only by making this distinction can we actually begin our own journey towards wholesome emotional wellbeing.

  18. Emotional eating is something we’ve all indulged in some time in our lives. As long as it doesn’t become a habit and starts hampering our health it is passable too. The one thing I do is distract myself with something completely unrelated or if possible, go for a run or walk. It helps me.

  19. Emotional eating can be very dangerous. Having seen close encounters have this . I’m glad they realised and took to mindful eating that helped them in overcoming the problem

  20. Understanding emotional wellness through eating is a good way to identify emotional state of a person. And the tips shared in the post are very apt.

  21. I need to read this blog, two times, every single day. I’ve tried to combat eating to bring peace and then crying that I can’t lose weight but it’s just not easy!.

    1. I hear you! Food is such a comforting thing, and it is a big twisted to realise that it could be harming us too!
      Just need to find tasty and healthier alternatives if you can … like I found green apples on their own, or with salt or with peanut butter – are such a delicious snack, and i dont feel guilty for eating this.

  22. I have heard of this from many and i have much later realised how I subcosciously was emotional eating. It was in 2020 I realised on introspection that there is something wrong with my eating habits. Your post made me relise i too am a work in progress when it comes to emotional eating. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Indeed, we don’t realise what we are doing, and in part it is lack of these conversations being done openly and sharing … I am so happy to read that you too are a work in progress and healing 🙂

  23. Many people have told me about this, and I only realized how much I was eating emotionally subconsciously much later. I recognize that there is a problem with my eating habits and that I need to reflect on them. I now realize that, in terms of emotional eating, I am also a work in progress after reading your post.

  24. I have faced emotional eating myself and I agree it isn’t easy to get rid of that unless you truly take conscious efforts. It’s important we seek help from our ecosystem and from experts if the need be.

  25. Emotional eating is indeed something to be looked into and when people give unsolicited advice on what to eat and what not to eat it makes us eat it all the more

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