Emotional eating is very common and happens when you eat to feel better, rather than to satisfy physical hunger. Unfortunately, food can never solve the real problems. Feelings that triggered eating are still there. Often you feel worse because of the unnecessary food you've eaten.

If you turn to food when emotions take over, take a deep breath, and give yourself a break. Remember that you're not alone and are not hopeless. Feeling guilty only adds to negative emotions you already feel.

There are many ways to deal with emotional eating. One is to control your environment. For example, don't keep ice cream in the house. If you want a sweet creamy treat to celebrate, take a walk to the nearest ice cream parlor. If you find comfort in a bag of chips after a fight with a loved one, try a long walk to clear your mind instead. Being active is a great alternative to emotional eating because it can take your mind off your craving and produces endorphins (a feel-good hormone).

Another approach is to engage in positive relationships. Call a faithful friend or family member who can help you sort through the emotions you're feeling in the moment. Smile and laugh, watch a funny video, or listen to a comedian. Meditate, journal, pray, or listen to music to relieve stress and anxiety.

Stay mindful. When you do eat, focus on the whole experience. Eat slowly, savor each bite, and enjoy your company or solitude. Practice gratitude. It is a gift to be able to nourish your body with delicious foods! For more ideas on shifting your mindset, view this helpful guide.

If you feel your habits are affecting your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing, reach out for help. Located in the basement of the Medical Arts Building, Work/Life Connections-EAP offers free and confidential services to employees and their spouses. Call 615-936-1327 to schedule an appointment to determine what service best meets your needs. To learn more, check out Ways to Win Emotional Hunger Games on the Work/Life Connections website.

The next time you reach for a snack to cope with negative emotions or stress, try one of the strategies to combat emotional eating listed in this article.