Ten Strategies for Dealing with Emotional Eating

Chad A. Buck, PhD: Work/Life Connections – EAP and Health Plus

1. When you have a hard time clearing your mind of thoughts of food, count on your 4 other senses.

  • 1 - State 1 scent you can smell.
  • 2 - Name 2 sounds you can hear.
  • 3 - Name 3 sensations your body is feeling, such as the temperature, the texture of your clothing, or the feeling of your feet against the ground.
  • 4 - Identify 4 colors or objects you see.
Repeat 4 more times

2. If you are feeling short of breath, anxious, or out of control, try a deep breathing exercise.

  • Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Breathe in through your nose for a count of 5.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 5.
  • Exhale through your mouth for a count of 5.
  • Repeat 5 times.
3. If stressful thoughts occur, use “Catch and Release.”
  • Catch the thought. Example: “I will never lose weight."
  • Release the thought. Example: “That was a judgmental thought.”
  • The point is to acknowledge the thought/emotion and to challenge it quickly. Imagine catching a fish and then quickly taking it off the hook and throwing it back.
4. Journaling can help you to externalize internal feelings and thoughts that drive emotional eating.
  • Set a time to write each day for as long as you can tolerate it, or just write down thoughts or things you notice as they happen in a planner or notebook.
  • Write your thoughts down without editing. Don’t judge yourself.
  • As an experiment, try writing about the past, present and future. For example, “I used to feel _______, and I feel _______now. I want to feel __________ in the future.”
5. Create art. Start an art journal or a scrapbook of feelings or inspirational messages.
  • Cut out positive or relaxing words or images from a magazine.
  • Draw your emotions, positive or negative, to externalize them.
  • Buy a coloring book and color, sketch pictures, or just pick out colors you like.
6. Find a grounding object. A grounding object is something you can hold in your hand that reminds you to be calm or helps you release stress.
  • Examples include rosary beads, small smooth stones, natural stones or crystals that you like, a picture of your child, a piece of fabric with a texture you like touching, a piece of fabric with a scent or perfume on it that calms you.
7. Squeeze bubble wrap. If you are angry or need to let go of a strong emotion, focus on squeezing the bubbles until they pop.
8. Practice acceptance through positive self-talk. Repeat to yourself, “I accept my emotions with all their ups and downs. I accept that I am tempted to use food to soothe myself. I accept that I can feel this pain without numbing myself with food. I accept that I need to feel this feeling.” 9. Talk to friends, reach out to support groups, join online support groups, get out of your house for 10 minutes. Be social rather than staying isolated.
10. Make an appointment with a counselor or therapist who can assist you.
For more help with emotional eating issues, please call 936-1327 to make an appointment with a Work/Life Connections - EAP counselor.