Recognizing Emotional Eating

Eating Disorder Counseling in Huntersville, NC and online in Florida


The simplest way to determine if you are over-consuming to manage an emotion is to ask yourself, "Am I eating because I am hungry?" or "What's going on in my life and how am I coping with this?"

These questions will often result in the awareness that food is being utilized for more than hunger and there is a potential to unconsciously overeat.


There are many triggers for over-consumption in our culture today. Negative emotions such as sadness and stress are the most commonly thought of emotions, but many individual over-consume in social eating situations to enhance the enjoyment of the event. A great deal of our social interactions today involves food.

Another common trigger is boredom. We often engage in a lot of activities and receive a lot of external stimulation from television, computers, and phones.


The first step is self-awareness of the behavior of over-consuming to manage emotions.

The next step is deciding that this is not the most effect manner to handle emotions and then deciding that you would like to replace this behavior.

After this, a viable alternative is needed; something that positively impacts emotions. This could be physical alternatives such as light physical activity, deep breathing, temporarily leaving a situation to regain composure and focus or mental approaches such as looking at alternative ways to interpret the events or look for options and resources to assist with managing the situation (responding versus reacting).

It is also important recognize the objective is not to completely eliminate emotional eating; this is most often highly unlikely due to the long history that we all have with using food to manage emotions. The goal is the introduction of newer more adaptive options so the food becomes, according to Sloan, "a thing you use, but not the thing you use to cope."

Overeating isn’t the only negative behavior that can result in situations of intense emotions. Individuals may also engage in other behaviors such over consuming alcohol, disrupting interpersonal relationships, isolating from others, engaging in self-sabotaging decisions/behaviors.

So, outside of rewarding yourself with food, how else can you focus your positive emotions?

One of the most important things to focus on is life balance. We all have experienced moments and periods when things were running smoothly. The objective is to make decisions and modifications in order to reinforce and sustain that state or efforts to re-instate it.

The recognition that over consuming food has not contributed to that positive balance in the past is also an important insight. It’s important to recognize that life balance does not always involve the absence of stressors and hassles in our lives, but being aware of non-eating options and choices to assist with the management of the emotions associated with those events.

If are looking for support with your emotional eating, please don't hesitate to reach out by calling 980-689-1794.


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