How to Overcome Emotional Eating

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We expect a lot from food. We want it to help us lose weight, lower cholesterol, comfort us when we’re sad, soothe us when we’re anxious, indulge us when we’re deprived, and make us happy when we’re not.


Of course, at its most basic level, food is merely fuel. “But it’s not that simple,” says Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, LD/N, a clinical nutritionist specializing in disordered eating. For example, if you grew up as a member of the clean plate club, or with parents who scolded you for eating certain foods or closely monitored your weight, your current relationship with food can’t help but be skewed. Read through the following common pitfalls—and change your relationship with food for the better.

Eating To Cope

When we use food to meet any need other than physical hunger, we’re eating to cope. “Food becomes a way to focus on something other than what is really bothering us,” says Carmen Cool, MA, LPC, a psychotherapist specializing in binge-eating disorder. “This may work in the immediate short-term, but it doesn’t attend to what we really need.”

Pay attention to what’s really going on when you have the urge to munch. “Mindfulness can be invaluable in learning to differentiate what our true needs and feelings are, and in learning to tolerate feelings,” says Cool. Check-in with your body, advises Cool. Are you really hungry? Or do you need to feed a different kind of hunger—for comfort, for companionship, for connection and love?

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