We’ve all likely done it – after a particularly trying day at work we come home and treat ourselves to a snack. Occasionally emotional eating happens, but there is also a more extreme side to the story where people eat to cope more than here or there. They regularly emotionally eat to suppress or sooth negative emotions or painful feelings. To combat sadness, anxiety, stress, loneliness, etc., they use food for comfort.

How to identify emotional eating

  1. There are a few signs that you are emotionally eating:You eat when you aren’t hungry
  2. You mindlessly eat (for instance, sitting in front of the TV snacking but not realizing how much you are consuming)
  3. You act on cravings that are triggered by emotions like stress, anxiety or sadness

Emotional triggers

Eating to fill a void or deal with negative emotions can ultimately lead to rapid weight gain and quickly becomes an unhealthy habit. Generally, the foods people crave are high in fat and high calorie salty and sweet snacks. People who eat to satisfy their emotions often find it hard to care about the consequences, as they are just looking for an outlet to suppress their emotions.


Depression is a serious issue. If you’re regularly eating emotionally to  suppress negative feelings, it’s recommended that you visit your doctor.

However, if you’re an occasional emotional eater, there are things you can do to prevent yourself from reaching for the cookies after a trying day.

  • Keep a food journal and track what you eat throughout the day. Check your journal and look for signs of true hunger as opposed to emotional eating. This can be an eye-opening exercise and help you realize what triggers you to reach for the junk food.
  • If you do want to snack, stock up on fresh fruit, veggies and protein-filled snacks that will keep you full longer.
  • Eat mindfully – meaning pay attention while you’re eating. Be aware of what you’re eating, how much you’re eating and how your body feels.
  • If a craving strikes, put a timer on for 10 minutes. Don't allow yourself to eat until the timer buzzes. As you wait, have a big glass of water and complete another small task. If after 10 minutes the craving is as intense, measure out a small portion of the food, but most likely, the craving will have subsided.
  • Practice breathing exercises. Instead of turning to food when stressed, try focusing on something else like your breathing. By focusing on your breathing, you will sooth and relax yourself in a healthy way and the craving for comfort food will likely pass.
  • Exercise – Regular physical exercise may help relieve the emotions that drive you to overeat