5 Easy Steps to Stop Emotional Overeating (Even When You’re Too Busy)

Irena Geller

Weight Loss Expert

Feb 17, 2022

Over 80% … that’s how many of my coaching clients say they struggle with “emotional” overeating. With our schedules busier than ever, women are feeling the stress so it’s understandable why they turn to food for comfort.

“Here we go again sweets to ease the pain…. stress at work equals stress eating. Food is still my answer to everything. I’m only going to ruin myself if it keeps up”- Jo said

Food seems to be an easy go-to strategy and offers a temporary comfort to our suffering. When you’re numbing yourself with food, you avoid the emotions you’d rather not feel.

Emotional eating is reaching for food to suppress negative feelings of anxiety or stress. While eating to comfort negative emotions is more common, most emotional eaters also eat when they are happy too.

The problem is reaching for food instead of dealing with the issue can gradually become a habit that’s hard to break.

If this happens occasionally there is no need to worry, but if you are turning to food as a solution to change your emotional state you may have an emotional eating problem.

I was once exactly where you are now and I know this pain all too well…

When I felt irritated- I would eat

When I felt sad – I would eat

Whenever I felt any emotion, I would eat…

Repeatedly stuffing myself way past the point of physical pain

I was able to take control of my eating and mind when I started taking care of my emotional needs, exercising and eating well.

By improving my mental health and wellbeing I was able to cease the cycle of self-loathing, frustration and fear and best of all dissolve my struggle with emotional eating.

Food Is Comfort

Most emotional eaters look to food to deal with uncomfortable feelings that they want to escape. Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions, such as stress, fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness and shame. 

But the more we use food to bury how we feel, the worse those uncomfortable feelings get.

What I have witnessed is that so many women get angry at themselves and have negative self-talk running through their heads before, during, and after emotionally eating. 

They feel trapped and guilty afterward, which just perpetuates the behaviour.

“I reward and punish with food. Had a good day? I deserve a treat! Bad day? Might as well comfort myself with food. I know and hate myself for it every single time it happens”-Melinda said

Are You Eating for Emotions?

 “40 years in September I will have battled with my eating. Food is the love of my life. There when I’m sad, upset, stressed, scared, even happy.”- Denise said

Can you relate?

Ask yourself these questions to determine if you’re driven by emotions to indulge in excessive and unhealthy foods:

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Do you find yourself eating when you’re not hungry?
  • Do you use food as a source of comfort when you’re feeling sad, anxious, or bored? 
  • Do you reward yourself with food?
  • Do you regularly eat until you’ve over-stuffed yourself?
  • Do you feel guilty or speak negatively to yourself after eating for comfort (to soothe emotions)?
  • Do you regularly eat until you’re over-full? 
  • Do you feel like food is your friend?
  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around certain foods?

The best course of action to break the emotional eating cycle is to explore alternative forms of self-soothing strategies that don’t involve food.

Though it may seem impossible to stop emotional eating, it’s possible to get to a state in which food no longer controls you and instead fuels your wellbeing.

So, let’s explore 5 steps that will help you to take control and feel good about yourself.

Step #1- Accepting Negative Emotions

I believe the strong cultural focus on happiness and thinking positively is a fallacy that makes us think that we must be happy all the time.

  • One of the most important parts to being a healthy and whole person is to understand that life is as beautiful as it is fragile and varied.
  • Habitually accepting negative emotions is more likely to lead to elevated levels of well-being
  • What the research shows is if we push away thoughts and emotions, they will come back magnified.

Accepting some painful elements of life as beyond your control not only helps you stop overeating, but to stay grounded, so you can concentrate your problem-solving ability on whatever is in front of you. 

Life is not a pain-free experience, but if you have five problems and then overeat, you’ll have six problems.

Some acceptance strategies include:

1. Letting feelings or thoughts happen without the impulse to act on them.
2. Observe your weaknesses but take note of your strengths.
3. Give yourself permission to not be good at everything.
4. Acknowledge the difficulty in your life without escaping from it or avoiding it.
5. Realise that you can be in control of how you react, think and feel.

Step #2- De-Stress

Stress and anxiety are two of the most common reasons why people eat when they are not hungry.

However, using food to deal with your emotions is a temporary solution.

Research has shown that relaxation techniques can help manage emotional eating and overeating.

I suggest putting aside some-time to create your list of possible de-stressing strategies. 

If you take time out to de-stress and nurture yourself daily, you will feel better, and experience more happiness and satisfaction….and best pf all crave less.

Relaxation techniques you may find useful include:

  • Yoga and meditation
  • Journaling (it’s amazing how much better you will feel after you download your thoughts onto paper)
  • Take a long soak in the bath and listen to your favourite music
  • Finish work early enough to have self-care time
  • Move your body daily in a way that you find enjoyable
  • Get a massage on a regular basis

The key is to experiment and find what feels best for you.

Step #3 -Make Conscious Food Decisions 

Research says that there’s 220 food related decisions that we make every single day of those we know that less than 20 are made quite consciously. We make most of them out of habit and a lot of them are driven by our emotional state.

Making conscious, deliberate decisions on purpose means planning of time. When you make decisions ahead of time you are in control and avoid decision fatigue when it comes to food choices.

 Here are some tips:

  • Prepare your food yourself, so you can control the ingredients
  • Bring your lunches from home: this eliminates having to make decisions when you are hungry
  • If you are going out to lunch or dinner, try and plan what you will have before hand and make this decision when you are not hungry
  • Have some healthy snacks prepared for when the need for emotional comfort arises

Step #4 – Self-Compassion

Emotional guilt often leads to self-criticism. The way you talk to yourself plays a vital role in your well-being.

Unlike self-criticism which asks if you’re good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you?

Self-compassion is a tool that can help interrupt the cycle of emotional eating by reducing the “screw it” feeling that happens right before a person starts emotional eating.

You can’t change your circumstance, but you can change how you’re going through it by using self-compassion.

Self-compassion is:

  • Being kind gentle and understanding with yourself
  • Accepting that you are not perfect
  • Understanding that there is potential for learning and growth in every mistake you MAKE

Self-compassion has three main elements:

  • Mindfulness: This is when you’re aware of what you’re doing, thinking, feeling and experiencing, but you’re not judging yourself for it.
  • Common humanity: Acknowledging that you’re not alone—that everyone goes through what you’re dealing with at some point.
  • Self-kindness: Being generous and decent to yourself.

How to use Self-compassion in practice:

When you’re about to stress eat, try to interrupt the cycle with some self-compassion and kindness.

Here’s what that might look like:

  • Mindfulness: “I’m so anxious about today’s presentation in front of 30 people. And those muffins will help me to feel calmer. 
  • Common humanity: “That’s okay. Plenty of people get nervous before going in front of an audience, I’ve done this before and I can do it again I don’t need the muffins.”
  • Self-kindness: “Take a deep breath. Whether or not I choose to eat right now, it’s going to be okay.”

Give this a try give, it might just be the thing that works.

Step #5-Healthy Ways to Satisfy Your Needs

Looking after yourself and your emotional needs is an essential strategy to help you keep your mind and body healthy enough to deal with any difficult situations as they arise.

Schedule in the time daily to feed your feelings and needs. 

Here are some tips to start:

  • Pay close attention to your own needs and feelings
  • Set healthy boundaries by setting limits around your time and what you need.
  • Engage in regular activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
  • Start a Meditation practise

When you learn to manage your emotions– you don’t need to feed them!

The bottom line…

Winning your emotional eating battle is a step-by-step process, where you learn to master the skills that will help you prevent and eliminate overeating . 

These skills do not include deprivation or willpower, we know this approach doesn’t work- Right?

I encourage you to focus on a small step you can take today (and then tomorrow, and then the next), you’ll be able to break the cycle of emotional eating and continue progressing toward their goals. 

Strive for continuous improvement instead of perfection.

Now it’s over to you.

  • Want to break the cycle with overeating and create a healthier mindset and eating habits? 

If you want to finally feel good about yourself and what you eat book a good-fit coaching session with me to see if we can work together.


By Irena Geller

Weight Loss Expert

Irena Geller is a Food & Mood Coach and author in the Health & Weight loss industry who helps busy women to put down their fork and pick up their life. She uses 3 proven key steps, helping busy women to eat well consistently, lose weight effortlessly, potentially adding years to their life so they can live those years to the fullest, looking amazing and feeling confident! You can contact Irena here: https://irenageller.com.au/



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