October 4, 2023

10 Real Weight Loss Tips for Emotional Eaters

Weight Loss Tips for Emotional Eaters


Emotional eating is when you use food to cope with emotions like stress, sadness, boredom, or loneliness.

It often leads to overeating and weight gain. If you’re an emotional eater trying to lose weight, these tips can help.


#1 Understand Why You Emotionally Eat

The first step is understanding why you turn to food when you feel certain emotions:

  • You may have learned to use food to comfort yourself as a child if you grew up in a household where food equaled love.
  • Eating certain foods like sweets or carbs can temporarily increase serotonin and dopamine in the brain, making you feel better.
  • Eating can be a distraction from negative emotions or boredom. The act of eating takes your mind off things.
  • You may emotionally eat to fill a void or feel nurtured if you lack support in other areas. Food substitutes for true emotional connection.

Once you know your emotional eating triggers, you can find healthier ways to meet those needs.



#2 Find Healthy Ways to Cope

When you get an urge to emotionally eat, redirect the impulse:

  • Call a friend. Connecting with loved ones provides true nurturing.
  • Write in a journal. Express your feelings on paper.
  • Take a walk. Moving your body improves your mood.
  • Listen to music. Find songs that are soothing or empowering.
  • Try aromatherapy. Smells like lavender and eucalyptus are calming.
  • Meditate or practice breathing exercises. Quieting your mind reduces stress.
  • Do a hobby. Lose yourself in a project to distract your mind.

Having healthy options prepared makes it easier to avoid emotional eating when urges strike.


woman smilling eating healthy food at her kitchen table


#3 Identify Your Triggers

Pay attention to when and why you tend to emotionally eat:

  • Stress. Do you overeat when feeling overwhelmed or anxious? Take note of stressful situations.
  • Boredom. Do you snack out of lack of interest or purpose? Monitor times when you feel bored.
  • Loneliness. Do you overeat when you feel lonely or disconnected from others? Note these occurrences.
  • Fatigue. Do you tend to crave junk food when tired or low energy? Track your sleep patterns.

Once you know your triggers, you can anticipate them and have a plan in place to manage them in healthier ways. Many people find keeping a food journal helpful.


#4 Practice Mindful Eating

Bringing more mindfulness to your eating habits can curb emotional eating:

  • Eat slowly. Rushing through snacks often leads to overeating. Put your fork down between bites, savoring each mouthful.
  • Avoid distractions. Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer. Sit down and focus solely on your food. Be mindful of textures and flavors.
  • Check in with yourself. Periodically ask yourself how hungry you feel on a scale of 1-10. Stop when you feel about 7 or 80% full.
  • Pause before getting seconds. Give your brain 20 minutes to register fullness before getting more food.
  • Use smaller plates. You’re likely to eat less when serving yourself smaller portions. Don’t eat straight from the package.

Making meals and snacks a mindful experience prevents mindless emotional eating.



#5 Stock Up on Healthy Snacks

When cravings hit, having healthy snacks on hand makes it less likely you’ll binge on junk food:

  • Fresh fruits and veggies. Carrots, celery, apples, berries, grapes, and citrus fruits satisfy sweet and crunchy cravings.
  • Nuts and seeds. Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and nut butters provide filling fats and protein.
  • Yogurt and cheese. Opt for plain, unsweetened varieties. Pair with fruit or whole grain crackers.
  • Hummus. Dip raw veggies or whole wheat pita in hummus for protein and fiber.
  • Hard boiled eggs. Eggs contain filling protein and nutrients. Keep a batch boiled for snacks.
  • Popcorn. Opt for air popped or stovetop popcorn versus bagged, which contains more fat and sodium.

Having go-to healthy snacks within reach makes saying no to vending machine purchases easier.


#6 Control Your Food Environment

Your surroundings can sabotage your efforts if you’re surrounded by junk food. Here are some tips:

  • Keep trigger foods out of the house. Don’t stock ice cream, cookies, chips, fast food, or other tempting items. Can’t see it, can’t eat it.
  • Store unhealthy foods out of sight. Keep problem snacks hidden away in cupboards so they’re not staring you in the face when you open the pantry.
  • Bring your lunch to work. Resist the siren call of office donuts, pizza, and other unhealthy offerings by eating the healthy lunch you packed.
  • Keep fruits and veggies visible. Keep a fruit bowl on the counter and prepped veggies in the refrigerator to encourage you to grab those first.
  • Never shop hungry! Shopping when hungry leads to impulse buys of chips, cookies, and other junk foods. Always eat first.
  • Control portions. Buy snack foods in single serving packets instead of large containers you’ll dig into. Get small amounts of treats versus buying the whole pint.

Your environment sets you up for success or failure. Structure things to promote healthy choices.


#7 Get Enough Sleep

Not getting enough zzz’s can seriously impact your willpower and hunger hormones:

  • People who used to sleep less than 6 hours a night are easier to get hungry and lower levels of the satiety hormone leptin.
  • Lack of sleep also disrupts levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that triggers emotional eating.
  • Brain scans show poor sleep reduces activity in regions that regulate behavior and impulse control, making it harder to resist temptation.

Aim for 7-9 hours a night. Being consistent in bedtime routine helps.

Turn off screens an hour before bed and do relaxing activities like reading instead. Getting enough sleep gives you the brain power and willpower to make healthier choices the next day.


woman sleeping in her bed at night


#8 Tame Stress

Unmanaged stress drives unhealthy eating behaviors:

  • Chronic stress over-activates the body’s fight-or-flight response keeping you in a constant state of high cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • High cortisol stimulates appetite, increases cravings for fat and sugar, and disrupts satiety signals, leading to overeating.
  • Stress eating is a form of self-medication. Eating temporarily distracts from unpleasant feelings and stimulates feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

Find healthy ways to manage daily stress:

  • Exercise. Jogging, yoga, or even just a brisk walk helps metabolize cortisol, reduces anxiety, and improves mood naturally.
  • Meditate. Just 10 minutes a day has been shown to reduce stress and cortisol levels.
  • Listen to music. Soothing tunes lower blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Get a massage. Being touched releases oxytocin and endorphins that combat stress chemistry.
  • Take a bath. Warm water triggers relaxation hormones. Add epsom salts, essential oils, or bubbles.
  • Unplug. Give yourself a break from work emails and news. Enjoy hobbies or spend time in nature.

Reducing stress helps tame the urge to emotionally eat during difficult times.


#9 Seek Support

Don’t go it alone! Having a support network is key to overcoming emotional eating:

  • Find an accountability partner. A family member or friend you check in with weekly to report on progress and setbacks.
  • Talk to a counselor or therapist. They can help you identify root causes of emotional eating and develop healthier coping skills. Many offer virtual sessions.
  • Join a support group. In-person and online groups provide community with people facing similar challenges.
  • Enlist your household. Getting family and roommates on board makes it easier to remove temptations at home.
  • Use social media. Follow accounts that provide healthy eating inspiration and tips. Share your own journey.

Having positive people to lean on helps you deal with slip ups, celebrate small wins, and stay motivated over the long haul.


#10 Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over Slip Ups

Change takes time. Slip ups will happen, especially at first. The key is dusting yourself off and getting right back on track:

  • Forgive yourself. Slip ups are a normal part of the process. Don’t criticize or shame yourself. Regret doesn’t motivate change.
  • Avoid absolutist thinking. One binge doesn’t mean you’ve “ruined” everything or that you might as well give up. Tomorrow is a fresh start.
  • Recommit. Renew your commitment to your weight loss goals. Remind yourself why it’s important to you.
  • Review what led up to it. Identify triggers or challenging situations you need to be prepared for next time. What could you do differently?
  • Make the next meal healthy. Don’t try to “make up for” a slip up by starving yourself. Just calmly return to your regular meal plan.
  • Talk to someone. Sharing slip ups with a supportive person often reveals blind spots and keeps you accountable.

Slip ups are opportunities for self-reflection and growth. Keep going!


Young woman eating burgers at her kitchen table


Julie’s Story’s of Weight Loss as an Emotional Eater

To offer a more personal perspective, here is a story from Julie, who lost 50 pounds as an emotional eater. I have documented an exclusive interview with her, so you know exactly what works for her:

I was an emotional eater all my life. I learned it from my mom, who baked us treats when we were sad or stressed. Food equaled love in our family.

After college, I gained a lot of weight from eating to cope with loneliness and work anxiety. I ate when I was bored or tired. I could easily polish off a pint of ice cream or a box of cookies in one sitting. I hid junk food around my apartment to binge on.

My wake up call was stepping on the scale and seeing I crossed the 200 pound mark at only 5’3″. I knew I needed to change but wasn’t sure how to overcome my lifelong habits.

What helped me was writing in a journal about why I ate certain foods and how they made me feel. Just understanding myself better made it easier to find healthier alternatives to eating, like calling friends or going for a walk.

I started keeping fruits and veggies at my desk so I’d snack on those instead of candy from the vending machine. Meal prepping healthy lunches prevented me from grabbing fast food when I had a stressful day.

If I slipped up, I’d just start fresh with my next meal instead of thinking “well I already ruined today, might as well keep eating junk.”

The cravings and urges got easier over time. I felt so proud when I finally hit my goal weight of 150 pounds! Remember it’s about progress not perfection. Start small and be patient with yourself. You’ve got this!


Final Thoughts

Julie’s story demonstrates that with self-awareness, commitment, and support, you can break the emotional eating cycle. Implement some of the tips that resonated with you to get started on your own path today. Small changes create big results over time. You deserve to feel healthy and in control. The first step is believing change is possible.