• Denise A Olson

Emotional Eating


Most people I talk to-clients, friends, family members, say they struggle with emotional eating. Using food to solve a problem is an extremely common approach. Food, while delicious, offers a very temporary solution, and almost always results in feelings of guilt, frustration, and disappointment. So why does it happen?




  1. Control. Many challenges we face are things we don’t have complete control over. Food and nutrition is something we do have 100% control over. In times of stress and frustration around a particular scenario, many people find comfort in this and tend to take it to an extreme.

  2. Immediate satisfaction. Food is delicious!!! When we are having a tough time-it can offer an immediate mood boost. However-this is very short lived and almost always ends up in feelings of regret.

  3. Habit! We are in the habit of resorting to certain foods. Rough day at work? Heading for the ice cream you keep in the freezer. Kids stressing you out? Heading to the couch with a glass of wine and a bag of pretzels. When we are in the habit of doing things, autopilot takes over and the decision making process is gone. It’s not a questions of “Do I want ice cream tonight?” It’s simply; “bad day-->go to freezer-->pull out ice cream”.


So what to do about this. Create a list of alternatives to emotional eating. The goal here is to disrupt the trigger. So write your list, and put it somewhere extremely visible: on the fridge, on the pantry door, etc. Commit to doing something off your list before indulging in your emotional eating. Here are some examples:


  • Take 20 deep breaths

  • Drink a large glass of water

  • Go for a brisk walk around the block

  • Play with your pet

  • Do 5 burpees

  • Journal your feelings

Satisfaction may not be immediate, but I guarantee you these options will not result in regret, guilt, sadness or frustration. If you are an emotional eater, you have the ability to stop the cycle. It will take effort, and a commitment to do it, but it IS possible.


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