10 Easy Ways to Put a Stop to Emotional Eating

10 Easy Ways to Put a Stop to Emotional Eating

woman under covers eating cakeWe joke about curling up on the couch with a pint of ice cream after a bad day or drowning our sorrows in an entire plate of cheese fries, but there's more truth here than we'd all like to admit. Emotional eating is real, and for some women, a real problem.

Not only does it cause you to pack on the pounds, but you're sidelining  the emotions -- think: stress, anger, fear -- that are driving you to reach for (and finish off) that box of taquitos in the first place.

Here, 10 surprisingly easy and satisfying ways you can soothe yourself in the here and now -- no fridge-opening necessary.


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  • Breathe Like a Yogi


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    The side of your nose that you breathe out of has a huge impact on emotional eating, says Susan Albers, PsyD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic who specializes in eating issues and author of 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. Try blocking your right nostril with your thumb and only breathing in and out of the left. Doing so "causes your heart rate to slow and blood pressure to lower, making you feel more relaxed without food."

    Boredom eating? "Breathing only through your right nostril has an energizing effect," says Albers.

  • Warm Up


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    What can we learn from summer heatwaves? That we eat less when we're warmer, says Albers. Next time you feel the urge to eat, toss your PJs or sweatpants in the dryer for five minutes, then put them on. Or go outside for a few minutes and absorb some of those bright rays of sunshine.

  • Find a Mantra


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    When you catch yourself emotional eating, don't simply give in. ("Ugh, I'm too stressed. Who cares?") Instead, repeat phrases that point your behavior in a different direction," says Albers. "Try 'Progress, not perfection,' or 'Fall down 7 times, get up 8.'" Song lyrics, prayers, quotes -- anything that inspires you can be a mantra.

  • Ground Yourself


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    "Munching on sugary and fatty food is a way people try to soothe their bodies and 'ground' their feelings," says Albers. The reason? Eating instantly changes sensations. You can get a similar effect by holding onto a piece of ice, listening to loud music, biting into a lemon, or simply stopping in place and digging your heels into the ground -- literally grounding yourself.

    More from The Stir: 10 Foods You Should Never Eat When You're Sad, Mad, or Stressed

  • Put Your Cravings Into Neutral


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    Your thoughts can feed your cravings -- or they can finish them off. To do the latter, steer your thoughts to a neutral object like a picture on the wall. For two minutes, study its color and shape. "Because your brain can only imagine one thing at a time," says Albers. "This crowds out the image of food."

  • Get Away


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    Sounds almost too easy to work, but going somewhere where there isn't ANY food can be enough to shake your craving. "People often mindlessly eat food that's directly in their line of vision just because it's there," says Albers. So, take a bath. Sit outside. Just get away.

  • Move Mindfully


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    How to fight off your usual 3 p.m. sugar fix? Walk it off, baby. "A recent study found that going for a 20-minute walk significantly curbed chocolate cravings," Albers says.

    If walking's not your thing, try any type of mindful exercise, even if you're simply hitting the living room floor for a few yoga moves.

  • Throw Body Language Into It


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    When you tell yourself "I'm NOT going to finish off that bag of chips," use your body language to really mean it. "Shake your head no, clench your fists, and lean back," Albers says. "Matching your thoughts with your body's movements helps to strengthen them."

    More from The Stir: 'Face Tapping' Is the 1 Weird Weight Loss Trick That Just Might Work

  • Create a Self-Soothing Tool Kit


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    Plan ahead for next time you're jonesing for food. Fill an "emergency" box in your office or pantry with soothing essential oils, gum, tea, a journal -- even bubble wrap you can pop. What do all these things have in common? "They reduce cortisol, your body's stress hormone, that makes you crave sugary, fatty foods," says Albers.

  • Give Yourself a Massage


    Image via Vladimir Gjorgiev/shutterstock

    We all instinctively rub our temples or feet when we're feeling overwhelmed -- and for good reason. "Rubbing these specific spots releases feel-good chemicals," says Albers. Use that to your advantage next time you're feeling emotionally starved. Try rolling a tennis ball under your foot, or place the ball behind your shoulder blades and press against the wall.

    More from The Stir: I Stopped Dieting & Worrying About Food and Something Amazing Happened

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