11 Healthy Ways to Curb Emotional Eating

Dr. Kimberley O'BrienBlog, Mind Body Leave a Comment

Do you consider yourself an emotional eater?  I’ve definitely tried to alleviate my own stress by overindulging in food, and this is one area that I now help to coach my patients through in my naturopathic practice.  It’s natural to find comfort in food, but there are many other practices that you can take advantage of to feed your feelings without the guilt that often comes after soothing ourselves with food.

How do you stop the pattern of emotional eating?  One of the first steps is to identify and assess your triggers!  Stressful interactions with your coworkers, a fight with a family member, being overloaded with projects at work, or comparing your life to others on social media can all be triggers that cause you to head to the refrigerator to try and take the edge off with a snack.  Identifying these triggers enables you to strategize on how they can be avoided, and also equips you to build in additional self-care practices to diffuse your stress when these situations are unavoidable.

Whether your go-to is pulling out a tub of Ben n’ Jerry’s, diving into a deep dish pizza, or pouring yourself a large glass of wine, treating yourself with food isn’t the issue.  As I’m sure you’ve experienced, consciously choosing to indulge in and enjoy a treat or takeout meal has a completely different energy than eating that same food with the intention of numbing out.  By curbing emotional eating and building in more supportive self-care practices, you’ll have more room to consciously treat yourself and enjoy your favourite foods guilt-free!

11 Healthy Ways to Curb Emotional Eating

1. Do Yoga, Work Out, or Go for a Run

It’s true what they say – change your movement, change your mind! The connection between your mind and your body is powerful, so when you move your physical body it can actually change your state of mind. Invite a friend along to make this practice even more effective in lifting your spirits!

Curb Emotional Eating: Move Your Body

2. Start a Gratitude Journal

It is impossible to feel stress or anxiety at the same time as gratitude, which makes gratitude journaling the perfect way to interrupt your bad day! Sit down in a cozy spot with a pen and paper, or even the notes section of your phone, and make a list of 5-10 things that you’re grateful for, even if they’re as simple as the smell of your shampoo, or your favourite purple pen!

Gratitude Journaling

3. Get Some Fresh Air

Getting outside can do wonders for alleviating any negative emotions that may be causing you to consider reaching for the snacks! Studies have proven that getting out in nature boosts endorphin levels and dopamine production, which promotes happiness. Buh bye stress, hello Mother Nature!

Curb Emotional Eating: Get Outside

4. Cuddle Up With Your Pet

Seriously – it’s that simple! Petting an animal is scientifically proven to lower cortisol levels and stimulate the release of dopamine and serotonin in the body, helping you maintain a positive mental balance. Don’t have a pet of your own? Head over to your local animal shelter! They need the snuggles as much as you do.

Cat Cuddles

5. Hop in the Tub

A nice, long soak is a wonderful way to soothe your mind and soul. Light some candles, turn on some relaxing music, and let your troubles melt away in a hot bath! Try adding epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil to make it an even more blissful experience. Bonus tip: Apply a calming face mask for stressed skin while you’re soaking! Mmmm.

Curb Emotional Eating: Take a Bath

6. Connect with a Friend

Having a solid social support system can greatly improve your ability to cope with negative emotions. Make an effort to connect with someone in your circle when you’re feeling the temptation to take the edge off with emotional eating! Go for a quick walk with a coworker, call a close family member, or stop by to visit a friend.

Connect with a Friend

7. Find a Quiet Space, Meditate, and Breathe

Focused concentration is an effective tool for controlling stress and decreasing anxiety. Sometimes taking the time to pause and practice mindfulness is all it takes to reset and reprogram the mind. Try a meditation app like Calm or Headspace if you need a little guidance!

Curb Emotional Eating: FInd Space

8. Watch an Uplifting Movie

Turning on a good movie, and letting yourself get lost in it, can be a wonderful escape from the stress of every day life. The key is to make sure that you choose a mood-boosting movie, and not a stress-inducing drama or horror film! Try “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” if you’re looking for some extra motivation, the “Transcendence” series on Gaia TV for inspiration, or a funny comedy like “Bridesmaids” if you just need a good laugh!


Watch a Movie

9. Read an Inspiring Book or Listen to a Podcast

There’s something to be said about curling up on your couch with a captivating book or tuning in to an engaging podcast when you need to shift your focus. If you’re more of a reader try You are a Badass by Jen Sincero, or Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. For you podcast listeners, I recommend Earn your Happy with Lori Harder, or our very own Healthy Life Redesign Podcast!

Curb Emotional Eating: Read a Book

10. Take a Nap

Give yourself permission to rest. Research suggests that a 30-minute nap can actually reverse the hormonal impact of a poor night’s sleep, which means less stress, better judgement, and a balanced mood. Sweet dreams!

Take a Nap

11. Take Action

Fight the funk by taking action! If you can identify something tangible that you can tackle first to create momentum in your day, do it! It doesn’t matter if that starts with something as simple as making a list or making your bed, just take one step forward and keep going, one foot in front of the other. You’ve got this!

Curb Emotional Eating: Take Action

The next time you’re feeling tired, bored, stressed, or upset, I encourage you to tune in to one of these 11 practices to nourish your body and mind instead of turning to food! ❤️  What self-care practices do you incorporate when you’re stressed or in a bad mood?  Let us know in the comments below! 

About the Author

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien


Dr. Kimberley O'Brien is a Naturopathic Doctor in  Nelson, BC with expertise in the treatment of digestive disorders, fatigue and hormone imbalances.  She is the founder of Healthy Life Redesign and creator of the Elimination Diet Meal Plan and the Real Food Recharge online programs.  Her mission is to help you own your health and live a life you love!

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