emotional eating a tricky concept

Posted by cleancowgirl on July 20th, 2012 |Filed Under Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Emotional eating can be a tough beast to tame..  I have dealt with this issue I think from the day I was born.  It was easier in my 20’s.  I had a metabolism that did not care if I had that chocolate sundae or that big helping of moms southern macaroni and cheese when I had a bad day at school or fight with my boyfriend.  Today life is more stressful we have more worries in our 30’s and beyond.  We worry about the kids, finances and even the little stresses can send us over the deep end.  I was normal well health wise  before I became a nurse and part of being that has put over 90 lbs on this body.

I think emotional eating is probally the biggest obstacle of overweight and morbidly obese women.  Yeah it affects men too but I think as women we tend to take the weight of the world  on our shoulders on things in our families.  My husband says he does all the worrying when it comes to bills and different things.  No I just hide it better which is evident in my obese body.

Being a nurse is similar to being a scientist so I decided to make a hypothesis of this problem and then a solution to the problem or my plan of attackt to deal with this tricky devil.

First of all the steps to the scientific method is first is to state the problem.

1. Emotional eating makes me fat and I eat when I am stressed.

We eat when we are sad, angry and even happy over an event.  Are we really hungry when we grab that snickers bar or the last piece of your daughters birthday cake you told your self you were going to throw out?

2. Do research to help you define the problem

There are several differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger

a. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly; physical hunger occurs gradually.

b. When you are eating to fill a void that isn’t related to an empty stomach, you crave a specific food, such as pizza or ice cream, and only that food will meet your need. When you eat because you are actually hungry, you’re open to options.

c. Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly with the food you crave; physical hunger can wait.

d. Even when you are full, if you’re eating to satisfy an emotional need, you’re more likely to keep eating. When you’re eating because you’re hungry, you’re more likely to stop when you’re full.

e. Emotional eating can leave behind feelings of guilt; eating when you are physically hungry does not.

3. Construct a hypothesis and draw a conclusion

This is easy for me because I have own up to the fact that I know emotional eating makes me overeat and eat the wrong foods.  The key for all of us is finding what the triggers are for each and every one of us and why it makes us go for those chocolate chip cookies.  I think emotional eating will always be there for me but the longer I stick with my plan of eating healthy the less likey I will go for the chocolate bar in the checkout line.  I know once I do I say the hell with it and binge for the day, week or even longer.  I think once the guilt of eating the food sets in we then totally release our will to it.


  • Recognize emotional eating and learn what triggers this behavior in you.
  • Make a list of things to do when you get the urge to eat and you’re not hungry, and carry it with you, a. When you feel overwhelmed, you can put off that desire by doing another enjoyable activity.
  • Try taking a walk, calling a friend, or even god forbid clean the house.
  • When you do get the urge to eat when you’re not hungry, find a comfort food that’s healthy instead of junk food.  Such as belvita bars these are my new fav food.  Don’t go over the limit just pick a food you won’t feel the guilt.
  • For some, leaving comfort foods behind when they’re losing weight can be emotionally difficult. The key is moderation, not elimination.   You may  divide comfort foods into smaller portions if you cannot totally turn your back on your comfort food.   For instance, if you have a large bag of chips, divide it into smaller containers or baggies and the temptation to eat more than one serving can be avoided.  For me this does not work but if you feel you must have the food then a small amount will not hurt but can you really stop at just one lays chip.
  • When it comes to comfort foods that aren’t always healthy, like fattening desserts, Your memory of a food peaks after about four bites, so if you only have those bites, a week later you’ll recall it as just a good experience than if you polished off the whole thing. So have a few bites of cheesecake, then call it quits, and you’ll get equal the pleasure with lower cost.

Lastly, remember that emotional eating is something that most people do when they’re bored, happy, or sad. It might be a bag of chips or a steak, but whatever the food choice, learning how to control it and using moderation are key.

Yes this is a big demon, but we can all do this.


14 Comments so far

  1. Kate on July 20, 2012 9:06 am

    This is really helpful!! The one thing I notice is that, when I’m physically hungry but in a stressful place so I can’t address that need, then I get emotional about it. I can tell because you just taught me that emotional eating connects with specific cravings, and that’s what happens to me. The more upset I get about not having access to food, the more I want a specific food, and that leads to extreme grouchiness.

    thanks for sharing!!

  2. cleancowgirl on July 20, 2012 9:19 am

    You welcome. Glad it can help.

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