6 Mindful Ways To Stop Emotional Stress Eating In Its Tracks

Food doesn't have to control you anymore.

How To Stop Emotional Eating, Stress Eating, Overeating, & Binge Eating With Mindfulness Getty 

Emotional eating is a very common issue that many people develop when they have trouble dealing with negative feelings such as anxiety, depression, and stress in their lives. But how does stress eating start, and how can you stop this cycle of emotional eating once you realize you're doing it?

In order to learn how you can stop stress eating, you'll have to first pay attention to yourself and do some simple mindfulness exercises to understand why you're binge eating to begin with.


According to Wikipedia, the definition of emotional eating is: "Overeating in order to relieve negative emotions."

Emotional eating occurs when your body isn’t hungry, but you keep reaching for food.

RELATED: What You're Really Craving When These 5 Triggers Cause You To 'Eat Your Feelings'


Depression. Eat. Elation. Eat. Stress. Eat. Boredom. Eat.

How can you overcome emotional eating? It’s so ingrained in the rhythm of your life. Food is always there, offering you an emotional release both during and after eating. You don’t even have friends that comforting.

Emotional eating is a physiological reliance on food for emotional coping, and it has both physical and psychological causes. If food is always present and emotions are always lurking, how can you overcome emotional eating without avoiding both altogether?

Because food is essential to life, it is important to understand and recognize the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.


That growl from your stomach is a cry for nutrients. Physical hunger is rarely specific in its preferences and satisfying it doesn’t leave you with regret and guilt.

Emotional hunger, on the other hand, is hunger from your head. It craves specific foods to assuage a laundry list of emotions, both negative and positive. It can lead you to a mindless binge of high-fat, sugar-laced foods and leave you with immediate regret and guilt.

And the cycle that led you to raid your stash drawer in the first-place hits “repeat” … again… and again, and can even lead to eating disorders, if you're not careful.

So how can you overcome emotional eating and restore the nutritive function of food in your life?


Here are 6 mindfulness exercises to help you overcome emotional and stress eating:

1. Start a diet/eating journal

Keep it with you throughout the day, and keep track of everything you eat, the time you eat and where you eat. Include any people who may be with you at the time. Most importantly, note your emotions at the time of your eating. Note if you feel like you're overeating, as well.

Are you stressed? Bored? Depressed? Happy?

Sometimes it is even easier when you take pictures of everything that passes your lips. It will help you pause for a moment to do a check up from the neck up about your emotions and what you are putting in your mouth.


2. Become aware of your feelings

Emotions can fuel behavior and provide information about your needs and wants. Problems arise when you don’t express or communicate those feelings in a healthy way, but instead self-soothe with food (or alcohol, drugs, shopping, etc.). Add any hurt feelings or noticeable emotions to your log, even if you do not eat at the time they arise.

Is your body hungry, or just your mind?

RELATED: I Don't Eat My Sadness — I Eat My Happiness, Too


3. Accept your feelings 

Instead of stuffing them down with food. Learn to ride out the storm of negative emotions, knowing that they will subside. Sitting with your emotions, actually feeling them, then letting them pass is a practice in developing tolerance.

It’s like increasing your pain threshold through strenuous athletic conditioning. It may only take a few minutes, but know they will pass.

4. Practice relaxation exercises and stress management 

Mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and getting out into nature can help.

Something as simple as taking three deep, cleansing breaths while visualizing tension leaving your body can decrease your stress response, heart rate, and blood pressure while enhancing your immune system.


RELATED: 7 Signs You're An Emotional Eater (And Don't Even Realize It)

5. Eat mindfully

Be present to the moment and to the process of eating. Thoughtfully prepare your food. Eat at a table.

Pull out the china you keep in a box in the garage. Enjoy the experience of eating and make note of your emotions and somatic feelings.


6. Seek support 

Emotional eating can be related to or represent the onset of food addiction, and even other severe problems like binge eating disorder. Seeking professional help can help assure you don’t delve any deeper into the cycle of emotional eating. Getting help can make something that seems helpless become possible.

The answer to, “How can you overcome emotional eating?” can be summed up in three words: Feel, don’t eat.

“Well, that’s the point,” you may be thinking. “I don’t want to feel.”


Compulsive eating in lieu of feeling is about distraction, and it is only a postponement of the inevitable. There is never going to be a perfect time to create positive change. The time to do the right thing — the healthy thing — is always now.

Remember these handy adages: “Your feelings won’t kill you,” and “What you resist, persists.”

And no matter what that candy wrapper may say, food doesn’t have the power to help you cope. Only you have that power. And the right support can help you recognize your emotional eating and reclaim your control.

Take the first step. Ask for help.

RELATED: 10 Ways Your Feminine Energy Can Help You Stop Emotional Eating


Lisa Lieberman-Wang is a relationship expert and creator of the neuroscience Neuro Associative Programming (NAP). If you need help finding your truth and living an authentic life, connect with her through her website or send her an e-mail.