• Dr. Todd Hurst, MD

What is Emotional Eating


It’s not uncommon for Heather to find herself in front of the television with a bag of chips after a stressful day at work. Although Heather turns to food for comfort after a frustrating day, she has found that food really doesn’t help her feel better.


Heather is an emotional eater. Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than feeling hungry – typically it is in response to a certain mood or event in your day. Emotional eating means your emotions, not your body, dictate what, when and how much you eat.


Emotional eating is an attempt to repress negative emotions such as depression, stress, fatigue, or boredom. Many life stressors can provoke emotional eating. Health problems, financial issues, work stress, or being overtired are all common triggers for emotional eating. Emotional eating is sometimes referred to as mindless eating – without thinking, you reach for that high calorie, high fat comfort food when emotions are high, most of the time without even enjoying it.


The worst part is that emotional eaters often don’t feel satisfied, instead they feel guilty. Unfortunately, even if you don’t enjoy the food, the calories still count and the pounds begin to add up.


How to Overcome Emotional Eating


Food Diary: A great way to stop emotional eating is to understand your eating habits – what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat. Over time you will see patterns that help you to understand your eating patterns as well as your mood and emotions. The Achieve-Life food diary is a great way to get started!


Triggers: Try and identify what prompts you to start emotional eating. Does it happen when you sit in front of the television or the computer? Does it happen during certain times of the day? By identifying your emotional eating habits, you can start changing those bad habits and take control of your diet. Take a break from the computer and go for a walk or call a friend. Instead of watching TV, try reading or listening to music.


Your Kitchen: If you are craving a snack, avoid the high calorie chips and reach for a healthy alternative, there are so many options!


Check out the Achieve-Life healthy snack ideas (link) for some healthy options. Instead stock your shelves with nutritious, low calorie foods to snack on when the craving hits. You can’t eat the Ding-Dongs if you don’t have them!


Reward: Set some goals. If you had a great week and resisted the temptation of emotional eating, you deserve a reward! Congratulate yourself with a relaxing spa or movie, or even buy those cute sandals you’ve been wanting. As long as food is not your reward, you deserve it!


Solving your emotional eating issues can be doubly satisfying. Not only will you avoid the guilt that comes with emotional eating, you’ll avoid the calories and the extra pounds. You’ll not only feel better, but look better also!


And the Beat Goes On,

R. Todd Hurst, MD, FACC, FASE

R. Todd Hurst, MD,FACC, FASE

Center Director for Cardiovascular Health

Banner University Medical Center-Phoenix

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