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How to Break Emotional Eating Habits with Mindfulness

Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better, especially unhealthy foods high in sugar that can lead to weight gain and addiction and ultimately, to chronic illness like diabetes. Breaking this common habit requires self-awareness, which is where mindfulness comes in. Practicing mindfulness can help curb emotional eating triggered by stress, anxiety, sadness and other negative feelings.

Mindful Eating 101

Mindful eating means paying purposeful attention to the experience of eating – sights, sounds, smells, textures, and of course tastes. It means being truly present when you eat without distraction. Follow these tips:

  • Slow down and chew your food thoroughly. Don’t rush meals.
  • Notice how the food looks on your plate and the aroma. Appreciate colors and textures.
  • Turn off TVs and put down phones and tablets while eating. Avoid multitasking.
  • Check in periodically with your internal hunger/fullness cues. Stop when you feel satisfied, not overly full.
  • Identify when cravings or emotions drive your eating rather than physical hunger.

Using Mindfulness to Prevent Emotional Eating

Whenever an urge to eat for emotional reasons strikes, mindfulness can help you pause and make a wise choice. Here’s how:

  • Take a few deep breaths to calm your stress response. This buys you time before giving in.
  • Ask yourself “Am I truly hungry or is my emotion looking for comfort?” Identify the trigger.
  • Notice if it’s a craving for something sweet and commit to finding a healthier alternative to satisfy it. Perhaps some fresh fruit will do the trick.
  • Accept the emotion without judgement and let it pass like a wave. Emotions are temporary. Food numbs emotions rather than fixing them.
  • Go for a short walk or try a mindfulness meditation to shift your mood. Movement and stillness both help.
  • Call a friend or write in a journal to process what you’re feeling instead of turning to food.

Consistent mindfulness trains your brain to pause and make conscious choices around food. By developing awareness of emotional triggers and cravings, you gain control over eating habits for healthier, sustainable change.

Do you find it hard to practice mindfulness as you eat? I’m happy to help.

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  1. Elisa on January 8, 2024 at 8:15 pm

    These are great tips, Karen. I struggle with mindless eating this time of year because it’s too cold to go outside. I will remember your list to check my emotions before grabbing something bad for me. Thanks.

    • Karen Admin on January 8, 2024 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks for reading Elisa.Try to take on a small project to distract you from your feelings of hunger. Try a glass of water or herbal tea instead of a snack. You may just be thirsty.

  2. Lily Leung on January 8, 2024 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks for your post, Karen. I have. A snacking problem. Am trying to break the cycle.

    • Karen Admin on January 8, 2024 at 9:17 pm

      Lily…try drinking a glass of water before eating a snack. Sometimes, thirst will masquerade as hunger.

  3. Kate as Becca Katz on January 8, 2024 at 9:31 pm

    Thanks, Karen, for all these great suggestions!

    • Karen Admin on January 8, 2024 at 9:32 pm

      My pleasure Kate/Becca

  4. Andrea P. on January 15, 2024 at 10:43 am

    I’ll try some of these the next time I’m snacking. Good ideas to share!

    • Karen Admin on January 15, 2024 at 10:48 am

      Happy to help.

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