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How to break the habit of using food to regulate your emotions and overcome emotional eating

When clients first reach out to me, I often hear: "Petra, I don't have another diet in me." I understand. Diets may seem punitive and can leave a person more frustrated and hopeless than before. If you are an emotional eater, you are not alone. Emotional eating is a common problem that many people face. It may seem difficult to break the habit of using food to regulate your emotions, but there are alternative techniques that can help.

Here are some strategies to replace emotional eating:

1. Keep a food & mood journal

All my clients receive a food & mood journal so they can gently and compassionately keep track of their emotional eating triggers - without judgment. Keeping a food & mood diary can help you identify patterns in your eating habits and recognize when you are eating due to emotions (such as stress, boredom, anxiety) rather than physical hunger. This can help you make more conscious choices about what you eat. Be advised that this is a longer process, which is based on a sense of gentle curiosity and loving-kindness.

2. Find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally

Emotional eating often stems from feeling overwhelmed and powerless over your emotions Finding other ways to soothe and comfort yourself emotionally can help you break the cycle of emotional eating. This can include calling a friend, playing with your pet, or looking at a favorite photo or cherished memento. Imagine comforting a child who is distressed. How would you help? What kind of guidance and support would you offer? Now show yourself the same care and compassion.

"Talk to yourself the way you'd talk to someone you love." -Brené Brown

3. Practicing mindfulness for emotional eating

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can help you become more aware of your emotions and learn to regulate them in a healthy way. Of course, there is no quick fix. This is not a fast lesson to learn. Learning to be present with (and accepting) what is can change your way of living and being in the world over time. Also, being mindful of the stories you are writing in your head can help you reframe and rethink any judgement you may have about yourself and other people.

4. Move your body

Gentle exercise is a great way to boost your mood and reduce stress. Even a short walk or yoga session can help you feel better. Every step counts. Try dancing to one song a day and then increase. Observe how your mood shifts. Give yourself permission to "let loose" and play your favorite dance song.

5. Find other ways to cope with stress

Stress is a common trigger for emotional eating. Finding other ways to cope with stress, such as deep breathing, meditation, or taking a warm bath, can help you manage your emotions in a healthy way. I recommend using a meditation App, such as CALM, UCLA Mindful or Headspace. Carve out some ME-time every day and all yourself to downshift for at least three minutes, ideally several times a day.

6. Engage in a hobby

Do something that "makes your heart sing." Engaging in a hobby that you enjoy can help you take your mind off of food and reduce stress. This can include activities such as painting, knitting, or playing music, or creating a vision board - either by yourself or with a group of friends. Even though we are busy adults, we still need time for fun and play!

In conclusion, emotional eating may seem like a difficult habit to break, but there are alternative practices that can help. Healing takes time and is not linear. Keeping a food & mood diary, finding other ways to soothe yourself emotionally, practicing mindfulness, exercising, finding other ways to cope with stress, and engaging in a hobby are all effective techniques to replace emotional eating.

Let me support you on your journey towards having a healthy and relaxed relationship with food. Reach out to me to book a consultation.

With compassion,



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