[Guide] Breaking Up with Emotional Eating

by | Sep 13, 2020 | Lifestyle, Nutrition

What’s the #1 problem in the nutrition space right now?

Well, it’s NOT a lack of knowledge! There is more research, coaching, and education on nutrition and dieting than ever before.

It’s NOT a lack of resources! There are more books, products, and foods being produced than ever before.

It’s NOT that I’m not here ready to help you out! Hi, still here 

So what is it?


Historically, eating has been a very social thing for humans. We’ve feasted for victories at war, marriages or unions, births, deaths – you name it, it’s probably been celebrated with food.

Somewhere along the way eating stopped being about socialization and celebration and became a means for expressing emotion.

And that’s where it all went wrong…

Now, I’m not at all saying that food should not be an expression of emotion – in fact, we should put emotion and feeling into the food we prepare and eat – but we want that to be positive emotions.

As Americans, we aren’t facing an obesity epidemic because we don’t know WHAT to do or HOW to do it.

We’re facing so many issues with weight, body composition, and body image because we don’t know how to appropriately manage our emotions.

It’s time to break up with emotional eating, for good.

Here are 9 steps to stop your emotional eating:

#1 Refuel Your Tank DAILY

Have you ever wanted something SO BAD that you HAD to have it?

You would do WHATEVER it takes to get it?

THAT is how you need to think about your goal.

But that doesn’t just come automatically…

You and I both know how it goes –

  • Wake up
  • Step on the scale and look in the mirror
  • Decide you want to lose weight and get lean
  • Go ALL IN on your goal
  • Face a temptation, trigger for a bad habit, or a desirable
  • Quit

This is when everyone starts to say it’s lack of willpower or motivation, and to some degree it is, but willpower and motivation got you started, right?

So why couldn’t they keep you going?

Well, because willpower and motivation need to be refueled.

Think about your car.

If you don’t fill it up with gas once a week you eventually run out and it won’t run.

Willpower and motivation are people fuel, and the difference between humans and cars is that we need to be refueled DAILY (sometimes even more than that).

So, here are a few recommendations for refueling your motivation and willpower:

  1. Write out your goals and place them in your most frequented locations (bedroom, bathroom, car, office, kitchen).
  2. Review your ‘WHY’ every morning and night.
  3. Create an appropriate rewards system.

If you need help finding a goal to be motivated for, check out The Ultimate Goal Setting Guide I put together to help you break down your goals and find something to get excited over each and every day!

The Ultimate Goal Setting Guide

#2 Adjust Your Focus

Remember how I asked the last time you wanted something SO BAD that you HAD to have it?

Well, think about the kid at the store who HAS TO HAVE the toy or candy in the checkout lane.

What happens when mom or dad says “No?”


Now, it’s not fun to listen to as you wait in line, but you KNOW it’s not fun for mom or dad either.

I’m not a parent, so I can’t completely understand but I had my fair share of tantrums in the store growing up…

Add that to my working with mostly all mom’s and dad’s, I know that you just need to get that kid out of the store and to allow something else to grab the kid’s attention.

You need to adjust his or her focus.

Hopefully, you’ve grown out of your Target Tantrum Phase as an adult, but the whole thing really mimics emotional eating.

Your craving and desire for food is your tantrum.

You’re so overcome by emotion that it just consumes you – you want to free yourself of this emotion and give into that food SO SO BAD.

You keep telling yourself “NO,” but internally you’re screaming and crying for relief.

What you need is NOT to sit there, staring at the kitchen cupboard telling yourself “NO” over and over again.

What you need is for something else to grab your attention.

You need something to help adjust your focus, bring you back to the present moment, and appropriately process your feelings and emotions.

Here are my 3 tips for adjusting your focus:

  1. Go for a walk – this gets you away from the environment, pumps fresh blood throughout the body, and mentally breaks you away from the scenario.
  2. Read a book – Reading words on a page brings your mind back to reality. It quite literally stops your brain from creating stories in your head because it’s focused on creating and processing the words on paper.
  3. DO NOT Go to Social Media – Social media only further stirs up the emotions. The virtual reality on social media further encourages your brain to create stories in your head and sparks an even greater emotional response.

#3 Hydrate

And that does not mean with your favorite wine, cocktail, or sugary drink…

The reality is that despite having better access to clean water than any other country in the world, we SUCK at drinking water.

But when it comes to emotional eating, water is kind of like a neutralizer.

You know how you splash water onto your face to wake or freshen yourself up?

To some degree, drinking water does something similar to your internal environment.

Not to mention, adequate hydration can prevent a great deal of cravings because of its ability to shuffle along nutrients AND keep you feeing fuller longer.

Here are my 3 tips for drinking more water:

  1. Keep a water bottle or glass in your most frequented locations (Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, office, and car).
  2. Drink one 8 oz. glass of water first thing in the morning and right before bed.
  3. Drink a glass of water before eating.

#4 Alter Social Media Interactions

Scroll back up to #2 Adjust Your Focus and take a look at the tips – DO NOT go on social media when trying to adjust your focus.

Now, it’s unrealistic for me to ask you to NEVER go on social media. Heck, it would also be really dumb since that’s where you picked up this blog and I publish most of my content…

BUT, social media is a MAJOR trigger for emotional eating for many individuals.

A University of Pittsburgh study that was published in June of 2013 found that the greater the amount of time spent on Facebook led to higher BMI’s AND an increased tendency for binge eating.


Well, social media shows us the lives of others, which can lead you right into The Comparison Game.

You start to see the lives of others and begin wishing you could have that.

You become envious of the success of others.

You become emotionally triggered by the views or perspectives of others.

And it doesn’t even matter what YOU post!

You could feel great about what you post, but research has still found that social media usage STILL triggers a decrease in self-control and unhealthy snacking.

I’m not telling you to cut out social media, but here are 3 tips to better manage your usage to prevent emotional eating:

  1. Get rid of toxic people, businesses, and groups.
  2. Set a time limit.
  3. Focus on the media in front of you (AKA no eating, watching TV, or talking while scrolling).

#5 Prioritize Sleep

The number of people getting inadequate or suboptimal sleep is FAR worse than the people not drinking enough water…

A single night or inadequate or low-quality sleep can spark a BIG-TIME appetite and cravings in the following day.

Research has found inadequate sleep can lead to the following:

  • Change Appetite-Regulating Hormones
  • Intensification of Emotional Stress
  • Increased Impulsivity
  • Increased Cravings, especially for specific foods

So, just like that you’re going to start getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, right?



“I just don’t have time.”

“I’ve just never been a good sleeper.”

Really, the list of excuses goes on, but it all comes back to your desire to achieve your goals and your willingness to make sleep a priority.

Here are 3 tips to improving your quantity and quality of sleep.

  1. Time Block for It – What time are you going to bed? What time do you need to get up in the morning? NOTHING gets planned between those times.
  2. Create a nighttime routine – Help your body and mind wind down from the day and build habits that signal the body to start preparing for rest.
  3. Set Up an Environment for Success – Electronics off, cool temperature, clean sheets, and maybe even a fresh lavender scent.

#6 Find Alternative Metrics

I’ve been on a major kick lately for measuring progress OUTSIDE OF the scale, so I’m going to stay on that kick in this blog.

Your weight is important because it means something to you.

No matter how hard I try, it’s going to be VERY HARD (if not impossible) for you to completely take your focus off of your weight.

Because it’s been engrained in you as a priority for so long and it’s such a HUGE measurement and comparison tactic in our society.

So, I’m not telling you to smash your scale just yet, but I am telling you to find alternative ways to track progress.

Research has found CHILDREN who identify as overweight to more likely to report tendencies for overeating when they felt stressed.

The weight obsession takes our focus away from the signals our body sends about hunger, fullness, and cravings.

There are A LOT of things you could track INSTEAD of weight, but here are my top 3:

  1. Body Measurements
  2. Progress Pictures
  3. Training Metrics

Before moving on, check out this full video on recommendations for tracking alternative metrics.

Alternative Progress Measures

#7 Utilize Stress Management Tools

In a single day, how often do you say something like, “I’m just so stressed?”

How about in a week?

In my professional opinion, our stress levels have become some sort of pissing match.

It’s like a game to see who can be THE MOST stressed.


But also, in my professional opinion, I don’t think it’s the amount of stressors in our life that’s the problem…

I actually believe, it’s the LACK OF stress management strategies.

We live in this hustle and grind culture that loves to do more, more, more.

It’s done wonderful things for our society and world, but somewhere along the way doing something that WAS NOT hustling and grinding was seen as weakness.


In fact, you would be better and the Hustle and Grind Lifestyle if you DID take a break from it every now and then.

It’s tough to convince yourself that a break is not just necessary, but okay to take, so I recommend you start with 1 stress management strategy for every 2 stressful events.

So think of it this way, you workout in the morning and have a meeting with your boss first thing at work, those are 2 stressful events, so you’d need to do something like a gratitude practice, breathing, or a short walk to counteract the stress of those 2 events.

Here are my top 3 recommended stress management strategies:

  1. Walk – Not for exercise, not for speed, just a good old casual walk.
  2. Read – Get your brain out of the digital world, challenge it in new ways, and LEARN something.
  3. Journal – When you can put your thoughts, feelings, and emotions to paper you are WAY more likely to process them in a healthy way.

#7 Have Purposeful Time

Do you ever just wish you had NOTHING to do?

Well, if you’re hoping to kick your emotional eating habits, that might not be the best thing for you…

Having NOTHING to do leads to boredom, and boredom is an emotion that can definitely lead right into some emotional eating.

So while you may wish to have a break from the world with nothing to do, I encourage all of my clients to keep PURPOSEFUL TIME.

Don’t allow yourself to just sit there, but have something that you will do.

Keep it simple and relaxing (Hey, great stress management practice!).

But do your best to avoid sitting around, allowing your mind to wander, and creating emotions and stories during the nothingness.

Here are 3 ways to keep your time purposeful:

  1. Time Blocks – Block time for relaxation and to just chill but pair it to a task or activity.
  2. Do Nothing In Nature – My guess is you won’t start nibbling on grass, leaves, and branches.
  3. Find a Hobby – Finding a hobby you love can really help you to feel as if you’re doing nothing.

#9 Boost Your Confidence

This might be the most powerful tool in fighting your tendency to emotionally eat.

As a whole, humans have way too low of self-confidence.

Yes, we have those egotistical jerks who we can’t stand, but for the majority, our self-confidence is lacking BIG-TIME.

Research has found women to have higher self-confidence in their eating habits had the lowest likelihood to emotionally binge eat.

Trust me, I know that reading this you’re screaming at me that “IT’S NOT THAT EASY JORDAN!”

I know that it’s not, but it does make a world of a difference.

Here are the best ways to boost confidence in your eating habits:

  1. Approach Slip Ups with Curiosity – Instead of beating yourself down and telling yourself that you’re destined to be fat, ask yourself more questions. Find out WHY you slipped up or what triggered the event. Ask yourself how you could have changed the course or altered the situation.
  2. Meal-Time Gratitude – Before or after you eat, point out the things you’re grateful for to that point in your day.
  3. Focus on the Process – Your diet, your weight, and your journey are not determined by one single meal or event. No, it’s in fact the sum total of all events!

If you ask me, emotional eating is something every single one of us battles.

In part it’s because from the beginning of time food has been a point of celebration and emotion from weddings, births, winning wars, and changes in leadership.

But somewhere along the way, food became less of a means of celebration and more for coping.

It’s time to bring food back as something to celebrate with and to be enjoyed.

If you are looking for more guidance in managing your emotional eating, I’d love to share my story and journey with you.

Please reach out for a Consultation Call.

It’s not a sales pitch.

It’s just a way for me to help you see that you’re not along on this journey, and that I have some tools and experiences that can change the game for you.

FREE Consultation Call.

About The Author

Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.

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