8 Ways to Stop Emotional Eating

Put the fork down! Don’t let emotional eating interfere with your diabetes management. These tips will help curb your cravings.

Susan Amoruso
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Do you tend to raid the pantry whenever you’re overwhelmed, sad, angry or just plain bored? Fistfuls of cereal? Donuts? Last night’s lasagna? Do you forget all about counting carbs or calories? If you’re an emotional eater, you know firsthand that those feelings-fueled binges are not exactly diabetes friendly. In fact, if the episodes happen with enough regularity, the result can be weight gain, poor blood sugar control and high cholesterol.

Take heart: It’s never too late to put the brakes on emotional eating. Here’s how:

Get in touch with your appetite.
Before digging into that bowl of ice cream, ask yourself whether you’re experiencing physical or emotional hunger. Remember, physical hunger builds gradually, whereas emotional cravings come on suddenly. The following are symptoms of genuine hunger:  

  • Stomach pangs or growling
  • Emptiness in the stomach
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating

Keep your mind off eating. Not genuine hunger you’re feeling? Try distracting yourself for at least 10 minutes. Make a list of favorite activities that will keep your hands busy, and post it on the fridge for easy reference. If you knit, you’re one step ahead: One study found that knitting helped people stop obsessing over food; here are some other healthy distractions: 

  • Get out of the house and go for a walk or bike ride
  • Phone or email a friend or family member—and do this in another room other than the kitchen
  • Delve into a book or your favorite magazine
  • Teach yourself a new hobby, like painting
  • Break out a board game and play with a family member
  • Pop in a yoga or fitness video
  • Polish your nails

Wash away temptation. Food cravings can easily be mistaken for thirst, so before you dig in, make sure you’re not just dehydrated. Keep a water bottle nearby, and take a few sips to feel full and get your mind off the urge to eat. Or try sipping black tea. According to a study in the journal of Psychopharmacology, drinking black tea can lower cortisol levels, which are the stress hormones that can make you crave food in the first place.

Keep these comfort foods on hand. Oatmeal, tomato soup, whole-wheat waffles, baked sweet potato and grits…these foods provide a similar experience—creamy, warm, filling—to binge foods like mac and cheese. The idea is to reach for foods that can fill your emotional craving without being nutritionally disastrous.

April 2013