How to stop overeating or emotional eating

Why you are overeating

Are you eating when you're feeling particularly emotional? When you're depressed, angry or sad? Emotional eating is such a common way of dealing with difficulties and it can easily lead to overeating.

I've found that many people start wanting to deal with their issues with food when they find out that their partner doesn't find them attractive any more or when they reach an 'enough is enough' themselves. What was it for you?

Also, from my experience - of both partners are overeating there is a temptation to hide behind (or find comfort in) the fact that the problem with food (weight?) is a joint one.

You (we all) are set up to become addicted

Further down this page you'll learn why it is that we become so easily addicted, simply by how our brain works.  

This fact is not lost on the 'food' producers whose aim is to get you 'hooked' and craving for their ware. It won't come as a surprise, then, that it can be really challenging to stop overeating.

It's' no surprise either we so easily develop problems with eating, when you consider how, from a young age (even when you were a baby), drinking and eating generated feelings of comfort...

Calming children with food

As a baby, you would have cried and been given milk. Whether from the breast or bottle - it meant you were close to another human being and would have been soothed by the comfort (in theory anyway!).

As a toddler, if you were upset, stroppy or 'difficult' - a parent or carer may have calmed and quietened you with a sweet or biscuit. It's very likely that this worked - for a while at least.

As a school child, you would have arrived home from a perhaps stressful day at school and had a drink - and probably some food. You would have associated that (if you grew up in a safe household) with the comfort of your own environment. Or, if your home wasn't safe - the food would at least have been a comforting distraction.

And so on - you can see how often, from a very young age, comfort comes on the back of food. Again, it's not difficult to see how your previous experiences may be stacking up against your ability to stop overeating or emotional eating.

Particularly if you've been traumatised, overeating can in a sense become 'self medication'. This is similar to the development of alcoholism post-trauma.

Neurons that fire together, wire together. That means: nerve cells that transmit information in your brain at the same time will link to spark together in a pattern.

When one is activated, the other fires as well - automatically. Becoming aware of this pattern will help you to start overcoming your overeating.

Why can't you stop emotional (over)eating?

When we eat we're often 'in a trance' or 'entranced'. Emotional eating can be 'bliss'... actually, any eating can be bliss - it doesn't even have to be 'emotional'. Eating can offer a great opportunity to be together as a family or spend time with friends.

Trance states are a very natural phenomena. We go in and out of a trance all day long. You're in a trance when you...

  • are reading a good book
  • recall a memory
  • are transfixed by something happening in front of you

and so on. You may be aware of it when after a binge you suddenly 'wake up' thinking: "What on earth have I done?"

You can learn more about trance states on my page on self hypnosis instruction.

In addition, eating is one of those processes you've 'practised' for so long that you can do it 'with your eyes closed'. It can be an automatic process - again an indication of a trance - unless you train yourself to be aware of every mouthful.

Even worse, food manufacturers tweak and test their products endlessly to ensure that they ensnare you for good. They're designed to make you unable to stop yourself wanting more of their (very processed and fattening) products. How ethical is that?

And there you were, probably giving yourself a really hard time about your (emotional) overeating and your inability to stop.

If you're ready to tackle the problem straight away, I can't think of a better way to start than by using self-hypnosis. Have a look at my Hypnosis Online FAQs for help getting started with this great treatment method.

Picture quote: Are you the kind of person who can you persevere when it really matters?

The carrot and stick


Food manufacturers do everything in their power to make you addicted to the kind of foodstuffs that have no real nutritional value. Your cells are starving and yet you keep eating, because you are addicted!

We evolved to want more, get bored and aim higher - that's how we ultimately advanced from using stone implements to computers. As soon as we get used to or adapt to what we do (or eat in many cases) we're on the look-out for the next best thing. Hence we're at risk of becoming addicted to all kinds of things, including food. Again - that is normal!

Your imagination plays a big part in this - consciously, or very often unconsciously...  You imagine how wonderful it would be if you had that bit of food, that next bite, that bag of chips, sweets or chocolates. You imagine how good it would feel (knowing deep down that it would get you into trouble, but that note of caution is so easily ignored when you're in a trance state).

Overcoming overeating

10 Tips to successfully stop overeating

  1. Ensure that you find out what your particular pattern of emotional eating and/or overeating is.
  2. Identify your your triggers - sit down with a pen and paper and go through the list of questions on Problem Solving Strategies.
  3. Find a buddy and encourage each other:your partner, friend or colleague (see other helpful links below).
  4. Chew your food really well.
  5. Don't do anything else at the same time as eating. Make sure that you stay 'awake' whenever you eat anything - remain fully aware (remember the risk of getting into a trance state?)
  6. Have only healthy foodsin the house. Yes... your partner and children will have to learn to eat differently too! I'm sure that once you commit to doing this, you'll find a strategy that works for your whole family.
  7. Never leave the house hungry.
  8. Remind yourself that there is no failure - only feedback, should you fall back into your old pattern of overeating every now and then (identify the trigger).
  9. Keep an image in your mind of your being successful. Make it detailed and colourful, with sounds, textures and smells.
  10. Have a daily structure/routine and increase your knowledge.

Don't 'multi-task' - only eat!

6 Things you should never do whilst eating

To help you with this, never eat:

  1. in front of the TV
  2. whilst you are reading a magazine or book
  3. whilst you are working on your computer
  4. when you are in the kitchen
  5. whilst you are cooking
  6. whilst you are doing anything at all

Remember: neurons that fire together, wire together - so don't give your brain the opportunity to make these associations.

Focus on what's in your mouth. Eat slowly, whilst you're sitting at the table and in your mind's eye follow the food right to your stomach.  

Stay aware, so that you know when you're overeating.

How to deal with your emotions

Here are some great strategies to help you deal with the emotional aspect of eating.

First of all, I hope that you've found out what your particular pattern of overeating is and what your triggers are. This knowledge will help you to overcome overeating.

  • When exactly are you feeling emotional - sad, angry, scared?
  • Is it a cyclical problem - related to your menstrual cycle or the time of the year, whether it's hot or cold, light or dark?
  • Does it occur on account of relationship problems? Are you feeling unappreciated or not admired by your partner?
  • Does it happen after you've been criticised - whether or not it was constructive criticism?

You'll be able to find the finer details of your emotional eating by hopping over to problem solving strategies page as suggested above.

The most important advice I can give you is that you deal with your relationship or personal problems as soon as you can. Knowing that there's something really troubling you and doing nothing about it can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless.

Not only that, but should the problem escalate then you may find yourself completely out of control as events are then potentially dictated by other people's actions and reactions.

I'd also really like you to consider self-hypnosis - it's so easy, and such an effective and cost-efficient way for you to start solving your problems.

Stop giving yourself a hard time

Honestly, please believe me when I say you need to stop giving yourself a hard time! It'll only make you more emotional - which will add another layer of trouble and therefore further reasons for emotional binges.  

That's how it all becomes a vicious circle and it impedes your attempts to overcome your overeating.

The following strategies can all potentially contribute towards you being able to deal with emotional eating, so that you can overcome overeating. 

First of all, if you're in a relationship or married and you've been hiding your emotional overeating from your partner - pluck up the courage to tell him/her what you've been doing. That is - if you anticipate that your partner is going to be supportive.

If you're both overeating, then try to make a pact - you're in it together and you can motivate each other.

Do some further research and choose what appeals to you each personally from the following list.

12 Strategies to deal with emotional issues effectively rather than eating rubbish

  1. Counselling - I would recommend that, wouldn't I! (I am a counsellor, as well as the webmaster of this site)
  2. Emotional Freedom Technique (very powerful) - just type in EFT into Google and you'll find all that you need
  3. Meditation
  4. Dealing with depression
  5. Dealing with stress - see my page: Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
  6. Dealing with boredom (being bored is stressful too)
  7. Sorting out any relationship problems (see links) - please do sort these out... they won't get any better by pretending they're not happening
  8. Sort out any work related problems - it may be more easily said then done, but by taking action you'll feel less out of control
  9. Ensure that you meet your emotional needs in balance - see my page: The Human Givens
  10. Use your imagination for problem solving, not worrying!
  11. Take action - do it now!
  12. Most of all - consider Self-Hypnosis

Related Articles

How to Deal with Depression
How to Deal with Criticism
How to Deal with Rejection
Self-Help Anger Management
Bored with Life
Common Relationship Problems
Food, Depression and Anxiety

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