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Strategies To Address The Triggers For Emotional Eating

Emotional eating or binge eating are generally the result of people using food to hide from, deal with, or even celebrate intense human emotions. Emotional eating can be triggered by stress, fatigue, boredom, or emotions like loneliness or sadness, among other things. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common triggers for emotional eating, plus healthy ways to address them.

Stress #1

Stress is one of the top triggers when it comes to emotional eating. Stressful situations and stressful inputs like work-related stress, financial stress or family-related stress can all potentially drive us to eat to relieve the feelings of the situation at hand.

Address The Trigger

To avoid stress eating, it is important to get in touch with your own hunger cues so you can realize if you are truly hungry or if you are turning to food for comfort and stress-relief. Maybe you are already aware of your hunger cues, realize you aren’t truly hungry, but still want to relieve the situation with food.

In this case, you’re going to need to get honest with yourself in that you can let the urge pass, and it will. When you struggle with the urge to open the fridge, use a mindfulness practice to be in the moment and observe what’s happening. The pause should help you to more fully understand the reasons behind your cravings.


It is super common to crave food when you are tired or fatigued.

If you’ve been sitting at a computer for hours on end, and can barely ask your brain to make one more decision, indulging in easy, convenience-type comfort food might seem like a common-sense answer.

Address The Trigger

If you find that you turn to emotional eating when you are overly tired or burned out, great way to distract yourself from this trigger is to take a break from the activity causing the tiredness. Take a nap, go outside, take a walk, or do some household chores.

Give yourself a chance to reset before returning to the activity in question.

Boredom #3

Another common trigger is boredom, this one is a huge one for me.

Along with boredom I tend to try to procrastinate by hanging out in front of the fridge when I need to get something done that I don't necessarily want to do.

Between the constant influx of activities and stimulation from screens, we are not used to the feeling of boredom and it causes us to feel uncomfortable and alone.

Without adequate coping strategies, boredom can lead to eating or even overeating, because eating is, well, something to do.

Address The Trigger

Have a list ready to go of potential activities you can do to relieve boredom.

Think: read a book, play a game, do the laundry, do some gardening, etc.

Keep this list handy for when the urge strikes.

Negative Emotions Like Loneliness Or Sadness #4

Many of us use food to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions.

Food can be a way to soothe our emotions as well as a way to distract ourselves from them.

During the act of eating, you might feel some relief from the emotion,

but as soon as you’re finished eating, the negative emotions return.

Address The Trigger

The best way to work through this emotional eating trigger is to get more comfortable feeling these unpleasant emotions. Remind yourself that emotions, even strong ones, are only temporary, and that in time they will pass. You can also employ some other ways to distract or work through your emotions, like journaling, painting, exercising, or talking with someone about how you feel.

Emotional eating is a very common issue that many of us deal with on a daily basis. It is important to take steps to understand as well as address your emotional eating, so you can find better ways to cope with intense emotions, boredom, or fatigue.

Overcoming emotional eating might be a long, hard road, so it's important to be easy and understanding with yourself while on this journey. You most likely won't be able to give up every bad food habit in one day, especially since they’ve been cultivated over a lifetime. So take it slow, and practice addressing these common emotional eating triggers.

Awareness of the trigger is a very important step in overcoming emotional eating.

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