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Emotional eating means turning to food for comfort, not because you’re hungry. That bag of potato chips and those chocolate chip cookies may appeal when you feel bad. But the relief doesn't last, and it can make you overeat and gain weight.

You can learn other ways to manage those feelings, so that you have don't reach for unhealthy foods when you feel sad, stressed, anxious, or angry.

7 Ways to Stop the Trigger

When you notice that you are about to eat because you don't feel good, look for healthy things you could do until the urge to eat passes. For instance:

  1. Talk to a friend.
  2. Read a book or magazine, or listen to music.
  3. Go for a walk or jog.
  4. Meditate or do deep breathing exercises.
  5. Play a game.
  6. Do housework, laundry, or yard work.
  7. Write an email.

Keep a food diary. Write down what and when you eat, and what thoughts or emotions you have at each meal or snack. You may find patterns. For instance, you might notice that you eat for social reasons, such as when other people encourage you to eat or to fit in with a group.

You may also want to work with a counselor in "talk therapy." It's a good place to plan other ways to handle your emotions and how you relate to food.

Get Help

Sometimes developing alternative habits or distracting yourself from eating isn’t enough. Try meditation or counseling, or talk to your doctor to see what resources and techniques they recommend to help you cope with emotional stress.

As you learn to practice better coping strategies and to curb emotional eating, remember to reward yourself. By patting yourself on the back for a job well done, you increase the likelihood that you’ll maintain your new healthy habits.

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