Food is an everyday necessity for humans to survive. Food exists for the sole purpose of keeping humans and animals alive. However, if you are like me, you eat for fun or when you’re bored or when you’re stressed. Food gives many a sense of comfort and fills a void that may exist from time to time. This is emotional eating- the act of eating when you experience some types of negative emotions.

As an emotional eater, it is hard for me to control myself when I eat. When I start, I cannot stop. This causes me to feel guilty and worse about myself, degrading my self-confidence making me want to eat more to console myself. It creates a vicious cycle that not only harms my emotional health but physical health as well. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

If you’re not sure if you are an emotional eater here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
  • Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you may be an emotional eater.

There are many ways to help emotional eaters gain control over food again. But first you need to identify what is making you crave food. Here are the two most common reasons for emotional eating:

  1. Stress- When you experience stress your body releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and fried foods—foods that give you a burst of energy and pleasure. The more unchecked stress you experience the more cravings you have.
  2. Boredom or feelings of emptiness- Do you eat to relieve boredom or to feel better when you feel sad? When you feel unfulfilled, food is a way to occupy your time. In the moment it may distract you from underlying dissatisfaction with your life, but it only makes you have more cravings.

Learning how to control your emotions will stop the cravings and help you take control of your food. In order to control your emotions in a healthy way, you need to find other things that fulfill yourself. You need more than an understanding of your emotional cycle and triggers to control your cravings. Here are some things to do when you have a craving:

If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or video.

If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.

If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.

If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (listen to your favorite band, play an instrument, go on a run, etc.).

When you are ever feeling like you cannot control your cravings tell yourself you can. Everyone has he ability to change their life for the better. It only takes the self-awareness and the commitment to make a change. I'm trying, so can you.