From the time we’re young, it seems like every positive accomplishment is rewarded with food. Toddlers get a cookie at the bakery for sitting still in the shopping cart. As a little kid, sweets are often used as an incentive to “be good.”

For slightly older kids, the promise of a trip to McDonald’s for completing chores on time can light a fire under even the most stubborn ‘tween. High school celebrations — from sports wins to theatre performances and everything in between — usually feature some sort of food party: be it pizza, ice cream, or something else.

Given this tradition, it’s no wonder that many of us still turn to food as a comfort — either to celebrate a ‘good day,’ or to console ourselves through trying times. Luckily, there are ways to break old habits and release food’s stronghold on our emotions.

Understand the Difference Between Physical and Emotional Hunger

Many nutritionists advise their clients to perform the “broccoli test” to determine if they’re experiencing physical or emotional hunger.

Each time you feel the familiar tummy rumblings, ask yourself if you’re so hungry that you’d willingly and happily eat raw broccoli to satisfy the need. (It doesn’t have to be broccoli; you can put in any healthy food)

If the answer is ‘no,’ your hunger is probably more based on emotion than physical need.

Recognize and Avoid Triggers and Red Light Foods

Life is stressful. For many of us, food has always been the ‘go to’ to deal with our feelings. It’s important to understand why you want to overeat, or what caused you to overeat in the first place.

Are you upset with a friend or spouse? Try to talk it out. Lonely? Go to a mall or park and make a new friend. Tired? Listen to your body and get the rest you need.

It’s also important to remove red light foods from your home and office. These are foods that cause you to crave overly salty and sugary foods and drinks, and make unhealthy choices.

If you have trouble enjoying a spoonful of ice cream without being tempted to scarf down the whole pint, cross it  off your shopping list. If you know that every time you have a restaurant burger, you need to have fries and a large Coke, try making that burger at home, instead, and cut out the extras.

Healthy choices start with knowing yourself and remembering the past situations that caused you to fall off the wagon.

Get Your Mind off the Food

Replace emotional eating with other activities. Take a walk around the block. Get a foot massage. Close your eyes for a cat nap.

If food is calling your name, replace red lights with better options such as green tea, baby carrots with hummus, popcorn (not buttered), or other healthy snack favorites.

Practice Mindful Eating and Shopping

One of the most common causes of unhealthy eating is poor planning. No one wants to spend hours thinking about what they’re going to eat, but it’s important to have at least some sort of a “game plan” in place to keep you on track.

  • create a shopping list of healthy items you actually need, and stick to it
  • plan out meals the night before
  • arrive to meals hungry, but not ravenous. This will prevent you from overeating.
  • eat a little, rest a little. It takes at least 20 minutes for your body to register that you’re full. Slow down your eating pace and gauge your hunger after 20 minutes.
  • enjoy the experience. Eating involves all of your senses. See the presentation of the food. Smell the mouth-watering scents.

While eating is — at its core— mostly a means of survival, it’s really more than just filling our bellies. Using these tips, you can recapture control and bring a greater sense of enjoyment to your meals. ■

Until next time,
See You Alter™,

How do you curb emotional eating impulses? Let me know in the comments!


See You Alter™ — Waist Management™

Frank Samandari is an award-winning journalist, voice talent, and web marketer based in the Daytona Beach, Florida area. Once described by a doctor as “obese,” he lost 90 pounds in 2017 and has successfully kept the weight off through a daily routine of nutrition, exercise, and general wellness.