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Michelle Gottlieb Psy.D., MFT, LPCC
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Emotional Eating

February 2006


Have you ever had a really bad day, so decided to go home and eat some ice cream? Or a really good day and so ate a piece of cake? Or was sad, and ate pasta? Or bored and ate chips? Or ate for a reason that had to do with emotions as opposed to actually being hungry? This is called emotional eating, and it is a quite common phenomenon.

Everyone does it at some level. But it, obviously, is not a good tactic in dealing with your emotions. Okay, so you have recognized it, now what do you do about it? The first thing is to admit when you are eating when you are not hungry. If it has been less than three hours since your last meal, you probably are not hungry. If you begin to feel hungry while still within that 3-hour window, ask yourself what else is going on. Are you tired? Bored? Upset? If the answer is yes, find a more direct way to deal with those issues. Journal, call a friend, plant a flower, take a walk, play with your kids, deal with the person or issue that is stressing you out. Do something that has nothing to do with food, but is healthy for you.


When we fill ourselves up with food, rather than dealing with the issues, we will gain weight and get progressively unhappier. Emotional eating is also a habit. We might have never learned to do anything else. So, develop the skill of taking care of yourself. And, like any skill it takes time to develop and you will make mistakes. When you do, be nice to yourself, which doesn?t mean eat a pie! It means to forgive yourself and to endeavor to do better next time.


Another important tactic to put in place while you are developing these skills is to not have in your house whatever your comfort foods are. That will help you to make healthier choices.


So, eat and enjoy, but only when you are really hungry!


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