We’ve all been there. You start your day off with such great intentions. You plan your workout, and you know you have healthy food prepped in the fridge. You’ve got this…right? 

Well, except, your toddler doesn’t like her shoes now, the ones she’s been wearing for 3 months, and today she’s decided to throw an all out fit five minutes before you’re supposed to drop her off at Mom’s Morning Out. You are trying to reason with her, but it’s not working, and your 4-year-old can’t seem to find the special figurine he wanted to take for show and tell, so you’re searching under the couch; that’s where you saw it last. Finally, you get everyone in the car, but you are 10 minutes late and feeling like you’ve suffered World War 3 before you’ve really even started your day. You have a list a mile long, so you hurry home to get started, but you look outside, and the dog has rolled in something black and sticky and will need a bath right this minute. This was the only time you had to get your workout in. UGH, you are missing another workout, and you are feeling the pressure. You’ll never get everything on your list done today. 

By the time you hit noon, you are feeling exhausted and tired. You pull out your healthy prepped salad, it’s ok, but it’s just not satisfying you. And you think to yourself, “I’ll never get to my goals if I give in and eat something else. I need to be strong. I need to resist. I’ve got this!” You go back to your to-do list feeling like something is missing but slightly proud that you tamped down the urge to grab something sweet. 

Evening rolls around, and bedtime is chaotic. Your partner is traveling, but you manage to get everyone tucked in before you fall down to catch up on the news. In the quiet, you remember the kitchen is a disaster and think, “I really should get in there and clean up.”, but you feel exhausted. All of a sudden, you hear it…you hear them calling from the pantry…goldfish crackers whispering your name. Oh, the girl scout cookies that are hiding in the freezer…oooh..the bottle of your favorite wine —just one glass. You hear them whispering to you. 

All of it, the whole day, the stress, the earlier resistance, all of it is chattering in your head. And you decide, I deserve it. I’ve had a crazy day. Or maybe you’ll even say, “I deserve it – I was SO good today”. 

And you dive into the snacks, the wine, whatever was calling your name.  

Can you relate? 

Does this sound familiar? Well, it should, because it’s a very common struggle. You are NOT alone. 57 % of overweight adults self-report frequent emotional eating. 38% of adults say they’ve overeaten due to stress in the past month. Women more than men struggle with emotional eating to some degree or another, and they may not even realize it. Forty-three percent of women self-report overeating or have chosen to eat unhealthy foods in the past month due to stress, compared to 32 percent of men.

The good news is that you are not broken. Or you don’t need to find more willpower. Our brains are wired to crave hyper-palatable sugary and salty foods even if we aren’t actually physically hungry! These types of foods really are “comfort food”. This biological drive for feel-good chemicals like dopamine can keep us reaching for unhealthy options when we feel like we are under attack from our life or –well, a tantrum-ing toddler. 

Emotional eating is eating in a way to soothe emotions or as a way to make yourself feel better. Basically, you are trying to feel better about your stress, and we often turn to food to provide relief. 

When you occasionally use food as a reward, a pick-me-up, or to celebrate something, it is not bad. However, it can get dangerous when eating is your primary buffer of choice when stress or even boredom has you feeling uneasy in life.


  1. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly when your anxiety or stress levels begin to rise. Physical hunger is more gradual.
  2. Emotional hunger is a dire need – YOU HAVE TO HAVE IT NOW, whereas physical hunger feels more gradual.
  3. With emotional eating, you lose track of what you’re eating and how much you are eating. With physical hunger, you are aware of what you are eating. 
  4. When you stop emotional eating, you ARE NOT satisfied, and you can continue to eat and eat even when you are FULL.
  5. Once you’re done emotional eating, you feel GUILTY.



What makes you feel like you need to reach for food? Situations? Places? People? Boredom? Watch your stress levels during the day. Pay attention to your internal conversations – are you being kind to yourself? Unkind internal chatter is often mentally exhausting and a big part of why we are looking for relief at the end of the day.


Now that you know you are looking to destress, what can you do to make yourself feel better? Instead of rewarding yourself with a cookie for an accomplishment, or comforting yourself with a bag of chips, consider something that will make you feel better in the long term. Choose something that supports your goals. Maybe, treat yourself to a massage or a pedicure, or curl up with a good book, or spend time connecting with your loved ones. 


Find a friend or family member who you can turn to when you start to notice these triggers. Someone you can reach out to when you need to vent or, even better, a person who will help you diffuse your stress with a good laugh!! Also, surrounding yourself with a community of like-minded friends can be a great place to turn for support and encouragement as you travel on your health journey.


When you feel anxiety or stress creeping in, turn the table and make it fun or relaxing. Turn on your favorite song and dance, even when you feel down and depressed. Get outside and go for a walk to get away from the temptation of food. Take a bubble bath and read a book. Just understanding your triggers can help change your mindset and stop unwanted emotional eating.

Your biology is set to keep you safe! So don’t feel bad about turning to food for relief. Now that you know that you are wired this way, it’s important to take daily steps to lessen the automatic response to emotional eating.

I hope that these tips will help you see where you can make changes to stop emotional eating before it starts and help you feel your very best! 




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