By Nadia Popova

The ways we eat our feelings

Dealing with emotions can be confusing and often difficult. Sometimes we use food as a way to cope when dealing with difficult feelings. This may comfort or distract us from our emotions for the moment. But, this may be getting in the way of our goals to lose weight and prevent type 2 diabetes.

Emotional eating doesn’t just happen. It’s triggered by unwanted or uncomfortable feelings that we don’t know how to deal with or want to deal with. The first step in dealing with emotional eating is to recognize our triggers.


Common emotional eating triggers

There are several types of emotional eating triggers, and these triggers may cause you to overeat in different ways. The following lists the most common emotional triggers and has examples on how to change eating habits.

How does emotionally eating hurt me?

It makes me overweight

It causes my clothes to not fit

It makes me feel uncomfortable when I exercise

It raises my cholesterol level

It numbs me to the joys of life

Stress Loneliness Frustration Anger

Reward Boredom Depression Anxiety

Bribery Sadness Nervousness Spite

If you can recognize and identify your triggers, you can create solutions to help avoid emotional eating.


The simplest way to determine if you are over-consuming to manage an emotion is to ask yourself, “Am I eating because I am hungry?” or “What’s going on in my life and how am I coping with this?”

These questions will often result in the awareness that food is being utilized for more than hunger and there is a potential to unconsciously overeat.


The first step is self-awareness of the behavior of over-consuming to manage emotions.

The next step is deciding that this is not the most effective manner to handle emotions and then deciding that you would like to replace this behavior.

After this, a viable alternative is needed; something that positively impacts emotions. This could be physical alternatives such as light physical activity, deep breathing, temporarily leaving a situation to regain composure and focus or mental approaches such as looking at alternative ways to interpret the events or look for options and resources to assist with managing the situation (responding versus reacting).

It is also important to recognize the objective is not to completely eliminate emotional eating; this is most often highly unlikely due to the long history that we all have with using food to manage emotions.  The goal is the introduction of newer more adaptive options so the food becomes, “a thing you use, but not the thing you use to cope.”

Overeating isn’t the only negative behavior that can result in situations of intense emotions. Individuals may also engage in other behaviors such as over consuming alcohol, disrupting interpersonal relationships, isolating from others, engaging in self-sabotaging decisions/behaviors.

So, outside of rewarding yourself with food, how else can you focus your positive emotions?

One of the most important things to focus on is life balance. We all have experienced moments and periods when things were running smoothly. The objective is to make decisions and modifications in order to reinforce and sustain that state or efforts to reinstate it.

The recognition that over consuming food has not contributed to that positive balance in the past is also an important insight. It’s important to recognize that life balance does not always involve the absence of stressors and hassles in our lives, but being aware of non-eating options and choices to assist with the management of the emotions associated with those events.

We are starting our Monthly Luncheons for those who want to learn how to deal with their emotions. We will be meeting for 1.5 luncheons at El Corso in Palm Desert. If you would like to be a part of these meetings please reach out to Nadia at (760)880-9904