How to stop emotional eating with 7 smart strategies (+ free activity cards)


How to stop emotional eating is the focus of this week's habit change. I will present to you 7 smart strategies helping you end emotional eating including a simple 3-step habit change. You will learn to feed yourself with what you truly need and want.

how to stop emotional eating with 7 strategies and free activity cards

Breaking free from emotional eating habits has a lot to do with opting to move instead of remaining sedentary. Apart from exercise, incorporating pleasurable or routine activities into your lifestyle will do wonders especially for your mental health.

Why Regular Activity is Important for the Human Body

Remaining active not only prolongs life, but it also improves the quality of your later life dramatically. It protects you against cardiovascular diseases and strengthens your bones and muscles. Those who don’t move regularly reduce their body’s performance enormously.

Even the lack of movement within a normal course of life affects the immune system and might provoke postural deformities and osteoporosis.

A smart activity program, on the other hand, can encourage blood circulation and breath – both are important preconditions for a high level of wellbeing. It provokes a better mood and is more sustainable than comfort food.

I’m convinced that the below suggested arsenal of calorie-free activities will give you some inspiration as to how you can stop your habit of mindless eating.

What is Emotional Eating?

An emotional eater tends to consume larger-than-needed quantities of food. In such situations, people eat especially junk foods like potato chips, chocolate or ice cream which help them instantly feeling better. Food then doesn’t fill their stomach in a sense of physical hunger, but it fulfills their emotional needs. This positive feeling remains only a very short time and turns soon into a bad conscience.

Three of the most common triggers that can lead to overeating without real hunger are:

  • Stress and Anger
  • Sadness and Loneliness
  • Boredom

I won’t go into too much into detail, but a likely cause for an emotional eating disorder might be childhood trauma. If you experienced a lot of criticism in your childhood, then you learn to criticize yourself and never feel “good enough.” Click here to learn more about the causes of emotional eating.

chocolate hearts with banner: stop emotional eating

Incorporate regular activity into your lifestyle

A first step in overcoming this sticky habit is deep breathing and awareness. You overeat for a reason – always. Never ignore your emotional hunger. Identify it, respect it, and make every effort to feed yourself in the most appropriate way.

Each time you realize that you are snacking despite a lack of hunger, think of an activity other than eating that will make you feel better. It’s important to choose an activity that lifts your mood.

When you get active without calories, this will change your role from a victim to a doer.
Actually, anything that motivates a form of physical activity is better than snacking passively.

If you, however, experience real hunger, take your time and focus on mindful eating while enjoying your food.

3 core habits that can help

I did not expose you to this challenge until now for a specific reason.
Emotional eating habits are easier to change when you’ve successfully implemented other important habits from the past few weeks:

1. Get enough sleep: Researchers found that emotional eating habits were significantly higher in women who reported poor sleeping quality.

2. Let go of TV:
Nearly any activity you enjoy outside of TV will help you boost your energy, reduce tension and decrease your need for emotional eating.

3. Laugh out loud: Numerous studies have supported the view that laughter and humor are therapeutic for relieving anxiety and tension.

Are you on the way to tackling all three of these challenges successfully? Great! But you can do even more…

Relaxing activities for eating as a comfort

Try replacing your bad food habits with activities that are truly relaxing. You can improve your wellbeing and strengthen your body feeling through a bubble bath, a scented shower, a stimulating massage or by going to the sauna.

Another great option is singing. I’ve personally experienced how singing can help to resolve a lump in one’s throat. Consider it just another form of breathing. Our ancestors probably knew this instinctively as singing is an important part of our culture.

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7 non-caloric activities you can try besides exercises 

Any joyful recreational activity has the potential to conquer emotional hunger. Here you can find some more ideas for pleasurable activities.

1. Soak up the sun

Go outside and bask in the warming rays for a few minutes. Sunlight increases the level of vitamin D in your body, which in turn keeps serotonin high. Combine it with a brisk walk around the block or hang out in a beautiful park. It’s also good to know that even on cloudy days your body can still produce Vitamin D from sunlight (but it can take a bit longer).

2. Turn on the tunes and dance

Listen and dance to your favorite upbeat song and you’ll be happier in seconds. Songs that make you boogie activate the part of your brain that’s programmed for pleasure. Playing an instrument like the flute, guitar or piano can improve your mood instantly as well.

3. Engage in garden activities

A new survey shows that gardening makes you happy! The more engaged of a gardener you are, the more positive your outlook on life will be. Don’t have a garden? Get active and buy a bunch of tulips at the market. Being around colorful blooms or foliage relieves stress, increases calmness and soothes sadness.

4. Connect with friends and loved ones

Speak with a positive friend on the phone or on Skype. Walk around during your chat instead of sitting down.

5. Volunteer

People who help others tend to feel more positive about themselves. It's hard to look down on yourself when you're helping others.

6. Play with your pet

If you don't have a pet, you may want to volunteer at a local shelter. This will help you not only keep in touch with animals, but it will also offer you more social interaction you can use to overcome your loneliness.

7. Play a game

Play a board or a card game with your family. If you're alone, crossword puzzles are a good alternative. On a side note: Any form of movement will release endorphins and elevate your mood. Not only pleasurable activities work – necessary activities, like washing the car or digging the weeds, are great routines you can try until the urge to eat passes.

stop emotional eating: 3 smart steps

3-step habit change to overcome emotional eating

1) Organize yourself a small (wooden) “comfort box.” Aromatize it with your favorite scent – this could be your perfume or an aromatic oil you prefer. Just make sure you enjoy the scent when you open it.

2) Write on small cards what non-eating activities are doing you good: Check my inspirations above. It helps to think through these options ahead of time.

Activity Cards Small

=> You can download my simple activity cards (PDF) to get started. Use the blank cards to formulate your favorite activities.

3) Each time when you feel unhappy, pick up a card will help you to let go of your anger, sadness or boredom. The box should be regularly updated in a way that new ideas will steadily inspire you.

Bottom line: Never react to sorrows with food. Instead, develop active, calorie-free solace strategies. Getting active instead of staying passive will make you more self-confident and optimistic too.

What are your strategies?

Did I forget any non-caloric activities that help you with overeating? Please share them with us below in the comment section. (sports and fitness activities I will tackle in a future challenge)


2 thoughts on “How to stop emotional eating with 7 smart strategies (+ free activity cards)”

  1. Instead of controlled eating weight remains the same though quite active in working. Any other suggestions please

    • Dear Raj,
      my 52 week clean eating challenge does not propose overnight changes but helps you with small changes achieving a healthier life.
      One change per week, will add up to some significant improvements in your health, quality of life and also in weight loss if this is your goal.
      Stop emotional eating with pleasurable activities is an important first step to get more active. But this is just the beginning… expect in future more challenges in the context of activity and exercise that can help you to break your weight plateau. All the best!

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