Editorial: Damn Emotional Eating


Emotional eating can be the end of your diet success.  

Emotional eating
Emotional eating

We all have stress in our lives.  I often feel intense food cravings when my stress is high.  I reach for those comfort foods to soothe the stress and make me feel better.  The problem is that the comfort foods do not help me feel good in the long run as I pack on the pounds.  The overeating is driving me crazy. The more I  ate, the more I want.  It is a never-ending cycle that is not fixing the underlying problem.  The underlying problem is the stress that drives me to eat.  

Does this sound familiar? Do we have something in common?  No matter how healthy, driven, or focused on you healthy you are, your emotions play a role in what, how much, and why you eat what you eat.  Food is not the cure.  Food may distract from stressors that lead you down this path, but the temporary relief is just what it is – Temporary.  That relief you feel is going to be quickly replaced by feelings of guilt and shame as the impact of your pleasant indiscretion sinks in.   The problem is that emotional eating difficult to control unless you recognize the signs and symptoms and become determined not to repeat it.

The key is mindfulness.  You know to identify the stressors that lead you to reach for alleviation.  I recommend that you keep a journal to record your patterns and triggers that result in you overeating.  By understanding what caused you to reach for comforts, you can avoid them and learn your weaknesses.  The journal will not only allow you to identify potential problems before they happen again, but it also allows you to better track your success and repeats them in order to better reach health and wellness goals.

According to the German Weight Registry​[1]​, a certain degree of restraint seems to be necessary for successful weight‐loss and weight maintenance.  This being said, high emotional and external eating may counteract this effect, resulting in weight regain in the long run.  A splurge is not the end of your diet unless it is continued over and over again.  The key is avoiding turning a one time mistake into a  new lifestyle.  

Journaling for weight loss keys:

  1.  Record your food intake.
  2. Record your exercise.
  3. Record any triggers that cause you to overeat or avoid exercise.  
  4. Learn from your vices and avoid them.
  5. If you must have them, limit the serving size.
  6. Build new and better habits.

The bottom line: Restraint is needed for weight loss.  A small splurge is not the end of the world.  


  1. [1]
    M. Neumann, C. Holzapfel, A. Müller, A. Hilbert, R. D. Crosby, and M. de Zwaan, “Features and Trajectories of Eating Behavior in Weight-Loss Maintenance: Results from the German Weight Control Registry,” O, vol. 26, no. 9, pp. 1501–1508, Sep. 2018 [Online]. Available: 10.1002/oby.22270″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/oby.22270
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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