How To Stop Emotional Eating From The Inside-Out

how to stop emotional eating and food cravings

I wrote on this same topic in a post titled how to stop food cravings and emotional eating on August of 2017. I just reread it, and quite frankly I am somewhat embarrassed that I would put out such an article… It does however, allow me to see how my vision has changed.

In that article, I spoke of several outside-in strategies for stopping food cravings; food journaling, pattern replacement, spontaneous outcomes, 24 hour strategy, exercise, and meditation.

I now realize that article was built upon a faulty premise; that the world outside can make us feel something in inside.

While each strategy has its’ own place, they each encourage and promote an outside-in experience of life. They each represent something we have to “do” in order to reduce or stop our emotional eating and food cravings.

This approach implies that our feelings do not originate intrinsically, that our feelings are somehow given birth by what we do instead of what we think about. That somehow the actions done by us, or by the world around us, give our emotions to us.

This is not the case, and this is why I now recognize that outside-in strategies such as the ones I mentioned in my past article are built upon a faulty premise.

At first glance, these strategies appear to have lots of merit, they seem to establish a support system for ourselves to help us go from how we currently feel to how we want to feel.

But what if…

we didn’t feel the need to change how we feel?

What if…

we didn’t create resistance to how we feel in the moment?

What if…

we understood that our feelings aren’t controlled by what we do or don’t do?

If we no longer fear or judge ourselves on how we feel, we can loosen the tight grip we have on the steering wheel of our emotions, and create the possibility of letting go.

Imagine that?

No more desire or need to control your emotions. Guess what also disappears along with your relinquishment to the illusion of control? Your emotional food cravings.

When the need to change how we feel disappears, we no longer look to food to change how we feel.

When we feel the need to change how we feel

We arrive home from a long day at work after battling the daily traffic for what seemed like eons. There were construction delays, a minor fender bender on the highway going in the opposite direction that everyone going in our direction had to slow down to snoop at, we were cut off a couple of times, and all we could do was watch the clock and the rest of our night whither away.

We still need to make dinner, but first we must deal with our feelings.

We feel angry and frustrated among other things. We tell our self that we don’t want to feel angry and frustrated, that we’re home now and we shouldn’t feel what we’re feeling. We feel the need to change how we feel.

So what do we do? We resist those feelings through food.

Little do we know, we are about to feed our self with a false sense of pleasure that creates the illusion that we’ve overcome our anger and frustration! We snack on whatever looks appealing in our fridge or cupboards. We are feeling pretty mighty now!

An hour later, dinner is ready. We sense our anger and frustration returning…and the cycle continues infinitely, that is, until we have an insight toward a new understanding.


Because as long as we create resistance to our emotions, we look for a way to manipulate how we feel.

When we don’t feel the need to change how we feel

Using the same scenario as above.

We still need to make dinner, but first we must deal with our feelings.

We feel angry and frustrated among other things. We tell our self that it’s perfectly OK to feel angry and frustrated. We don’t feel the need to change how we feel because we understand that it will pass if we don’t resist it.

So what do we do? We sit quietly on the couch to hold space for our self for 5-10 minutes. We allow our feeling to be, we allow our thoughts to be, we don’t judge them.

We can let our thoughts and feelings come and go like clouds passing through a bright sky, with a knowing that they will pass on their own and the sun will inevitably shine again.

10 minutes later, we feel a sense of calmness come over our self. We have completely forgotten why we felt angry and frustrated in the first place. We have a chuckle at our neurosis as we make our way into the kitchen to start dinner with our mind at home.

An hour later, dinner is ready. We thoroughly enjoy all the flavours of our creation without the need to use food for elation.

What do you fear happening if you don’t resist your emotions?

In other words, what are you afraid will happen if you feel your feelings?

The answer to this question is worth exploring because the answer we discover is the very same reason we resist our emotions.

We are afraid of a certain outcome that we think will happen if we feel what we don’t want to feel in the moment.

Ironically, the outcome from emotional eating literally shortens our lives.

Outcomes such as:

  • weight gain
  • diabetes
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • cancer
  • insomnia
  • athlerosclorosis

We fear an illusionary outcome of feeling our feelings and replace it with an outcome that has been proven to kill us.

Not very logical is it?

When we peel back all the layers of fear toward what we think will happen if we allow ourselves to feel our feelings in their entirety, we are left with nothing, an empty space.

Within this space, lay new opportunities. Opportunities to feel the polarities, impermanence, and harmlessness of our feelings.

Our emotions are transient in nature, they always pass on their own accord, not ours.

Therefore, once we see through the illusion of our fear and cease to resist our transient emotions, we cease to crave food in an attempt to change them.

Our emotions don’t lead us to emotional eating, it’s our resistance to them that does.

Once this is experienced, it’s game over for emotional eating.

Yes, It IS This Simple

Most of us lead such complex lives that we feel if a solution to our challenge is too simple then it must not work. This is why I get a chuckle when I see the look on a clients face that basically says “THAT’S IT?”

Yes, that’s it.

Let your feelings be felt, they cannot hurt you. Resist and they will persist. Meet them with compassion and they will stop bothering you.

And when do this, and experience its’ profound simplicity, you can have a chuckle at your neuroticism that led you to believe food could actually transcend your feelings. You will now let your wisdom speak, and you will listen.

And soon enough, you will completely forget about food when an emotion arises.

What’s emotional eating again?

What are emotional food craving’s again?

Take care,

Learn from all your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

How To Stop Emotional Eating And Food Cravings

how to stop emotional eating and food cravings

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, that mid-afternoon craving, the dinners that aren’t complete without a sweet finish, the late evening crunch, and the uncontrollable urge to fill cravings when stress takes over your life. This can also be applied to alcohol for those of you who are constantly tempted by that ice-cold beer or a soothing glass of wine. 

It is not the act of eating or drinking alcohol that is the issue of discussion, it is the reasoning behind those actions. Since if you are not eating or drinking for any other reason except a feeble attempt to elicit a feeling that you perceive as more positive or beneficial than what you currently feel, THAT is the problem. 

Given that we are dealing with emotions here, your emotional distress may go very deep for some of you. This may take weeks, or possibly months of active re-conditioning to really take back control, while others it may come to an abrupt end after having created a massive paradigm shift in the mind. Putting a stop to emotional eating or food cravings is not a quick fix, it takes a keen understanding, a conviction to change, and daily conscious reinforcement. 

Hunger vs Cravings 

Understanding the difference between true hunger and an emotional food craving is absolutely pivotal to your long-term success towards eating intuitively. Most people that are emotional eaters have little to no distinction between the two. 

Follow the next step to help decipher between the two. 

 How To Control Emotional Eating With A Journal 

Logging your cravings into a journal is an amazing way to start understanding how your emotions and habits affect your cravings. You can really start to decipher between emotional cravings and true hunger by using this tool. 

Keeping a journal will encourage you to explore your thoughts, emotions, and habits and their relationship with food in a way you have never done before. 

I highly recommend you journal for a minimum of 2 weeks. This allows enough time for patterns to emerge. Nearly all of our daily actions can be traced back to a certain pattern. Once you are aware of the pattern, your brain picks up on this. 


 How To Control Emotional Eating Without Eating  

Emotional eaters use food in an attempt to elicit a certain emotion they would like to experience. This is why it is paramount to log your cravings in order to understand what those emotions are. This will bring awareness to what you were previously oblivious to. If you haven’t already, download the journal from the link above, this will make much more sense when you take a look at the journal.

Common emotions that trigger emotional eating: 

    • Despair 
    • Boredom 
    • Sadness 
    • Unworthiness 
    • Frustration (common from work stress) 
    • Fear 
  • Reward Based 

One major flaw with using food in an attempt to re-balance your emotional state (beyond the obvious of adding numerous empty calories) is that any positive feelings that may arise from your emotional binge are TEMPORARY!  

What happens an hour later when the high wears off and you go right back into that same undesired emotional state? Since you haven’t any other way to elicit the emotion your striving for other than stuffing your face with food, you will repeat the same pattern. 

 Breaking The Emotional Eating Pattern 

 STEP 1 – Get Leverage 

The first thing you need to do is get real with yourself.  Write down all the ways that your current emotional eating pattern will cause you misery in the future when it comes to your health, relationships, self-image, career, and any other area of your life that will be affected. Don’t beat around the bush, and don’t butter it up. If you think your current pattern has the potential to take 20 years off your life then write it down! BE REAL! 

If you do not get enough leverage on yourself you will not succeed. If you do not feel a compelling motivation to change the instant after you read what you wrote down then you do not have enough leverage on yourself. In other words, you need a stronger reason to inflict change. 

 STEP 2 – Replace The Pattern 

Write down 15 things (or more) you can do that will generate the desired emotions you discovered from your food log. None of these things can include eating ANYTHING! Sure, you can cook, as cooking is a fantastic therapy for many people. Don’t be eating your delicious meal as your cooking it though! And no, baking a sugar-filled dessert does not count! Cook a meal that will add years to your life, not take them off. 

Spontaneous Outcomes

This strategy relies on breaking the pattern through rearranging certain tendencies, or habits. For example, if you have a tendency to stay up late, say 1 hour later than you would like to go to bed, and this also tends to be a time when you do much of your late night snacking, simply go to bed 1 hour earlier. By doing this you will effectively break the current pattern of associating snacking within that specific hour prior to bed, and an association with whatever you typically do within that hour before bed. If you completely eliminate both triggers then there is nothing left to associate late night snacking with.

You can apply this strategy to any other evening tasks that are part of your ritual such as when you eat dinner, when you shower, when you watch t.v, when you call your mother when you walk the dog when you go to the gym etc. Completely re-arrange when you do all these things, mix it all up, it will throw your mind for a loop, wondering what you’re doing in the shower when you are typically watching t.v and snacking at that time. There is a good chance the craving will pass since you broke your evening ritual pattern.

The way this works is you are taking advantage of the fact that humans are creatures of habits and patterns, and manipulating this to your advantage.

This is such a simple strategy that it can easily be overlooked. It is extremely powerful and so easy to implement!

How To Stop Emotional Eating Through Extreme Measures 

Before reading ahead, you must understand that what I am about to discuss is not for the faint of heart. It is a drastic attempt to kick a particular food from your diet for good. It has the ability to be highly effective if putting an end to your emotional, and even habitual eating habits for good. 

 The 24 Hour Strategy  

The strategy here is actually very simple, you may even chuckle after you read it wondering if this guy is actually serious. 

Let’s say chocolate is the bane of your existence and you must kick it from your diet for good. Buy all of your favourite chocolates, if it’s just one then buy 1 kind if you have 5 different favourites buy all 5. Make sure you buy more than enough to supply yourself as the only food you will be eating for 24 hrs. 

Yes, that is right, eat those chocolates (or whatever food it is you’re trying to kick) for 24 hours straight. You are allowed no other food. You will get sick (literally) of your chosen food by the time those 24 hours are up. 

The Premise Behind This Strategy  

Most people can relate to this: Is there a certain food you cannot eat anymore because you have gotten sick off of it at one time? Maybe it was food poisoning, maybe you had the flu, maybe you drank too much alcohol etc. The reasoning doesn’t necessarily matter, because your brain associates being nauseated with this particular food it has been conditioned to reject even the mere thought of it. 

Your brain is currently wired to gaining pleasure from eating your chosen food. The objective of this strategy is to rewire your brain to associate disgust with your chosen food. 

 Exercise is A Strategy – And It Biochemically Changes You 

If you exercise or have exercised in the past, and you are mindful of your reactions post exercise you will notice a significant reduction or elimination of cravings. This effect can last the entire day if you work-out in the morning. 

For those people who tend to reward themselves after meals or are late night snackers, go for a 10-minute brisk walk and watch your craving disappear into thin air. 

Exercise has been shown to reduce Cortisol (our stress hormone), increase Dopamine and Serotonin (which is why you feel great after a workout), and improve insulin sensitivity (which will stabilize your blood sugar levels). If you have unstable blood sugar due to a lack of insulin sensitivity, which is the gateway to Diabetes, you will tend to crave after your blood sugar drops rapidly. 

 Meditation Is A Strategy – It Also Biochemically Changes You 

Meditation is gaining a very strong evidence-base towards its’ positive effects on the brain. One of the most notable effects is the ability for meditation to significantly reduce stress and change our state very rapidly. 

The rapid change of state can instantly reduce your stress, and in turn, reduce your stress hormone Cortisol and raise your feel-good hormones Dopamine and Serotonin.  

A great time to do a quick meditation is immediately after arriving home from work. This is typically when stress levels are at their highest and can last well into the evening and affecting your quality of sleep. 

For those of you who have never tried meditation, there is a fantastic app that you can use for free to guide you along the way. The app is called InsightTimer, you can click on the link below to download it for free. 

Download: InsightTimer

 And Remember…

You Must Take Action! 

Good Luck! 

 If you have any questions feel free to contact me, I would love to help you out!

Learn from all of your experiences, opportunities are everywhere.

Take care,

Rob Kish