I know the questions I am going to ask you here are tough, but the more you know about the factors that are contributing to your emotional and binge eating disorders, the more successful you will be at stopping them.

Keep in mind however that identifying eating disorders is not difficult; correcting them may not be as easy and you may need outside help.

Ending emotional and binge eating

As I just said, identifying emotional eating is pretty simple. Food is the fuel that gives you energy and keeps you alive. But when you eat not to satisfy a physical need but an emotional one, then chances are you are eating more than your body needs or consumes, a factor that will lead to excess weight as you may know by now.

When your stomach is full but you keep going to the refrigerator because you feel a need to have more food, that hunger is in your head, not in your stomach. Maybe you are bored, stressed, depressed, or your bathroom sink is clogged and because you always found a friend in food, you feel comfortable going back to it. If you have decided you want to lose weight, breaking this pattern of emotional eating is going to be essential in your success.

Identifying your emotions

The first step to stop your binge eating is to identify the emotions that are pushing you to eat when you are not hungry. As you open your refrigerator or your kitchen cabinets reaching for food, stop and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I hungry?
  2. Do I really need more food in my stomach?
  3. If I am not hungry, why do I want to have more food?
  4. What are my feelings now?

And here I have a suggestion. Keep a small journal by the refrigerator. Write these questions and the answers every time you find yourself in this type of situation. While you write your thoughts your will not be thinking about food. In fact, the brain cannot hold two simultaneous thoughts.

Note in your journal if you are tired, bored, stressed, or depressed. Write any events, a phone call, a cancelled plan, it is raining, anything that may have caused your trip to the food area. You may be surprised at how trivial the trigger can be, but make a note of it nevertheless. At least you will know what is triggering your behavior and hopefully it will help you understand that food is the wrong medicine in such cases.

Emotional eating questionnaire

To guide you connect with your eating behavior and your emotions try to answer this questionnaire. It includes questions that members of different support groups have put together to help them identify the connection between their eating disorders and their emotions.

    1. Was one of your parents obese? If so, how did the rest of the family cope with that?
    2. While you were growing up, was anyone in your family coping with an addiction – to food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, etc.)?
    3. How was food used in your home? Was it a bribe? Did your parents withhold food or certain types of food as punishment?
    4. What do you struggle with when you make food choices? Portions? Types of food? When do you struggle the most?
    5. What emotion is most likely to cause you to eat?
    6. What time of the day is most likely to happen?
    7. What precipitating event is most likely to trigger your binge eating?
    8. Who over the course of your life has had the most influence on the way you relate to food and your weight? List the people who had the most positive influence and the most negative influence.
    9. What are the foods that you crave most often?
    10. What are your first memories of food?
    11. Can you imagine yourself at a healthy weight? What do you think stands in the way of making that happen?
    12. Does anything about the idea of you having a healthy weight scare you? If so, what is it?
    13. Is there anything you can do to create a more positive environment so you don’t use food as your emotional help?
    14. Do you feel you are taking good care of yourself, physically and emotionally? If not, why not? What is in your way to do it?
    15. Besides food, is there any thing that makes you feel better when you are upset or hurt?

So, you answered the questionnaire. What is Next?

Identifying the causes that trigger your compulsive eating can be a big help on your road to both stop it and lose weight. But as I said at the beginning of this article, you may not be able to stop this pattern without outside help. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. You may consider joining overeating anonymous. The twelve-step program encourages everyone to have a sponsor. This program allows you both to attend its meetings and call your sponsor when you are going through a crisis and you feel you are about to give up. Talking to somebody who knows and has experienced with what you are going through is always a big help. Eventually you could be a sponsor yourself; in addition to help other people, it will make you feel very good about yourself.
  2. Exercise. Physical activity triggers the same pleasure chemicals that eating does. Try to replace the urge to eat when you are not hungry with some form of exercise. It will help you discharge the emotion that was driving you towards food. Walking will be great. You will come back home refreshed and feeling much better.
  3. Meditate. Meditation is a very powerful tool to teach you control your mind and thoughts. With meditation becoming increasingly popular in Western culture, you can probably find a center of meditation near your home. You can always buy CDs and play them at home. I do that many times; I love to meditate with soothing meditation music that gives me a feeling of peace and calm. It makes me forget about my computer.
  4. How about blogging? Ask a friend to help you set up a blog –you can do it for free- and start telling the world your thoughts about food. You may be able to help a lot of people and who knows, before you realize it, you may have a whole bunch of friends telling you about theirs.
  5. Ask your doctor to refer you to a Registered Dietitian. Many times, eating the wrong foods can lead to food addictions. Learning healthy eating habits is also a major step in helping you overcoming emotional eating. An example will be if you eat too many foods that contain too much sugar or that become sugar in your body too fast

A final thought

Stopping binge and emotional eating may not be an easy undertaking but if you can overcome the patterns that are causing your overeating, you will feel wonderful about yourself. It will also help you lose weight, of course, something not to take it lightly, since obesity is a risk factor for many chronic diseases.


I am Andy Carpenter and I would start by saying that I have a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition Science conferred by California State University, Los Angeles and that I am certified as a Registered Dietitian.

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