Need alternatives to emotional eating

Today I turn 39. I don’t want to still be obese when I turn 40, so I’m putting together a “Fit by Forty” plan. One major building block is that I need to quit emotional eating - a lot of my excess weight is from using junk food to soothe myself.

So I’m trying to put together a list of things I can do to help myself relax and/or to feel like I’m treating myself, that have nothing to do with food. The tricky part is they have to be relatively cheap and easy to do - something I can do during my busy day of taking care of kids and the house, and that don’t cost more than the brownie or ice cream or drive through food they’re replacing. So while going to a spa might be nice, and certainly relaxing, it’s not the type of thing I’m looking for here.

Read a book
Buy perfume (the BPAL forum often has samples for a couple bucks)
Blow off housework
Rent a movie
Play a video game
Pedicure (at home)

Any other ideas? I really want to have a nice variety of things that I can just “plug in” to that place where I would normally eat a brownie.

Get a diet drink and take a walk.
Take the kids to the park.
Make a note of the time and promise yourself that you can eat as much as you want of any food in exactly 24 hours from now. If you still want it (emotional eating is a “I have to do it now” kind of thing).

Happy Birthday! Sheesh, I think I’ve known you for more than a decade now? Since before the Dope?

My first question would be what sort of emotions cause you to eat? Sad? Nervous? Happy? Tired? I was just reading about how certain emotions have certain “cures”, so it’s helpful to identify the emotion first.

Instead of prescribing the “cure”, I’ll instead recommend the book I’m reading. It’s Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Good book!

Secondly, are you aware of when you’re eating emotionally? Do you find yourself finishing a cupcake and then realize that you’re having an emotion, or do you experience the emotion and then decide to have the cupcake? If you can bring about the awareness first, then you can stop yourself.

Lastly, you implied that you’re looking for a distraction from the food. I’ll suggest that the food itself is the distraction, and you instead need to pay attention to the emotion.

Make your comfort food plain celery with no dips!

Whatever you do, make it sustainable.

Play a favorite song and dance. (No eating and it burns calories.) See if your kids will join in.

Some variety of short form meditation.


Wait, what? :slight_smile: When I started Weight Watchers (which I seriously recommend) I realized that I ate a LOT at work out of habit - go on break? Stop by the party table. Restless? Stop by the party table. Want to get away? Go downstairs and get something from the snack machine. So now I convinced my brain that a diet soda is a “treat” (not ideal, but better than chocolate and chips) and I go down to the break room and get a diet Coke instead.

Also, I find the tracking part of Weight Watchers really useful in that I often don’t eat things because I’d have to look up how many damned points they are.

You really need to look to the root of the emotional eating, or you are likely to substitute one form of addiction for another. Ideally for most of us we need a person to turn to for emotional support, especially if you have a committed (marriage/marriage like) relationship. Food is your substitute for that, and has the weight gain associated with it.

I would suggest trying to find people instead of food. I personally like hiking which has many wonderful aspects of not just social interaction but also connection with nature, but each person is different.

I would suggest looking at and putting in your interest, perhaps some fitness or weight loss meetups as well and go and try them, it is not just the group activity but also the social chemistry of the group that is important to overcome emotional eating.

It is also perhaps not the best to think of it as something you only use when you feel the need, because you are treating the symptom, look into something that will satisfy your very real emotional needs at the root level.

Though for temporary relief you might try swimming if that is available to you, a hot shower/bath if you find that relaxing, a walk, or maybe find a food that you can eat all you want and contains very little calories.

If the bad food is not in your house, then you can’t eat it.

In other words, the sin is usually committed at the grocery store. Simply don’t buy the bad foods.

Oh, that was another thing about starting Weight Watchers - you learn what all the zero and one point foods are and have them available.

And, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, kanicbird really made a great post up there.

Do you have a pet by chance? Taking a dog for a walk is nice. And they give you attention.

Yes, he did. I fully agree.

Also agree with meditation and keeping junk out of the house. Work is a little harder.

Perhaps it would be more sustainable to change your comfort eating to a food with little to no calories (or even negative calories). Something like celery or carrot sticks would be good. Celery has negative calories, I think because the energy required to chew it is more than the calories it contains. If you need a dip, I think a low-calorie vinaigrette dressing would work best. There is a calorie-free dip out there by some company named Walden, but all reports indicate it taste like utter tripe and is really, really thin.

Don’t hang out in the kitchen. The kitchen is for preparing meals, eating meals, and cleaning up after meals. Other activities should take place in other rooms. TV watching, hanging out and talking with other family members, internet surfing, or reading should happen in the living room, bedroom, office, or den, not in the kitchen or dining room. The problem with the kitchen or dining room is that you mentally associate those areas with food. In the case of the kitchen, there is probably food around that you can see. If you see food, you’re going to want to eat it. This is the principle on which most food advertising works.

Don’t keep food around in places other than the kitchen. No candy dishes in the living room (unless guests who expect them are here, right now). No food stashes or mini-fridges in your office or bedroom, unless the mini-fridges are used only for diet soda or bottled water. Don’t keep food at your desk at work. The only exception to this is if you are diabetic or have some similar metabolic problem where you might need to eat on very short notice. Just being hungry is not the same as the way a diabetic might need to eat right now.

Don’t eat in the car. It’s messy, dangerous, and people who eat in the car are usually not eating foods that are good for them. Other people sharing the road with you will thank you for breaking that habit. I got rear-ended a couple of weeks ago by a driver who was distracted when a bag of pretzels he had on the seat next to him fell off the seat. $2800 in damage to my car, and he (or, rather, his insurance company) was lucky I didn’t end up having to have my baby at 30 weeks because of the accident. If you’re eating while you’re driving, that is distracted driving. We all know by now that distracted driving is bad.

If you do buy them, buy the smallest package of them you can get. Ignore the cost per ounce or per piece. Getting more of something you don’t need for less money is not a good deal.


Well… if I could break this down into the simplest of actions, I would say to find proteins that make you happy and eat them.

Protein should be what you go to to feel satiated. Replace sugars and complex carbs in your emotional eating with protein.

I think this first step would help and be more realistic. Then, you will probably feel more stabilized and can step down and control it better, because there will not be a yo-yo effect as much on your body (insulin levels, etc).

Just my $.02

I find my comfort eating is always combined with something- for example, there is nothing better than sitting down to my favorite TV show with a bag of chips. But the problem is that the next time I sit in front of my TV show, I will crave chips like nothing else. So I try to pay attention to what places or activities trigger food cravings, and find a way to disassociate them. For example, when I have chips now, I put them in a small bowl and eat them at the table, with nothing else around me and nothing to do. A week or so of that, and the craving is gone (though if I do decide to eat chips while watching TV later, I’ll have to go through the process again.)

I buy Walden all the time. You get used to it. The taste is ok.

Clean the house and do all those little jobs you don’t do regularly. I can promise you won’t feel snacky after using a bamboo skewer to clean the edges of the toilet lid hinge.

I love this idea, and wouldn’t have thought of it in a million years!

I know, we’re old, aren’t we?

I will check out that book. My trigger is definitely stress. I have a propensity to accumulate stress - like I can’t let it go or dissipate it, so it just builds and builds, and eating something indulgent has been my “reset button” that gets me unwound again. Basically food=Valium.

Usually I’m somewhat aware of the situation, but I go into full rationalization mode and explain away all the reasons why I shouldn’t hit the Wendy’s drive through. This is also the issue with keeping the foods out of the house. I go into this state and go specifically buy or make something decadent.

Dancing, meditation, and orgasms are all going on my list, though it can be difficult to manage the second two while taking care of a 4yo. I can’t even pee with the door locked without having her banging on the door yelling “Mommy!”

I do appreciate the tips about avoiding mindless eating and the ideas for low-calorie indulgences, but that’s not really going to help me as far as this particular issue. The problem is that I’ve built up a very strong habit of seeking out bad-for-you food to “pamper” myself when I feel stressed out and put-upon. Protein, Diet Coke, or celery sticks will never ever ever ever ever ever fill that role. Likewise, it’s not really an issue of me absent-mindedly grabbing stuff that’s around the house (I do in fact keep junk food out of the house as Crafter_Man suggests), but more that once I get really stressed out and think about using food to soothe myself, I become obsessed with it, will go out and get it, and will explain away any objections made by my superego.

Ultimately, I think **tdn **is right, that it is best for me to be able to just learn to experience and cope with the stressful emotions. But damn, that’s a tough goal to reach. Hopefully once the kid goes to preschool I’ll be able to pursue my mindfulness practice more consistently and really work towards that, but I do think a substitute indulgence that doesn’t clog my arteries is a worthy stopgap.