Roger Gould, M.D.  

Specialties: Mental Health, Wellness, emotional eating

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How to Stop an Emotional Eating Episode (Part 1)

May 29, 2014 - 0 comments

emotional eating


Avoid Emotional Eating


stop emotional eating

Emotional eating occurs when you stuff down your difficult feelings with food. Facing your feelings, therefore, is the first step in stopping an emotional eating episode, and there are 4 skills you'll need to work on in order to start doing that:

    Accept your feelings.

    Read and interpret what your feelings mean.

    Understand where your feelings lead.

    Master the art of controlling and regulating the intensity of what you feel without being overwhelmed.

This blog post will draw from actual exercises we use in the Shrink Yourself program where we guide emotional eaters step by step through the process and teach them how to deal with stress and difficult feelings in an much more empowered way.

Let's start, then, by identifying the four kinds of feelings that trigger an emotional eating episode for you.

Feeling Trigger #1: Events

Volatile events have the potential to ignite your feeling phobia. Start by looking over the list below to identify any events you've encountered in the past few months that sparked your emotional hunger. Be sure to write down the uncomfortable feeling(s) that accompanied the event and made you want to eat instead of feel.

e.g. "When I'm dealing with my sick parent, it makes me feel exhausted. And after getting back from the hospital, I can't stop myself from binging."

    There's stress or dissatisfaction at work.

    I am not focused on something or there's a lull in my day.

    I feel challenged or pressured.

    The stresses of my life seem totally overwhelming.

    There's a lull at work.

    I have a free moment at home.

    I'm dealing with bills or financial problems.

    I have to work too long without stopping.

    I'm watching television.

    I am driving.

    I am in a meeting.

    I am with my family.

    I am in a room full of people.

    I am working.

    It's cloudy or raining.

    I'm under pressure.

    I have to take care of someone.

    I am alone for too long.

    I am forced to be in a room that I find uncomfortable.

    I have to do something new.

    I'm ready to go to bed.

    Demands are made by my children or family.

    I have a sick parent.

    I have an unsympathetic spouse.

    I have financial burdens (mortgages or taxes).

Feeling Trigger #2: Someone Else

Friction in relationships is the most common source of uncomfortable feelings. Look over the list below and identify the three biggest relationship frictions you've encountered recently that produced uncomfortable feelings in you and the powerful urge to eat.

"I get set off and want to overeat when someone..."

    Criticizes me

    Betrays me

    Misunderstands me

    Smothers me

    Judges me

    Deprives me of material things

    Manipulates me

    Takes their anger out on me

    Accuses me

    Neglects me

    Ignores me

    Competes with me

    Embarrasses me

    Ridicules me

    Discourages me

    Treats me like a child

    Compares me to others

    Threatens me

    Withdraws love from me

    Rebels against me

    Invades my privacy

    Lies to me

    Doesn't trust me

    Pressures me

    Underestimates me

    Takes me for granted

    Opposes me

    Clings to me

    Expects me to be perfect

    Scolds me

    Wants me to feel guilty

    Excludes me

    Overprotects me

    Doesn't respect me

    Blames me

    Overindulges me

    Scapegoats me

    Disappoints me

    Talks down to me

    Intimidates me

    Is unfaithful to me

    Overpowers me

    Insults me

    Insists on their way

Now write down your trigger statement based on your own three triggers.

e.g. "When I feel criticized by my husband, it makes me feel angry as well as jealous of my sister, who is happily married. And that combination of jealousy and anger makes me eat."

Feeling Trigger #3: Unprovoked Feelings

Unprovoked feelings happen after a volatile event or incident with another person--rather than at the time. This means that they may arrive at a time when you least expect them. A time when your brain is trying to understand exactly what happened and what it all means.

Look over the list below and take your time to ponder what events or other people may have been responsible for bringing on any of the unprovoked feelings that sent you running to the fridge.


















Now write down your trigger statement based on your own unprovoked feelings from the list.

e.g. "Sometimes late at night when no one is around, I feel lonely and have to eat something."

Feeling Trigger #4: Self-doubt

Each one of us has our own unique vulnerabilities that trigger our self-doubts. In fact, self-doubt is the first layer of powerlessness we cover in the Shrink Yourself program and something covered extensively throughout it. It's also one of the main factors that keeps your feeling phobia alive.

Look over the list below and identify which three labels you apply to yourself when your internal critic is screaming at its loudest.

"I find I need to eat when I believe I'm..."








    Mean and cruel



    Defective or damaged in some way

    Not a whole person



    Not feminine enough

    Not masculine enough

    Not self-sufficient

    Totally lacking warmth or tenderness

    Lacking courage or strength

    Lacking talent or ability

    Lacking what it takes to deal with people

    Unable to live up to reasonable expectations

    Unable to make or keep a commitment



    Too meek





Now write down your trigger statement based on your own three biggest self-doubts from the list.

e.g. "I find I need to eat when I believe I'm unlovable. In those moments I go to the kitchen and eat whatever I can find."

Up Next

By completing part one, you'll have arrived at a point where you've identified the feelings that trigger your emotional eating. These triggers are the beginning of an emotional eating episode. The next part we'll deal with are the Catastrophe Predictions you make based on these triggers.

Join me next week as we identify those, and progress through to stopping an emotional eating episode in its tracks.

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