Healthy Living Blog

Breaking Free from Emotional Eating

Struggling with emotional eating or binge eating can be incredibly stressful and demoralizing. Unfortunately, it’s common for people who suffer from these concerns to feel like the problem is a personal or moral failing.

In fact, unhealthy eating patterns are often the result of multiple factors that can be physical, environmental, and psychological. Learning how these factors affect you and developing helpful coping strategies can allow you to lead a happier and healthier life.

What Is Binge Eating?

Binge eating involves consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time while struggling to control food intake. If someone engages in binge eating one or more times a week for three months, they may be suffering from binge-eating disorder.

While many factors can contribute to binge eating, negative emotions like stress, guilt, and boredom are often involved. Dieting and struggling with a negative body image can also contribute.

Binge-eating disorder can lead to physical and emotional consequences that may affect someone’s health and well-being. The effects of binge-eating disorder can include lower quality of life, higher risk for illness, and increased risk for weight gain. Among individuals who have binge-eating disorder, up to two-thirds are obese, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

What Is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating can play a role in binge-eating disorder because negative emotional states often contribute to binge-eating episodes. However, emotional eating is also a distinct concern that can negatively impact someone’s physical and mental health. It involves eating in response to emotional triggers — stress, anger, fear, and more — instead of eating to satisfy true physical hunger.

Sometimes referred to as comfort eating, emotional eating can result in someone reaching for sugary or high-calorie foods that they feel will alleviate their stress. Like binge eating, emotional eating can make someone feel intense distress, as well as make it harder for them to stay physically healthy and achieve their weight loss goals.

An article in The New York Times explored how owning and accepting your food cravings rather than trying to avoid them may help you achieve better health and a more positive relationship with food. In one study from the Times article, participants who used acceptance and mindfulness strategies were twice as likely to maintain a 10% weight loss after three years compared with participants who avoided thinking about food.

Tips for Recovering from Emotional Eating

If you’re having trouble managing the amounts and types of food you eat and finding that emotional triggers often drive your eating behavior, there are many strategies you can try. Tips for reducing emotional eating include:

  • Engaging in healthy activities that can reduce stress, such as meditation
  • Eating regular, nutritious meals
  • Approaching eating in a well-rounded way that involves eating all kinds of foods
  • Accepting cravings without judgment
  • Being kind to yourself and remaining positive in the face of setbacks

You can also relieve eating-related stress by maintaining healthy habits and routines, including getting enough sleep. Research has found that insufficient sleep can stimulate cravings and contribute to less-than-healthy food choices. Other helpful lifestyle changes might include adding healthy exercise and increasing social support.

Structure House Can Help!

Both binge eating and emotional eating are treatable concerns. At Structure House, we offer personalized treatment programs in a comfortable setting with on-site lodging. Our programs can help people who are struggling with binge-eating disorder, obesity, diabetes, and other health concerns.

This year, from November 13-20, we’re inviting participants at Structure House to join staff members Keegan and Valerie as they deliver a series of workshops that focus on recovery from emotional eating. Contact our admissions team to learn more or sign up!

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