How to Keep from Eating When You’re Sad

When you have emotional hunger, you're able to eat without stopping and never feel satisfied. Plus, most people generally eat high calorie foods when they're emotional.

The scene of the sad girl laying on the couch with a big container of ice cream crying in front of the television doesn’t just happen in the movies.

The situation might be different in your case. Maybe you choose a different kind of food. On the other hand, it may be a different environment, like  outside of your house. It’s true that when you feel depressed, sad, or overwhelmed it’s easy to eat.

How can you avoid those moments? We’ll tell you in this article.

Emotional eating

When you’re stressed, you eat. Then, when you’re sad, you eat. When you feel anxious, you eat. Why does this happen?

Human beings usually take refuge in eating when something doesn’t go well. Doing this becomes a bad habit. Unfortunately, it’s not one you can break very easily.

Depending on a food (or foods) to satisfy your emotional needs isn’t healthy. You should only eat when your body needs it from a physiological standpoint, not a psychological one.

Sometimes, you think that if your stomach growls and hurts you’re hungry. And as a result, you need to eat. However, many times your mind or emotions give this signal. This is because both are accustomed to getting a quick reward.

Immediate relief through food can be a double-edged sword. This is due to the fact that each time you’re going to need more to get the same result. This is the same thing that happens with drugs.

The act of eating should be influenced by your appetite and not your emotions or your mood.

The bad thing is that you can’t always differentiate between a physiological need and when your brain starts craving something that produces substances related to pleasure. This especially happens after eating food.

Because of this, your mind will always look for a similar reward. And when you find food… you’ll eat it. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t hungry or just finished lunch.

When you feel negative emotions, you eat. For instance, when you’re sad, you eat a chocolate, or when you’re nervous, you eat cookies. Then, your brain feels satisfied…


This is where the habit forms and will be harder to break.

How to avoid emotional eating

Each one of us has what psychologists call “comfort foods”. This means the foods that you choose for certain moments or with certain emotions.

For instance, when you fight with your partner, you may eat chocolate. When you’re anxious or bored, you may eat french fries. Or, when you’re feeling depressed, you may turn to ice cream and cookies.

Doesn’t it seem strange that no one comforts themselves with a carrot, tomato, or an apple?

The difference comes from the fact that fruits and vegetables don’t have high levels of fat. Because of this, they don’t satisfy you (or better said, they don’t satisfy your brain).

This is the first red flag that you should notice to avoid eating just because of emotions.

The steps that help you break this habit are:

Determine if you are really hungry

This is the hardest one of all. However, once you get it, the rest of the steps will look as easy as pie.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that sadness makes you eat things. These are things that during other times of the day, or stages of life, would never pass through your head.

Physical hunger is gradual, but it can wait. It’s open to various menu options. This feeling doesn’t cause negative feelings and the only important thing is satisfying it.

On the other hand, emotional hunger is sudden and urgent. It wants specific foods. This feeling makes you feel guilt or shame. Plus, it never gets full.

Another way to determine if it’s really hunger or not has to do with the amounts.

When your appetite is physical, you’ll probably feel satisfied with less food. If it’s emotional, you’ll turn into a “bottomless pit.” Then it’s likely that your stomach will hurt. You might also feel like vomiting or wanting to sleep for a few hours.

Identify when you eat “for pleasure”

Paying attention to how you feel is very important to know if your desire to eat comes from a physical need or not.

For instance, there are some things you can look for like: doing badly on a test, doing something wrong at work, fighting with your family, etc. If each time these things happen you start to devour food, it’s likely that it’s your sadness talking and not your stomach.

Analyze the moments when you’re more prone to eat withoutas objectively as possible. This helps you to get out of the kitchen or the fridge after these specific situations.

Hide temptations

This might seem like very extreme advice. However, it’s very effective for the first few times you’re trying to stay away from emotional eating.

If you go to the kitchen for a piece of chocolate and the only thing you fine is an orange, you have two options: eat the orange or go back to what you were doing.

If you’re hungry for something salty and the first thing you see are french fries, what are you going to do? You eat them, of course.

Instead, if you barely open the pantry and you find rice cakes, you’ll definitely end up eating them. Maybe this doesn’t break the habit. However, at least you’ll avoid binge eating and gaining weight because you’re eating unhealthy food.

Take control

You’ve already identified that you eat emotionally and when you do it. The next step is to concentrate on the other things and take the reins in the situation.

The impulse to eat when you’re sad will be very strong. You’ll need to be very strict and dedicated to yourself to win this battle.

You can try doing activities that make you happy. Or, you can do things that make you feel good. For instance, read, watch an episode of your favorite TV show or movie, listen to fun music, go for a walk, or go shopping.

There are so many options that we can’t write all of them in this article. You know better than anyone what makes you happy in the moment (and that isn’t food).