Emotional eating is the act of using food in hopes to bring about a change in your feelings. Whether it is to help calm your nerves before an anxious event or to soothe anger or hurt after an upsetting event, emotional eating can lead to over eating and weight gain. Over eating also increases your risk for chronic disease including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Emotional eating is habit forming. It becomes a natural response to use food to soothe or to distract you from your emotions. Another issue with emotional eating is that it can make you feel worse if you overdo it. Who really needs that belly ache? If you’ve had enough with emotional eating, perhaps these tips may help you to re-establish healthier eating patterns.

Track your Food and Mood

Write everything that you eat down for 2 weeks. On this food journal, make note of your emotions, feelings, and social events that you may attend. Once you have documented your feelings and your food you can reflect back to determine your triggers. During the two weeks were you sad, depressed, anxious or lonely? The documentation of your emotional patterns and eating habits during this time period can help you get to the bottom of it. Keeping a nutrition journal can also help you to be more accountable for your food choices simply because you are writing it down.

Try Meditation and Yoga

Yoga and meditation are both mind-body approaches that help you to connect with your body through movement and breath. Both therapies have been studied and shown to be helpful for dealing with anxiety, depression and stress. If you are new to either approach, find a local class that can help get your started.

Keep it Moving

With respect to combating emotional eating, exercise serves many purposes. When you exercise endorphins are released into circulation. Endorphins are the feel-good chemicals that are released from the brain and into your circulation. For hours after your exercise the endorphins will keep your mood elevated, removing temptation and cravings. If you’ve gained a few pounds of fat, regular exercise will help you to trim the fat pounds and gain muscle. Increasing your muscle mass will increase your strength and help you to maintain a healthy metabolism. Hit the gym, head outside for a walk or turn on your favourite track and bust a move.

Choose a Different Distraction

This is where calling your friend is always an option. Perhaps there is something on your mind, perhaps you are eating just because you are feeling lonely. Connecting with your bff can help you to release some stress and perhaps discover what is really on your mind. Join a social networking group or volunteer with your favourite charity. Discovering a new hobby can provide more purpose in your life and uplift your mood.

Clean the Cupboards and Take 5

The average craving lasts only a few minutes. Therefore, before you reach into the cupboards, take 5 minutes and ask yourself what you are feeling in that moment. Next, clean your cupboards, emptying your shelves of your favourite comfort foods. If your favourite comfort food is not in the house, you will avoid falling prey to the emotional eating patterns and your craving will soon pass. Replace your comfort snacks with healthier items such as fruit, vegetables, healthy whole grain crackers, bean dips such as hummus.

About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit -