Emotions and Eating

Emotions can influence what, when, and how much we eat. For example, you have probably heard that some people eat to cope with stress. Another example is when people eat to preoccupy themselves when they feel bored.

When you eat based on your emotions, it can hinder your weight loss efforts. Usually, situations that trigger negative emotions prompt eating. Find out which emotions trigger your desire to eat using the chart below.

  1. Review the words below.
  2. Think about the emotion in each box.
  3. Note any emotions that trigger your desire for food.
  4. In the last column, add any other words that describe emotions or situations that trigger you to eat.
Afraid Disappointed Hungry Scared
Alone Fat Insecure Self-pity
Angry Fearful Jealous Shame
Anxious Frustrated Lonely Sleepy
Bad Good Lust Stress
Blue Grief Nervous Time to eat
Bored Guilty Peer Pressure Tired
Content Happy Regret Unsure
Depressed Hate Sad Worried

Remember which emotions trigger you to eat. If you have recently eaten and find yourself craving food, do a quick emotional check. Do you want food because you are hungry—or to fill an emotional need? Here are some tips to keep your eating in check:

  • Be honest with yourself about which emotions trigger you to eat.
  • Write a list of other things to do to fulfill that emotional need, e.g., call a friend, take a walk, drink a bottle of spring water, send an email to a pal, do a few yoga stretches, etc.
  • Assess your physical hunger using the Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale.
  • Remember that food will not make your emotions go away (it won’t fix anything).
  • Track the food you eat, how hungry you are when you eat, and how you feel at the time. You may get a better idea of which emotions trigger eating when you are not physically hungry.
  • If you are having a hard time, reach out for help. Involve family and friends to help support your weight loss efforts. Support groups, therapy, and members of your health care team can also help.
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