Does a fight with your mate or an argument with your teenager propel you straight to the bottom of an ice-cream carton? Does an impending job interview send you to the nearest drive-thru lane faster than you can say, “Fries with that, please?” Did you have a flat tire on the way home from work and then make a beeline to the fridge? Perhaps you eat when you’re tense, lonely, afraid, depressed, or angry—pretty much any time things go a bit wrong. If so, you may be overeating in response to emotions such as boredom, loneliness, anger, sadness or fear.
Take this short quiz to find out if you are an emotional overeater.
I turn to food when I’m sad, disappointed, or lonely. Yes ___ No ___
I often eat past the point of fullness. Yes ___ No ___
When I’m upset, I crave sweets or salty snack foods. Yes ___ No ___
When I go to parties or dine out with friends, I tend to overeat. Yes ___ No ___
If I eat too much, I feel guilty afterward. Yes ___ No ___
I eat more than I should when I’m home alone or bored. Yes ___ No ___
My moods have the biggest influence on when and how I eat. Yes ___ No ___
I like to nurture family and friends with food. Yes ___ No ___
I think about food a lot. Yes ___ No ___
I am unhappy with my weight, but I overeat anyway. Yes ___ No ___
Eating is my favorite activity. Yes ___ No ___
I tend to clean my plate; I don’t like to waste food. Yes ___ No ___
I binge habitually. Yes ___ No ___
The large amount of food I eat embarrasses me. Yes ___ No ___
Sugary foods tend to calm me down. Yes ___ No ___
Scoring: Count up your yes and no responses.
If you answered yes to eight or more questions: Your feelings of anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness, boredom or even happiness might be causing you to overeat. And you are probably an emotional overeater. You may be eating too much or eating chaotically, but what you are really feeding is something in your life: relationship problems, broken dreams, financial worries or problems at work. Try the tips below, but don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
If you answered yes to four to seven questions: You may be struggling with some emotions from time to time. You are a borderline emotional overeater. At this point, it will be easier to get your eating habits under control by applying some of the tips below.
If you circled three or fewer yeses: You probably aren’t an emotional overeater. You may occasionally use food to cope, but for the most part, it doesn’t interfere with your ability to manage your weight.
5 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating
1. Break free of the comparison trap. Is your worth dependent on what others think of you or how you stack up? Reverse that thinking !
3. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Having a strong support system is so important. Rely on talking to them instead of food to make you feel better when you’re feeling down.
4. Be mindful. Start paying more attention to your thoughts whenever you want to eat when you’re not hungry. When you are hungry, enjoy every bite. Also consider meditation !
5. Have a back-up plan. Whether it’s calling a friend, reading a magazine, going for a walk or even knitting, when you feel the urge to overeat or eat out of emotion, ask yourself what you’re really feeling and then go do something else to work through that emotion. Remind yourself that food never solves the problem. (And, of course, if you’re actually hungry, go eat!)
A big thanks to Andrea Metcalf for the quiz. Emotional eating is something that we all struggle with from time to time, but is something that can be overcome! —Jenn