Alternatives to Emotional Eating

By Linda McDonnell, Director of Quality Improvement

When you feel the urge to eat something, stop and ask yourself “Why?” Is it mealtime or are you feeling tired, bored, angry, stressed or lonely? If your answer isn’t physical hunger, why not try some healthier alternatives to soothe yourself?

  1. Meditation. Known to reduce stress and induce calmness in addition to other health benefits. There are many styles to choose from: concentrating on one thing, focusing on sounds, or paying attention to your thoughts. Find the one style you are comfortable with.

  2. Breathing. We all breathe automatically in order to survive but paying close attention to our breathing for a short time can help distract us from negative feelings. Find a comfortable spot to sit in and close your eyes, breathe in slowly and hold for a few seconds then slowly let your breath out. Repeat this for 5 or 10 minutes, or until you are more relaxed.

  3. Get social. Volunteer, call a friend, write a letter. A pet can be a great distracter and stress reliever if you live alone.

  4. Do some physical activity. Take a walk, rake the yard, do some weeding, go on a bike ride, or clean the house. Keep busy.

  5. Relax to music. Pick music that will soothe or calm you. Have some standby favorites ready at home or on your iPod.

  6. Do some craft or artwork. Knitting, crocheting, whittling, painting or use modeling clay. Start or finish a puzzle. We’re never too old to play!

  7. Take a bath. Relaxing in a warm tub – with or without bubbles – can help soothe away the stress.

  8. Take a nap. Give yourself permission to lie down with no distractions. Even if you don’t fall asleep, just resting can be beneficial.

  9. Make a cup of tea. Sit back and relax with a hot or cold cup of tea and look out a window at the scenery or people watch.

  10. Laugh. Yes, laughter can be the best medicine. Read some jokes from a joke book or watch a favorite comedy movie. Laughter can have many health benefits.

The most important thing is to decide what alternative may work for you and be prepared ahead of time: download the music, buy the modeling clay and special tea, sign up to volunteer. Get your toolbox set up and open it up whenever you need to.

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