Controlling Mood Eating

If you use food to deal with uncomfortable feelings and this is making weight management difficult for you, the following may help:

Dealing With Feelings Without Food

For example:

  • Take a deep breath (or two or three) to calm yourself (Also see instructions for deep breathing).
  • Identify the feeling. Are you feeling: Angry? Sad? Happy? Lonely? Bored? Tired?
  • Allow yourself to feel the feeling rather than avoiding or masking it with food. Stay with the feeling for a few minutes. Experience what it is like to have this feeling.
  • Do something to deal with your feeling without food. For example:

If you are... You might...
  • Express it in a non-violent manner to the person with whom you are angry.
  • Hit a pillow or punching bag.
  • Vent to a friend
  • Do something physical to release the anger — go for a walk, rake the lawn, scrub the floor.
  • Cry for a minute or two.
  • Visit or talk to a friend
  • Do something that gives you pleasure (sometimes handwork can gladden your heart — woodwork or knitting are examples).
  • Stop what you are doing, if possible. Replace it with an activity you enjoy — go to a movie, do a craft.
  • Learn something new. Take a class: music, dance, cooking, Tai chi, yoga, painting, ceramics, bridge.
  • Call or visit a friend
  • Write or email a friend
  • Join a club or take a class that interests you
  • Take a short nap
  • Do something relaxing for a few minutes — e.g. daydream, sit down (with your feet up)
  • Meditate
  • Take a bath
  • Smile, laugh, or do what feels good to you
  • Sing a joyful song
  • Dance
  • Share your feeling with a friend
  • Take a walk and savor the moment
  • Recognize your success. Give yourself credit for dealing with your feeling without food!

Using Food Supportively

Sometimes you may feel that eating is your only option. If so, choose a food that will help you deal with the feeling you are experiencing without hurting your weight management efforts. For example,

  • If you are angry or tense, crisp, crunchy or chewy foods may help: carrots, celery, a crisp apple, popcorn, pretzels, chewing gum.
  • If you are in need of comfort, soft, creamy foods may help: low-fat or fat-free ice cream or yogurt, sherbet, pudding.
  • If you can wait, incorporate these types of foods into your meal. If not, use them as a snack.
  • Make it easy to stop eating. Take one serving. Put the rest of the food away. Eat sitting down. When you are done, make a conscious decision whether you want a second serving or not. If yes, repeat this process

If You Need Additional Help

If you are having difficulty identifying what you are feeling (which is not uncommon) or you have difficulty dealing with or managing your feelings, you may want to seek out supportive counseling.

  • Consult your family physician or clergy.
  • Check the yellow pages for a listing of private counselors or counseling centers.

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