Lonely or Hungry... How to Deal With Emotional Eating

08/05/2013 05:32 pm ET | Updated Oct 05, 2013

Are you eating when you aren't really hungry? Are you stressed, lonely or hungry for something else, like love, affection, sleep, quiet time, space or clarity?

The trap of emotional eating is compelling and tricky, precisely because when we think of nourishing ourselves, we most often think of food. However, often what we really need is something else.

Many of my clients working to reach and maintain their ideal weight state that emotional eating is their #1 challenge. Here are a few tips to help keep you on the right track. Ask yourself all four of these questions before you decide to eat.


Sounds simple, but take a moment to close your eyes and feel into your body. How would you rate your hunger on a scale of one to 10? Don't eat until you reach a seven or eight on the hunger scale.

Then, ask yourself... what are you really hungry for? Tune in to ask your body what it really needs instead or reaching out of habit. What would most satiate you right now? Are you craving a big bowl of greens or brown rice/quinoa -- more comfort food? Or maybe you are needing some meat, eggs or something denser? Begin to build the muscle of intuition by taking the time to develop a conversation with your body.


Often we mistake hunger for thirst. Many of us are inadvertently thirsty and not realizing that we are dehydrated. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. (140 pounds = 70 oz of water.) When our body is running optimally, we are not as hungry.


Loneliness is one of the biggest drives toward overeating. We naturally turn to food to nurture and nourish ourselves. It is the most obvious way to fill ourselves up. However, when we are lonely, what we are actually craving is a little personal interaction, intimacy, love or friendship, someone to share our lives with. Human connection is one of our most basic needs!


If your answer is "yes," first ask yourself what you can do in this moment to be there for yourself? How can you show up for yourself? Listen to yourself? Honor what you need? When we learn how to be our best friend and "date ourselves first" we take the pressure off of someone else to fill us up. That nagging hole inside is filled up and overflowing. This is the difference between "aloneness" and "loneliness."

Surround yourself with people who inspire and uplift you. Focus on building strong friendships with people you admire. If this is a struggle for you, pick a couple of people who you look up to, or value who they are and how they move in the world. Reach out to them to connect, have a coffee and strike up a friendship. Building a strong community of like-minded people enhances the quality of our life in every way.


Food is usually our default for how we choose to nourish ourselves. You might just be depleted energetically and emotionally. You might need to take a nap, get more sleep every night or receive physical affection and deepen your self-care. There are many ways to feed yourself: get a massage or acupuncture, go to yoga or lay down for 15 minutes quiet time (yes, train your partner and your kids that mommy needs 30 minutes per day of alone time).

If after asking these four questions, you indeed decide you are hungry... ask yourself what food you really NEED right now. What is your body asking for?


Prepare food for yourself whenever possible! The act of preparing and nourishing ourselves is one of, if not "the" greatest acts of self-love, and every cell will radiate in happiness of you showing for, investing in and loving yourself.

When you eat... take a seat! Sit down! Sitting is highly underrated for exponentially increasing pleasure in your dining experience. It's also much better for the digestion and assimilation process.

Give thanks. Connect to the food you are about to eat. See it. Smell it. Notice the kitchen and people who prepared it. Give thanks for the nourishment you are about to enjoy and all the hands that worked to get this food to your table.

Take your time when you eat! Pause between bites. Breath! Put down your fork between every bite.

Have a meal with other people and enjoy the company and conversation.

If you eat by yourself, turn off the TV. Eat in silence, paying attention to your food.

Enjoy! Please leave a question or comment and let us know how you handle emotional eating. Your story is someone else's glory.

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