05/17/2014 08:28 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

4 Ways Your Social Circle Can Help You Curb Emotional Eating


Millions of people are affected by emotional eating. Food is both exciting and comforting, but using it to cope with emotions like anxiety, loneliness, boredom, or pain only alleviates those feelings temporarily -- and it's usually followed by major post-binge guilt. Luckily, seeking out social support can help you overcome your food crutch. First, by pinpointing what sends you searching for comfort food, and second, by seeking support from others.

1. Seek support and solidarity One in two people blame their binges on mood swings, so you're probably not the only one in your social circle eating to feel better. While unsupportive social interactions could be a potential trigger, social support can play an important role in overcoming emotional eating, particularly for those who tend to disengage when emotions run high. If you don't currently have a social support network, take the initiative to change that. Disengage with those who never have anything nice to say, and reach out to people you trust -- family, friends, coworkers, or seek solidarity in groups like Overeaters Anonymous. Using the strength and support of others can help you work through those tough emotions without food.

2. Talk about your triggers Tackling emotional eating requires that you first face those emotions that send you turning to food. By acknowledging those trigger emotions to others, you're being honest with yourself and building trust with those who want to help you. Sometimes a simple conversation can even uncover new emotions you've never related to overeating before. For example, it's possible certain social situations make you more likely to overeat. Once you've identified your emotional eating triggers, you'll be in more control of curbing your emotional eating.

3. Crowdsource eating alternatives When working to overcome an undesired behavior, it's helpful to replace one habit with another. Once you've talked about your emotional eating triggers, brainstorm some eating alternatives with your support network for the next time your emotions run high. One of the obvious ones should be to immediately call a friend, family member, co-worker, or someone from your support group. We all know that two heads are better than one, so the more ideas you can come up with the better prepared you'll be.

4. Substitute food with fitness-boosting alternatives A great strategy to prevent emotional eating is to trade food for a short bout of exercise with your fitness-minded friends. Physically, exercise reduces stress and anxiety, alleviates boredom, and releases feel-good endorphins. Getting one of your supportive friends to join you can squash feelings of loneliness and provide an opportunity for you to vent, too. The next time your emotions get the best of you, call up a friend for a 20-minute sweat session or a walk-and-talk around the block.

Emotional eating is more common than you probably think, so don't be afraid to seek support from your social circle. Social support can be a powerful component on your road to recovery.

To learn more about the power of achieving your health goals with others, download the free eBook, The Rise of the Fitness Tribe from MyFitnessPal. We'd love for you to share your stories of triumph and support in the comments below, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with #myfitnesstribe.