07/30/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

6 Tips to Conquer Emotional Eating

Eating for reasons other than hunger can cause unwanted side effects. The side effects can range from a few unwanted pounds to a serious eating disorder. Many of us eat when we are bored, angry, tired, procrastinating, happy, sad, excited, anxious, frustrated, etc. We eat to reward ourselves and to comfort ourselves. Wouldn't it be great if we could find better solutions?

I have found these six simple steps very helpful in battling emotional eating. Have you tried any of these already? Can you add to the list?

1) Am I hungry? Before you eat anything ask yourself the simple question, "Am I hungry?" If not, ask yourself what it is you want the experience of eating right now to give you. If you identify what you need, you will be better able to identify how to fill that need. For example, if you realize you are lonely and you are using food as a friend, maybe you could pick up the phone and call someone, or go out to your local Starbucks and get a coffee and be around people instead of eating.

2) Environmental Control. Don't have food at home that you are likely to overeat. This one seems obvious but you'd be surprised at how many people don't use this tool. Don't buy a big bag of cookies, chips, chocolates, etc. and keep them around. If you love these foods, buy them in small quantities so they don't tempt you at home.

3) Count Calories. Writing down what you eat and counting the calories takes all the good and bad out of food and turns it into numbers. You can eat a lot of food if you eat low calorie. If you want to use food for fun, friend, drug, you can do so with frozen yogurt, air popped popcorn, big baked potatoes, artichokes, veggies, shellfish and fruit. These foods won't do much caloric damage. Of course it would be best to change the behavior entirely, and not use food at all, but sometimes that just isn't an option. When one is so very attached to the food, sometimes the best choice is to switch to lower calorie options. It is kind of like switching to a low nicotine cigarette if you just can't quit smoking.

4) Fill up You Life. If you are using food to fill the empty space, then fill it with what it is you really crave. If it is more socializing, learning, volunteering, cooking, working out, quiet time, etc. you can make your life more fulfilling and satisfying by paying attention to what it lacks.

5) Enjoy Your Food More. When you have a love/hate relationship with food, it is easy to forget to enjoy it. We can learn to feel guilty when we eat anything and train ourselves to gulp the food down. We avoid the guilt but we also miss the natural pleasure of eating. Try and slow down, pay attention to the food you are eating and enjoy it.

6) Be Consistent. If you stop eating for reasons other than hunger, and you do this consistently, you will train yourself to respond differently when you get bored, frustrated, angry, lonely, etc. You will learn to eat when you are hungry, eat low calorie/healthy food, enjoy the food you eat more and fill up your life in healthy ways.

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.

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