More Tips on How to Stop Emotional Eating

3 Tips on How to Stop Emotional Eating - New York Times bestselling author and loser of 135 pounds, Andie Mitchell, shares her best tips on how to stop emotional eating

Read the first part of this series of tips on how to stop emotional eating here. 

Lesson 4: If you make it to 7 pm without bingeing, it’s too late to start now

There are times when making it through a day without turning to food to cope with life’s frustrations, sadnesses, and discomforts feels like an impossible task. You look at the clock all day long and it seems to be stuck at 1:30 pm. Everything that could have gone wrong, has. You’ve found every reason to eat for comfort. Nothing from breakfast to lunch to dinner has really filled you in the way you wanted it to. And yet, somehow, you’ve made it to 7 pm without a sheet cake of your very own. What strength that took! Now, I don’t know what time you go to bed, but let me tell you something — you can go to bed at 9 pm, and that is only 2 hours away. You’re almost there.

When you make it to the end of the day, on those days that feel absolutely insurmountable, you’ve got to realize how far you’ve come and what an accomplishment it was/is/would be to have survived a trying day binge-free. Not every day will be this hard. Maybe tomorrow, with fresh eyes, you’ll see a solution to today’s problem(s). Maybe tomorrow, after a good night’s rest, you’ll feel stronger and less pulled toward food. Maybe tomorrow you’ll feel like a million bucks. Think about what a damn roller coaster life is. But right now? You made it nearly to the finish of a rotten day and food would do nothing more than serve as a superficial comfort. You know this. Today might be awful, but you can do hard things.

Do the hard thing.

Lesson 5: Bingeing doesn’t stop pain; it defers it

The binger’s brain says, “I just need to give back to myself right now [by eating]” or “What I’m about to eat will make me feel good, and tonight, I just really need to feel good” or “This [food] is the only thing that can make me feel better right now.” I have binged enough times to know that none of these statements has ever turned out to be true. And yet, the thoughts keep coming. The key, then, is recognizing thought patterns, and then asking myself a few hard questions.

In moments when I catch myself saying things like, “Tonight, I just really need to let loose. Eating is what would make me feel better,” I take a minute to ask myself: What exactly would the food fix? What sadnesses would it soothe, frustrations would it ease, situations would it make better? And then, the one that always gives me tremendous pause: If I binge tonight, how will I feel tomorrow?

The answer to that last question, I think we both know, is much worse. If I’m sad or mad or frustrated or upset today, I’ve got one problem. If I binge to try to fix that problem, then I’ve got two problems. If I’m feeling some discomfort that’s causing me to want to eat, bingeing doesn’t rid me of it; it defers it. And then, tricky magician that it is; it doubles that discomfort before your very eyes.

Lesson 6: You know it’s over when it stops tasting good

It’s always the first thing you eat that you taste with the most intensity — the first cookie rather than the third, the first round at a Chinese buffet, the two slices of pizza you started with… Every serving or slice that follows, the food loses some of its flavor and a lot of its luster — even if you bounce from sweet to savory and back again. Soon, when the flavor’s gone, you’re just eating for the activity.

Once you start to notice that you’re not truly enjoying the taste of something as generally spectacular as a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, take that as a sign: it’s time to reassess.

Lesson 7: You are not alone

The more often I’ve shared my experiences with others and the more open I am about binge eating, the more aware I become that there are so, so many of us that deal with varying shades of food issues — from brief episodes of emotional eating to consistent and persistent bingeing. Truly, everybody’s got something. Read the comments on these posts. Read the comments on any of my weight loss posts, and see how many of us are here, relating to one another.

In the nearly five years that I’ve been writing this blog, thousands upon thousands of women (and men) have written to me about eating disorders, struggling with bingeing, and various forms of attachment to food. Even the people who you assume have it all figured out — they’ve got their own things. And if these issues are so common among so many of us, then we all can’t be the weak-willed monsters that we shame ourselves into believing we are after bingeing, can we? Probably not. Try to remember that.

If you’re struggling, with anything at all, you are not alone.

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58 thoughts on “More Tips on How to Stop Emotional Eating

  1. Hootie

    The part about the weak-willed monsters tho…sigh…every day we try. Love you Andie. Impatiently awaiting the book. Steve Harvey and Amy Poehler will tide me over until then :)

    Reply
  2. Donna Hopkins

    I am thankful for you, too! Even as I overeat, I can feel that I am I am hurting myself. The food doesn’t taste that good and there will be a price to pay. But my cravings still lead the way – too often. Your insights are accurate and the lessons are ones I will take to heart.

    Reply
  3. Tara

    Dear Andie, I’ve been reading your wonderful blog for a while now. Here’s what I’ve started to think, judging by the lovely commenters and marvellous you of course, it seems to me that perhaps lovely people feel hurt/lonely by the world more and then uniquely (to them) use food to quell the pain. It’s actually such a silent addiction unlike others which can disrupt the lives of other people too. Ironically, we’re only hurting ourselves because we’re so damn nice we wouldn’t dream of disrupting the lives of others by a full blown addiction of another sort! As for me I want to believe that I’m worthy so I don’t feel the slings and arrows of life quite as acutely and then overeat. Unfortunately, coating my delicate heart with cake and cheese has not made me suffer these slings and arrows less! So my wish for you and all the lovely commenters (and me) for the coming year is the wonderful sensation (not taste or flavour) of glorious self worth! Please forgive the assumption if you are lucky enough to feel worthy.
    Lots of love
    Tara

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      Tara,

      Thanks for your comment. A lack of self-worth has always been a major contributor to my overeating/binging. Best wishes for glorious self-worth to you too! :)

      Reply
      1. Tara

        Hi Jessica,
        Thanks for your comment to my comment! Your kind wish for me means that if you have made someone else feel good then you should feel good about yourself too :-)

        Reply
    2. Hootie

      Wow, Tara! My friend and I often talk (she initiates this thought, I agree) about it is the sensitive ones that see the world most intensely and that self-destruct…we usually talk about this in terms of celebrities (eg Robin Williams, Phillip S. Hoffman, etc). This comment though? It takes that thought to a new depth. And I just had to comment again and say that I agree with you! Thank you for writing it. Through awareness, I want to use the cracks to let the light in. That is why I love this little “community.” :)

      Reply
      1. Tara

        Hi Hootie, I feel the same about the people who are sadly simply not able to continue on. I love what you’ve written about using the cracks to let the light in, what a wonderful way to look at frailties. I wrote what I did because I knew that “this little community” would understand as they seem so humane as of course is Andie.

        Reply
    3. Laura

      Hi Tara
      I am stuck on your line “it is a silent addiction unlike others which can disrupt the lives of other people too..we’re so damn nice we wouldn’t dream of disrupting the lives of others..” How true is that! I always say to my heavy friend, if we were alcoholics, we would be thin but our families would be miserable! We can function and lives go on smoothly for our families. UGH what a battle. Thank you for your words. Self worth to you too!

      Reply
  4. Rhonda

    Thank you for sharing this. It is so doable when we think of it in these terms. I want to remember your words when I am tempted to eat something at 7 pm, or when I want to eat something just to fill an emptiness that food will not fill.

    Reply
  5. Melissa

    Love this. Love you. While I consider myself a recovered binge-eater, I certainly turn to food for comfort from time to time. It’s good to be self aware and have these reminders to turn to. The one that’s helped me is remembering that it DOESN’T solve anything to binge. I like what you say about it also creating another problem. So true. Thanks for the reminder! XO

    PS – Can’t wait to get my copy of your book in my hot little hands!

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Moving Away from Binge Eating: The Lessons Part 1 | Can You Stay For Dinner?

  7. Leah (goodnight cheese)

    Yes to this! I find it can be so helpful to just admit how I’m feeling, acknowledge it and not judge myself for it. Just saying out loud “Wow, all I want right now is to dig deep into an order of chicken moo shu and some dumplings. I REALLY want some Chinese food,” and not judging myself for wanting it or admitting it, can go such a long way towards not ordering the Chinese food and feeling fine with that decision.

    Reply
  8. Cindy

    Thank you. I need this. I need help. It is such a lonely disease. Unless you have battled this, you have no idea how horrible it is. I want to heal. I want to overcome. I want to lose the weight that binge-eating has brought me. Yet, it feels so insurmountable. I am beaten down by it.

    Reply
  9. Donna baumgartner

    It has been way too long since I have visited your site! I do the probably not so unique thing of not really being able to eat very much during a high stress time and then doing a very celebratory binge type of eating when the stress has subsided. This time the “celebration” eating has coincided with the holidays! Therefore the few pounds I lost during the stress is more then made up for by golly!
    I also tend to binge during social events because of the generally mild stress of just being in a social setting.
    I really need to read your blog mmmooorrreee! :)

    Reply
  10. Natalie

    Thank you! I just read both parts of this series and cannot tell you how much I appreciate your posts. I am working on some issues right now and you really give me hope. I ended up balling my eyes out recently because I cannot take the demons of this disease anymore, that I was letting tell me that I’m worthless because some of my pants don’t fit. It has kept me from enjoying life to the fullest because I’m so caught up on what I ate, if I look “fat”, if I don’t have a boyfriend because I’m “fat”, etc. I have had enough and am working to move forward one day at a time with more self acceptance and positive thinking. I can’t wait to dive in to your book this weekend. Happy New Year!

    Reply
  11. Annelies

    I think of the things you noted above, the one that calls out most to me is that first bite being the most intense. I sort of wonder if we chase the excellence of the first bite – the epiphany that some first bites bring – and overdo it because we can’t recreate it. That idea is one I’m going to chew on for some time to come. Thanks Andie and happy New Year’s to you.

    Reply
  12. Rachel

    Thanks so much for this post (and part one). It’s been a while since I’ve read your blog, but I really like what I’m reading now, it’s definitely what I need to hear. I love the reminder that we’re not alone in this struggle. I was going to mention all of my ‘unique struggles’ that give me an excuse to eat over the past couple of months, but you know what, they’re not unique. Everyone has struggles. The huge binge I’ve been on for the past few months hasn’t helped any of my problems at all – in many ways, it’s made it worse, paying for all that extra food!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you. I really relate to so many of the things you mentioned in these two posts. Definitely topics I’ve been working on myself with therapy and OA, and it’s great to see other people learning the same things.

    Reply
  13. Jay

    I found out recently that comfort eating for years and turning to sugar in times of stress actually created such strong associations that now I could eat a chocolate bar and unleash stressful scenarios from the past! I could be perfectly happy but because the associations are so strong eating a sugary “treat” actually ends up making me feel depressed and wanting to eat more sugar!

    This is a great blog and I will continue to read it with interest.

    :0)

    Reply
  14. Celesta

    You are a phenomenal human being, Andie. So many blessings to you and hope you had a wonderful holiday season and new year!

    Reply
  15. Kelley

    You once wrote (somewhere, I can’t remember exactly when or where) something like “the tenth bite is never going to taste differently than the first.” And that sentiment has always resonated with me, even years after reading it. To quote Oprah, you carry the light. Andie, you are simply the best!

    Reply
  16. Jennifer C

    i just discovered your blog because of the article in the NY Post. I’m so excited to follow you now. You are singing the song of my people.

    Reply
  17. Caz

    Much of what you write about resonates with me. I too lost half my body weight (the same as you in fact!) after I gained it during pregnancy. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Reply
  18. Hannah

    Andieeee!
    I can’t believe it, your memoir comes out tomorrow!!! Congratulations on that *truly* amazing accomplishment. I’ve been following your blog for the past few years, and have enjoyed every post. When you first hinted at the conception of “It Was Me All Along,” I was all for it. Every update was read with excitement and anticipation! I am such an impatient person, so waiting for this has been absolute torture. And now, finally, TOMORROW! :D
    Thank you for your hard work and dedication. This book will mean so much for so many.
    Cheers!
    Hannah

    Reply
  19. Sabrina

    I just started reading and I feel like someone is speaking directly from my heart and thoughts. I am so thankful to have found this website and I am so excited to read more. Thank you.

    Reply
  20. Connie

    Thank you. I just found you – by accident. Happy, lucky accident. As I was contemplating a trip to the vending machine and arguing in my head with myself. I found you and I read this and I cried. You understand. Thank you. Just knowing someone understands makes the need to “fill the hole” so much less important. I can do this. I’m not alone.

    Reply
  21. Jeanette

    This really hits home. Unfortunately, I have been battling weight, binging and body image issues for over 40 years. I hope to take the insights you’ve provided and add them to what I have learned over the years….still, I fight on.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  22. Lisa

    I recently discovered your blog through, of all things, my love of reading the Daily Mail online during my lunch hour. Loved this post and went back through some of the older ones. I will be on the lookout for your book at B&N!

    Reply
  23. Sharon

    Andie,
    Just finished it was me all along. Holding back tears because you expressed so poinently how I’ve felt for the last 20 years of my life. Seeing what a beautiful woman you are & knowing all you’ve overcome gives me hope that I may one day overcome my own emotional pain & stop using sweets to pacify the sometimes unbearable sadness/emptiness that I often feel.
    Thank you.

    Shaon

    Reply
  24. Anne

    I just discovered your blog due to the publicity for your book, which I will absolutely buy now. Your entries on binge eating really hit home. I have been bingeing almost daily for six months and I hate myself for it. I am taking the lessons to heart, and will be back here a lot over the next few days (weeks? months?) until I get over this hump. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

    Reply
  25. Hope

    I love this…Thank you..I’m currently engaged in an extreme mental debate with myself whether or not to lose the last 5 lbs standing between me and my goal weight of 100 (I’m 5’0 so it’s not unhealthy per se…the way I’ve been losing weight, though, is definitely unhealthy!), OR recovering and then losing weight the healthy way, and this article just gave me so much hope :)

    Reply
  26. Jennifer Delaney

    Dear Andie!
    I have never posted my opinion on any topic in my life. I just read your book and was moved by your openness and honesty that I felt compelled to be vulnerable too. As a personality that is naturally decadent in all things..including food I feel like this book will be life changing for me. Over eating and at times starving has been a lifelong roller coaster that I am continuously trying to get off of.
    My goal is too have it all and you have shown that this is possible.
    Thank you for being so generous as it is clear that you had the best of intentions for writing this book. You will help so many people and I can’t wait to share it!
    Warmest regards,

    Reply
  27. Stacey

    Hello- A different take on binge eating, and I’m really desperately looking for some thoughts/advice……I just want to eat. I want Deluxe Choc Chip cookies for breakfast with my coffee. I want Entenmann’s Raspberry Danish twist for lunch. I want PB m & ms for a snack and I want a margherita pizza for dinner. And this would be my diet every day if calories didn’t exist.

    I can’t live in a balance with the “bad” food- if I have a little bit of it, then I lose it for the rest of the day. It’s always all or nothing. The nothing, being when I’m “watching” and I am strict with my calories and I’m being very careful and stringent…..but then this is deprivation and I can’t make it last…..my life is a constant “when I get there I’ll be happy.” It never gets there. But I can’t really get my head around the “bingeing to defer something else”……I JUST WANT TO EAT all the bad stuff. I’m not deferring anything. How do I manage that? How do I stop it from happening…..what do I do????

    Reply
  28. Lora

    I found this blog yesterday while searching Pinterest for motivation. As I was reading it, I felt like I was reading my own diary. For 29 years, I too have had the same roller coaster issues with food, binging, dieting, guilt, etc. I woke up this morning, after about 2 weeks of eating “really good” and working out more, only to be very disappointed with what I saw on the scale. And I was about to go right back to what I always do…..I started thinking “It’s Friday. After work I’m gonna order pizza and breadsticks and just enjoy myself for once. Why not? When I eat good I don’t lose weight anyways so why punish myself so much for nothing?” This post knocked me awake. It made something click. Because it’s ME. It’s everything I feel inside. It’s my habits and my life. Giving in is what I always do and I never feel any better than I did before. And to see someone who has actually overcome all those things, it just gives me a profound sense of hope. It knocked me out of that self loathing feeling and stopped what could have been a weekend of “giving in” and ultimately giving up and becoming more than just the weekend. So thank you. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the world. Thank you for helping other people open their eyes to what’s really going on inside. I am seeing things in a different way and I want to keep going.

    Reply
  29. Kathy Lonergan

    When I first started reading your book, I had to put it down for awhile because your tremendously detailed and accurate descriptions of all the food, treats and behaviors were so real….I REALLY wanted some cake, brownies, cookies, and candy, altogether or any combination thereof. At that point I had lost around 15lbs…1/2 my goal. Now I’m at 25 lbs down. Finished your book in a couple days, actually…couldn’t put it down. My biggest problem is sugar…no surprise there…pretty common addiction. I’ve been sober for almost 20 years and reading all your experiences and how you gained victory over the food addiction reminded me very much of my struggles to get and stay sober. Food’s a little trickier since I have to eat to survive. But after reading this blog, I’m reminded that I have 12 miraculous, wonderful steps in my life and they can keep me in check with my relationship with food. You’re absolutely right in describing how giving in to any of those cravings doesn’t fix a dang thing, but creates more problems. I heard a wonderful statement one day during a Bible study about gaining victory over strongholds (which food is now for me) “I’ll never make it to my milestone if I can’t make it though my moment.” Give into those cravings and I’ll never make progress, never conquer the dragon, never hit my goal and stay there. The cravings come and go…I know this now. Thank you for this blog to help me remember such a simple thing. I find it amazing that you have this blog and can stay so strong. It would be a little like me hosting wine tastings all the time, which I don’t even go to. But I also sense that for the most part you have tamed the beast and know what to do when it starts poking at you. I’ve said this before on your FB page, your book really changed me…it helped me stay on track and thus lose another 10 lbs! Ten more to go and I get my new wardrobe! Which is a funny thing because I’ve been buying new clothes for awhile now, but just as old ones start looking like clown clothes. Anyway, thank you for writing that book, and having this blog. It’s things like this that help me remember who I am and what I can and cannot do. Of course it’s all about choices, so I should say it helps me remember the right choices for me. I’ll stop rambling now. I wish you all the best and continued success!

    Reply
  30. Renee

    I’m wondering why each lesson is punctuated with a photograph of some diet sabotaging treat. Wouldn’t it make more sense to post a personal photo, or something that relates in some way to the lesson instead of tempting photographs that make me and any food addict want to say “screw these lessons, I need those fries”. I’m not trying to be negative, rather, I feel like I’m pointing out the obvious. Love your blog, and your book, but give a girl a chance…

    Reply
    1. Susan

      I thought that, too, about the gorgeous food photos but then I thought about it and it made me realize putting yummy food out there in the open is real life and hiding it gives it more power. It’s okay to appreciate good food and to want it and to even, without limits, have it. The more exposed we are to the beauty in food, the less we’re likely to crave it, because there is no shame attached to it and no “you can’t have it” shame.

      Reply
  31. Susan

    Just discovered you, Andie, after reading your book. I have lost 50 lbs. and have about 20 more to go and this section on bingeing really “spoke to me” at a time when I needed it most. Everything you write resonates with me so deeply that I don’t feel alone in this weight-loss/return to health journey I’m on (the final one, I’m determined). It feels so good to have support in the form of your blogging and from those who comment. Thank you so so much.

    Reply
  32. Angela

    Last night… I could’ve used this article last night!
    I’ve just found Andie’s story today and (like many others I’m sure) I see myself in her and her story. It’s been several months when I started to ‘wake-up’ and I am 50 pounds lighter with at least 50 more to go. For a month now one thing after another has deterred me from losing any more or be able to stay on the fitness track that was helping me so much and last night I gave in and tried every flavor and texture I could find!
    I feel awful but now more hopeful after reading this.
    I’ve been wishing I had a friend to do this with and maybe now I can at least use Andie’s story as my ‘buddy’! Blessings to you all on this ride!

    Reply
  33. Linda

    Thank you for these tips on binge eating. I experienced it about 3 years ago and my weight problem really worsened. I got heavier, it’s also because of stress I started binge eating.

    Reply
  34. Raychael

    Every time I have the chance to read one of your posts, I feel myself coming to tears because I can relate so deeply. I’m certain that I am not the only one faced with this, because you’re telling the truth after all.

    Just beginning my trek on this long road ahead, it’s comforting to read this. Hopefully that came out like I wanted it to. Your posts are not only easy to relate to, they’re understanding. Of all the blogs I have come across reading and learning about other’s stories I’ve found that yours is the most connected. Sure, people connect with other winners in the weight loss arena but yours is just… different.

    You type like a friend, not an instructor. You speak from your personal experience and let us know how you felt and what you did…. it just so happens some of us are faced with those challenges too.

    Seeing your transformation, even though I have just jumped on board, is amazing. What’s most brilliant though is your ability to maintain the same throughout it all. Your words radiate kindness, support, and understanding. I cannot express to you for myself, and others I have turned your blog to, just how thankful I am for your words. You were beautiful before and you’re beautiful now. You’ve retained your sweet nature, not let your appearance change who you are, and you are there to share your story and help people along the way.

    So, like everyone else has done, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    -R

    Reply
  35. Christopher Pontine

    Hey Andie,

    Your totally right when you state

    “What I’m about to eat will make me feel good, and tonight, I just really need to feel good”

    It is crazy how good it makes you feel at that moment. If only we could harness that some other way.

    Well, it looks like I skipped Lesson Part 1. Better get to reading :-)

    Thanks,

    Christopher Pontine

    Reply
  36. Avriel

    I know this is an old post but I had a moment of realization – when I put the container of cookies back – that my binging has gotten out of control lately, I did a search and found this post. I just want to say this is the first time I’ve ever read anything that really feels like binging, you got all the emotions correct!! And you made me feel happy that I put those cookies away. I too have gone through losses and gains and now I’ve gained and have been miserable for over a week mad at myself and eating SO MUCH. I’m saving this to come back to and remind myself I can get through it.

    Reply
  37. Timothy Miles

    Great website. I particularly appreciate that you are creating delicious and satisfying meals that are low in carbohydrates. That is so essential when it comes to stabilizing your blood sugar levels thereby reducing cravings later on.
    it’s also wonderful that you are talking about changing your entire relationship with food. Attaining and keeping your weight is more than just denying yourself certain foods. It’s about changing not only what you eat but why and how you eat as well. As a hypnotherapist, I regularly work with weight loss clients and we always focus on changing all three so gaining a desirable weight becomes a natural and normal state of being. Congratulations on creating such an awesome website and for helping people find that new state of mind.

    Reply
  38. Pingback: Moving Away from Binge Eating: The Lessons Part 1 - Andie Mitchell

  39. Megan Leahey

    Time and time again I read your blog, book, posts and think “YES! She says EVERYTHING I haven’t been able to admit aloud or even verbalize when I try!!” Thank you SO much for your candid honesty and sharing your struggles and accomplishments. You bring this, at times, seemingly insurmountable journey back to reality and help me realize to stop, breathe, and move forward. Stop focusing on what seems impossible and just LOOK how far I’ve come. You are a new blessing in my life and I am so glad to have found you just when I felt I was about to fall, AGAIN! Now, I am becoming much more confident in the fact that I will NOT fall again, I will move forward, with imperfections, but move forward all the same!

    Reply
  40. Karen

    Hi Andie :

    I read your book a few weeks ago (after finding it in an airport)…and then I read it again…and again. I couldn’t get over all the common threads; it read like my own life ! I’ve identified with books before but not like this…very similar childhood (different Boston suburb though), relationships, a foodie food blog…and the weight, always the weight, crushing me literally as well as figuratively. It’s crazy and I can barely begin to explain…but thank you. Thank you for helping me feel not so weird and alone.

    I’ve been really enjoying your blog as well; after my awful, AWFUL Easter binge this past weekend I knew I had to come back and read this post. At 88 pounds down with only 6 to go to goal you’d think I would have a better handle on this…clearly I do not. We’re never really “cured”, are we ?

    Thank you again, for everything

    Reply
  41. Pingback: How to Recover from Binge Eating: Lessons Part 1

  42. Alexa

    I had to re-read this today for reassurance. I have lost over 40 lbs in the past two years and while its been a bit of a yo yo ride, I can say I’ve done it. The past two weeks I’ve been ill and it has been a tumultuous battle with those monsters to keep binging at bay. (Not to mention I discovered Mega Stuff Oreos and have to stop myself at two cookies before I actually go “Cookie Monster” on them.)

    Thanks Andie for always having our back. You’re a bright beacon of hope for all of us who struggle with this daily. Keep writing and we’ll keep reading! :)

    Reply

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