The 3-Step Method to Managing Emotional Binge Eating

Parsley Health
June 29, 2016

If you’re overeating to soothe yourself from uncomfortable feelings, you’re committing ’emotional binge eating’. It’s a common human coping mechanism and not a reason to hate on yourself but instead an opportunity to deal with something that is asking to be dealt with.

Work gets intense. Relationships get stressful. Family members get under your skin. You feel overwhelmed, frustrated, lonely, bored…and before you know it, your insatiable craving for chocolate, chips, or ice cream has turned into a full on binge eating session, and in the end you’re left still feeling the feels.

Sound familiar?

Often, when feelings get intense and uncomfortable, it’s hard to see past them, so naturally you look for something to drown out the discomfort, and food is an easy choice because it’s so accessible and you have emotional ties to it. But the relief you get from binge eating is temporary and you’ll never experience true relief until you learn to understand your emotions and work through them.

Instead of immediately turning to food to numb your feelings when things get tough:


Take a minute or two to acknowledge your craving. Check in with yourself to see if you are physically hungry, or if the craving is an attempt to soothe the discomfort. If you are physically hungry, have something to eat. If the craving is being driven by your emotions, allow yourself to notice what you’re feeling .

2.Acknowledge Your Feelings

Feelings are your body’s way of clueing you in that something is out of whack and needs your attention. Instead of pushing them away, get curious about them – take the time to listen to and understand what you’re feeling (without judgement).

You may find it helpful to write down what you’re feeling, call a supportive friend to talk about what you’re feeling, or speak with a therapist.

3.Give yourself what you need

Once you’ve acknowledged your feelings, ask yourself “What do I need?” Asking this question will allow you to become aware of what you’re really craving and find ways to soothe yourself without food. There are lots of ways to fill an emotional void, including:

  • Expressing your feelings – crying, journaling, pounding on a pillow or punching bag
  • Asking a friend or partner for a hug
  • Rest and relaxation
  • Singing, painting, dancing, and other creative activities

Choose something that feels good, and will allow you to receive the same type of comfort and nourishment that you typically get from food.

You may find that even after you’ve given yourself what you need the craving is still lingering, instead of trying to push the craving away and restrict, give yourself permission to have whatever you’re craving , and enjoy it by eating mindfully – chew slowly, notice the taste, texture and temperature, and stop when you feel satisfied.

Restricting “bad food” is a common cause of binge eating. You can avoid a binge by giving yourself permission to have what you’re craving after you’ve taken time to deal with your feelings. The more you practice soothing yourself without food, the less you will need to depend on food for comfort and emotional nourishment in the long-run.

Parsley Health

Parsley Health is the doctor that helps you live healthier, longer, by treating the root cause of symptoms and conditions. Our medical teams—staffed by leading clinicians and health coaches—spend more time with you, order the right tests, and prescribe food, sleep and movement alongside medications so you can get better—and feel better.

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