Do You Use Food As a Crutch?

DonutsI really enjoy eating. I think many of us do, especially after we’ve been on our Primal journeys for a while and have expanded our cooking talents into new creative territory. My opinion is food can and should make us feel good. It’s part of our evolutionary fabric. We eat for survival but also for enjoyment just as our ancestors did. Our very physiology is set up for it, in fact. We’re treated to a feel-good hit in our brain’s pleasure centers when we eat. That said, we sometimes get emotional satisfaction from the deal as well. For example, while not every meal needs to be a monumental creative accomplishment, those that are offer a unique satisfaction that goes somewhat beyond the physical. Other times, it’s not so much a culinary feat but a familial/cultural tradition that magnifies or deepens the satiation. (This time of year, of course, is prime time for sentimentalizing food – for better and worse.) Still other times, however, the emotional component is less a side bonus than the initial impetus. We’re drawn to eat because of our emotions. (And here’s where we begin to get ourselves in trouble….)

On a day to day basis, many of us might not automatically identify our patterns with emotional eating, per se. We might use food in a crutch-like, but not overtly emotional way like downing a couple cups of coffee each day for a continuing energy boost or unwinding from the day with a regular glass of something alcoholic (for me it’s having a single glass of wine most nights). In these and many other cases, they’re foods we “use” without problematic consequences. Likewise, now and then we just crave something non-Primal and allow ourselves the option. There’s no Primal police force ready to sound the alarm if you eat off the PB grid. I’m not on a mission to “normalize” orthorexia. Not every dietary indiscretion or indulgence suggests some deeper psychological issue. Sometimes a cookie really is just a cookie.

On the other hand, many of us have turned to food at some point to stifle or distract our emotions. We might eat at night out of abject boredom – or deep loneliness. Maybe it’s stress or anxiety, and food feels like an emotional salve in the moment. We’re sick, and we want comfort food. We’re in physical or emotional pain, and we just want something to take our minds off the discomfort for a while. Difficult times or transitions leave us feeling empty, and food becomes the filler or coping mechanism for a few days or maybe a few weeks (or several years). In these ways, emotional eating stands on its own in a stark way and substitutes for something bigger than what could be contained on the plate.

The fact is, food has tremendous power to heal, to enhance our enjoyment of life, to change us mentally and physically. We know this all too well in the MDA community. But when we begin to use food for these emotional triggers, we can over time begin wading into self-destructive or at least self-defeating behavior. When it becomes a regular pattern not only does our health suffer, but we suffer emotionally by putting off addressing what’s behind the impulse. As a general principle, we too often seek out the food related hit to our pleasure centers when we’re short on other pleasures in our lives. That leads us to the question of what to do when the emotional impetus creeps in….

Accept the biology of the situation.

Yes, food trips our feel-good trigger. We’re even hormonally wired to seek out typical comfort foods based on the interaction of stress with ghrelin levels. And our minds aren’t deceiving us about the stress relief. Research shows it can, in fact, inhibit our brain’s anxiety response. That said, there are any number of ways to achieve the same thing. No, it’s not in your head, but there’s a better way to work the system.

Hit the pause button.

Just stop. Stop yourself from walking to the fridge. Stop your thoughts. Go clip your fingernails. Brush the dog. Vacuum or shovel. Throw in a load of laundry. Feel a little gripped? Okay, you’re ready for the next point.

Assess what’s really going on.

Check in with yourself – recent past, immediate present, near future. Put it in the starkest, most blunt terms you can. Use profanity if desired. Have you had a really (blank) day? How has this week been for you? Are you worried about that (blank) project coming up at work or how the (blank) you’re going to pay for an upcoming trip or home repair? Even better – have a checklist. Journaling serves its purpose, but there’s something about the simplicity of a checklist (kept on the fridge perhaps) that stares back at you with immediate clarity. Write the day and check off what triggered the (blank) cravings.

Get your needs met.

Especially if this is a frequent occurrence, what is food standing in for? What’s going on emotionally that needs tending? For some, it might be as simple as taking some time off work, spending personal time in a more quality-oriented way (as in fun), or tweaking your schedule, commitments, or budget. For others, however, the impetus toward emotional eating isn’t just situational. It’s a deeply rooted association that has perhaps built up over years or even decades. Finding an experienced therapist and/or relevant support group can be key. Don’t force yourself to keep stuffing down the impulse. Unpack it. Bring it into the light of day to live unburdened by it.

Have a different kind of menu for these moments.

Again, post it on the fridge. Put a copy in your desk, your car, your purse, your briefcase, and wherever else you need it. When you’re “hungry,” (as in not), look at the list of other things you can do to make yourself feel good in the moment. Have at least ten things you can do. Add to it whenever you’re so inspired.

Finally, let me say one last thing about an emotion I don’t believe should have any place in eating. That’s guilt. I’d venture to guess that more misery has been been experienced and more pounds added from guilt than most feelings. It’s a cruel but telling irony. We eat what we know we shouldn’t and perhaps even really don’t really want to. Then we wallow in guilt, which leads to shame, which circles back to isolation and insecurity, and right back to the impulse to fill the emotional hole again. While we can’t change the past (whether it was five years or five minutes ago), we can work to cut off the cycle we find ourselves in. Cut it off at guilt.

This isn’t to justify the undesirable choice. You’re not justifying it or condemning it. Don’t tell yourself anything about it in fact. Conversing with our impulses rarely if ever helps. Circumvent the mental chatter altogether. (It does nothing but takes you down a rabbit hole.) Come back solely to the sensory and physical. Do something (other than eating) to get back in your body. Yup, the very one you’re probably looking at with more frustration or disappointment or disgust or self-loathing than you had before you ate the thing-you-emotionally-ate. Go against every instinct you may have and do something good for it – something healthy or indulgent or aesthetically pleasing. Put on something you look good in. Trim your beard. Go for a walk. Take a hot bath. Go float in the ocean or lay in the grass. Paint your nails if that’s your thing. The point is, realign your thinking in that specific moment. The cookie is gone unless you’re still carrying it around in your head. Let it go. The rest of the day is waiting.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Do emotions influence your eating? What’s been the best solution for you? Share your thoughts and strategies.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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62 thoughts on “Do You Use Food As a Crutch?”

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  1. I used to, but now I deal with many of my clients who do. It’s such a tough thing to get past and overcome, but having a strategy (like the one outlined in this post!) definitely helps.

  2. “As a general principle, we too often seek out the food related hit to our pleasure centers when we’re short on other pleasures in our lives.”

    You just hit the nail on the head. I hadn’t realised it until I read this, but that is exactly what I do. Time to look at the non-dietary aspects of my life. Thank you very much.

  3. What a timely post for those of us who spend a great deal of time alone – whether by chance or by choice.

    1. Yes. Most people binge in private. I try to keep myself occupied or away from home and around people.

    2. Yes, for those of us who spend time alone BY CHOICE.

      I just signed up at long last in order to respond to this very appropriate comment and Mark’s very appropriate post.

      I’ve experienced a lot of this comfort eating since moving abroad eight years ago: I’ve developed a daily bakery habit. Not only unhealthy, but also costly.
      Something I never suffered from though is guilt, whether guilt over eating, or guilt for getting rid of stuff – and sometimes people – from my life.

      Since finding out I am an introvert, and I need different kind of activities to make me fulfilled (reading, taking care of the plants, sitting in silence, just passing the time . . . ) my life has become so much more pleasurable and satisfying on many internal levels.

      Add meat and fat to that, and it’s no wonder I’m feeling better than I may have felt in my entire life before. I have incrementally been working towards reducing non-nutritional food and increasing real food, and that is what has allowed my brain cells to start making connections again. I’m planning to take on the 30 day Primal Blueprint Challenge in January. I’m ready for it!

      I am really grateful to Mark Sissons for providing this website and the ongoing stream of nail-head-hitting posts, and the comments from people who are taking on challenges of their own, every day. Thank you everybody!

      1. You can do it, Tee. If I can, you can. I love to eat and I used to love bakery and homemade, handmade pasta. Fortunately, primal life has many compensations.

      2. Since i’ve started down the primal path I have noticed a substantial decrease in my cravings for carbs and sugar. I’ve also displaced my emotional eating with exercise and meditation. I’m a disciple for sure! I sincerely wish for everyone the same joys I’m experiencing now with food and food prep. Thanks Mark! ~TH~

  4. One of the hardest things for me at the beginning was to look at food as something other than entertainment. I would eat out a lot (usually with friends, which I justified as a social thing) and “treat” myself regularly for having made it through a rough day or week. For a short time after I went primalish, food and eating became a drudgery. Now, I enjoy it again and have even learned to cook well and make “healthy” food taste really good. I will find nonfood ways to treat myself (a new lip gloss, a book, etc.) or indulge in a very small piece of a decadent chocolate or cheese.

    1. Yup. What you said. I also like the idea of trying on one’s little black dress, etc. Remind yourself why you’re not grubbing out if you’re not actually hungry.

  5. Eating problems, emotional or otherwise, are just one more sympton of “life out of balance”. Check out the movie Koyaanisqatsi, the film from 1982 is a must see.

    1. Funny, I forgot about that movie…I can hear the soundtrack now….

  6. I’ve found that strong stressful emotions have messed up my digestion (for two-plus years now). It got to the point that eating just about anything caused severe bloating and eventually chronic constipation. It became a vicious cycle: stress caused digestive troubles; digestive troubles caused stress.

    That is what drew me to Mark’s Daily Apple and the Primal Blueprint. The whole package–spend time outdoors, play, move, connect with others face-to-face, ease-up on what you eat once in a while, cut those grains and lower carbs without getting militant–what a great science-based reasonable approach.

    We’ll see if it helps in my particular case (currently finishing week one of the 21 Day Transformation); either way, a way to eat sensibly and calmly just makes . . . well, good sense.

    1. Kris – That is wonderful, congratulations on deciding to take on the 21 day transformation! I wish you the best for the 2 weeks ahead, post which, I’m sure you’d want to keep going O:)

      Keep Calm & Grok on!

      1. Thanks Vishnu! If it clears up my digestion issues, I’ll be a fellow Grok for life 😉

  7. Excellent post going into the holidays which are always fraught with stressors.

  8. Oh, how true! I have stopped feeling guilty if I eat something with sugar and I am doing something physical to avoid stress eating. My house is cleaner, my hobby is getting my attention and I am just about ready for Christmas and have lost weight since Thanksgiving. There are a whole lot of things to give us comfort and relieve stress, we just need to find our own,

  9. Amazing timing with this article, I’ve been struggling with this exact issue over the past weeks. Just as Lisa Abou-Sleiman and Sarah say, it’s time to address the other aspects of my life that are being negelected.

  10. Hey there! This post really hit me. I was super primal/paleo about three years ago, but due to many factors, including joining the military, I lost “it.” Food became my only friend and my worst enemy. The resulting depression got to me to the point of making myself throw up after meals. It was bad; really bad.

    Today’s post is wonderful at this point in my life, because I finally reached out for help and am coming out of the experience more awesome than ever. I highly advocate getting psychological help. The process is ugly and messy. It hurts like hell and requires a reliable support system. But it helps.

    Change happens from inside and once that change occurs, vices are no longer necessary for “happiness.” Who knows; maybe our inner demons are just as glucose-hungry as cancerous tumors?

  11. Yep.
    It’s basically a (poor) substitute for happiness, love, warmth, etc.

  12. Great post. I’ve always had emotional food issues, cravings, missing satiety cues, etc. But when I am eating clean primal, they almost completely disappear. I’ve found that interesting. It’s not strictly an emotional or habitual component, but that certainly is part of it. There is also a genetic component. My daughter, who shares my food sensitivities, also has these issues, but my son does not.

    It’s such a complicated issue of emotions, habits, hormones, blood sugar, food allergies, etc. Blend those all together and it certainly mimics much more of an addiction than lack of willpower. For me, gluten removal is a big one, but also sugar, and keeping protein and fat consumption high enough. But there other issues are there too, or why would the logical knowledge that eating clean makes me feel wonderful be overcome by a desire to eat potato chips? It does seem ridiculous and baffling.

    What really helps me is eating a breakfast high in protein and fat and as close to zero carbs as I can get. It really changes the course of my hunger and cravings.

    1. i am the same way. when i eat strictly primal, i don’t emotionally eat. mostly because nothing primal is going to give me the “hit” i need, so i look elsewhere… a walk in the sun, a call to a friend, exchange backrubs with the mr…

      1. Same here! I eat lchf whole food and the triggers just aren’t there. 90% chocolate is my “distant early warning”. If I want more than one serving, I have to check my emotional health. I used to eat mindlessly and I don’t want to go back there.

    2. I agree with your last paragraph, Colleen. It does make a difference to me too if my first meal is zero carb.

    3. That’s exactly what I try to do! The high protein and fat breakfast with almost 0 carbs really fuels me for hours and helps me make more primal choices throughout the day.

    4. Colleen you say the following: “But there other issues are there too, or why would the logical knowledge that eating clean makes me feel wonderful be overcome by a desire to eat potato chips? It does seem ridiculous and baffling”.

      Dr. Blaylock, a neurosurgeon says the following: “if you look at a lot of processed food you’ll see they do contain multiple toxins and multiple forms of glutamate, this excitotoxin. So I refer to them rather than MSG I refer to it as excitotoxic food additive. And they put it in virtually everything. Every processed food and those that don’t put it in there have trouble selling their food because they can’t get the taste hyped up enough to be able to sell it”.

      Here is another excerpt from an interview Dr. Blayock gave.
      Dr. Blaylock: “Yeah When I first spoke on this issue in Chicago at a convention one of the chief manufacturers of processed foods came up and told me, he said if you convince everyone of the toxicity of this, we’ll just change the name. We’re gonna get it in the food one way or another. I told him, well, I’m gonna tell everybody the story of our conversation and I do, I repeat this story because it’s very important. And the government allows them, if it’s less than 99 percent pure MSG they can call it anything they want to. Caramelized yeast, caseinate, carrageenan, natural flavoring, vegetable extract, protein concentrate, soy isolate, the names just go on and on and on and on, and they’re very benign sounding like natural flavoring. Well people think that’s natural, or it’ll say hydrolyzed protein or plant protein, people think that’s natural. That’s why you see it in so many natural foods and these natural food stores.”

      So Colleen, it is not your fault. We have all been deceived to create profits.
      We have to stay away from all the boxes and packages, even healthy ones can have excitotoxins in them too, and then the physical cravings can fade. The psychological ones take more time. For me, when I put something like that in my mouth now, it feels like an attack on the tongue…but sometimes there is this memory and the ever so small feeling…now…that I want to like it…*shiver* Twilight Zone. I am thinking we should never let kids even get started on this poison, for that is clearly what it is, poison.

  13. I don’t often feel the need to snack or binge eat since going Paleo. What always worked well for me in the past was to brush my teeth. There’s something about a clean mouth and teeth that eliminates the desire to munch. Years ago I used a similar trick to stop smoking. I rinsed my mouth with cinnamon-flavored mouthwash every time I wanted a cigarette. That stuff (if you can still get it) makes everything taste crappy for hours after you’ve used it.

  14. For me, the sentence “It’s a deeply rooted association that has perhaps built up over years or even decades.” rings true since emotional eating has haunted me for most of my 60 years. Even after losing 100 lbs, I still succumb to emotional triggers. Thank you for addressing this issue.

  15. Good stuff. I have five kids under the age of 11. On the evenings I have them by myself, I do some serious binging sometimes because of stress. Now that I’ve learned to recognize it, I’ve controlled it somewhat. I find that turning those evenings into quality time with the kids lessens those tendencies.

  16. I’ve found that my depression craves chocolate cake. I lost my dad to cancer the week after I had a baby in August. 2 months of chocolate cake and pizza binges gained me six pounds and made me feel awful– guilty and bloated. I’ve been fighting tooth and nail to bring myself back around to the primal way of thinking, but every time I have a setback, I really start craving sweet baked goods and things that I find comforting. I’ve known for many years that I am an emotional eater– but this whole episode has really shown me how much I rely on food for comfort.

  17. I do use primal food as a crutch. A crutch that serves as a handle to keep being good to myself despite the pressures of the SAD culture around me. I have been primal for 3 years and I still get a lot of flack from friends and family about the way I eat and want to “play”. But living primally makes me feel so good and I feel so terrible if I do eat other things and sit around that I have come to a point in my life that I sometimes have to be rude and tell people if you can’t meet me at the park or for coffee instead of hotwings and beer, then I guess I can’t see you anymore. Eating primally is sometimes the only thing I feel like I really have control over to keep myself healthy when it seems everyone else wants a piece of me. This community has been invaluable to me and thanks to all of you who support it.

  18. After starting a food journal and listening to what my body tells me. I know in advance of a “slip-up” that I’m going to feel bad physically (joint pain, inflammation, bloating and brain fog). That is usually enough for me to put the brakes on. If I indulge anyway, that’s on me and I know what the consequences will be. I never associate guilt to it anymore. I rarely have “slip-ups” anymore. Maybe once or twice a month.

    I have also had to quit talking to nay-sayers about my “diet”. I know what to eat to feel great and that’s enough for me. Unfortunately I have a friend with severe RA (plus VERY over-weight) and she continues to eat, what I consider crap… processed foods, sugar and lots of grains… her decline in health is heart breaking to me. I have tried to discuss the Paleo way to deaf ears… she has even gotten angry with me. So, I have stopped… she has to help herself, I guess.

  19. Before I went primal my comfort foods were plenty of good fats but unfortunately they were accompanied by processed carbs, thick slices of toast with lots of butter, whole tubs of dulce de leche ice cream and toasted cheese, mac and cheese and cream cakes to name a few. I also ate peanut butter by the spoonful. Most surprising to me was that after I started eating primally my need for these processed carbs disappeared completely. On the very odd occasion when I have eaten something I shouldn’t my body has let me know about it. The other day I ate a bread roll with some soup and couldn’t sleep at night for GERD. Never again.

  20. I’ve been using some positive and negative reinforcement lately to “tame the munchies monster.” The negative reinforcement: There are tons of sick people at work right now, and if I eat cookies, chips, pop (and so on . . ), I will increase my risk of getting ill. Eating primal keeps my immunity up! My positive reinforcement: I look at clothes online and remember that I have a goal to look good naked. 🙂 I cannot wait to wear a cute knee-length dress and feel comfortable showing off my legs. My favorite site is Modcloth. I love clothes!

  21. +1 Jason!
    Pretty timely too- my husband brought home a nasty upper respiratory virus last week, and I got to feel all smug at my stellar immune system for exactly 4 days! Wham!

    We both craved chicken soup( ok) and CRAP! ( not ok)
    Even coughing up a lung, and telling myself that sugar and carbs, would just depress my immune system, HA!

    Magically when I started feeling better, my taste for the junk just went away.
    Weird, eh? Rational self talk just took a beat down in the face of the common cold! ( ok a little more than a cold)

  22. I have issues in this area, becoming compulsive and addictive about eating. I joined Overeaters Anonymous, and that has really been helping me deal with life and emotions in a better way, giving me more freedom and truer Primal eating and living.

  23. Excellent post, especially the idea in the last paragraph about questioning your impulse to justify or condemn the food choice:

    ‘You’re not justifying it or condemning it. Don’t tell yourself anything about it in fact. Conversing with our impulses rarely if ever helps. Circumvent the mental chatter altogether. (It does nothing but takes you down a rabbit hole.) ‘

    Mark, when did you get so wise? I’m pretty sure you weren’t this profound when I started reading the blog!

    I’ve suffered from impulsive eating, from my late-teenage years until my early twenties, and I was so quick to attempt to justify it, or condemn it and beat myself up (sometimes literally) about it. Now it seems that both strategies are foolish.

    Unlike lots of ’emotional eaters’ I’ve never linked my food cravings with emotions, I might have realized why, because the emotion triggers the quest to get food, rather than the actual eating. Once the quest begins (sometimes a long walk to the shop), I stop thinking about negative emotions, and just think about the food.

    If I’m on my way to get something healthy and primal, it’s probably a fairly positive, even therapeutic process, even if it is used to mask negative emotions.
    But, I’m starting to realize certain emotions, or the strength of certain emotions, probably trigger less wise food choices, I haven’t worked out which yet, though, this is probably a good thing to work out in understanding oneself. I expect understanding the whole emotional process, the trigger, the mental and physical reactions etc. all help in finding a solution to any eating problems.

    1. Mark’s increasing wisdom (and word craft) is developing because he walks the talk.

      Check in with Brene Brown at for two talks around these ideas, she really gets it too.

  24. “Let it go. The rest of the day is waiting.”

    That, right there….worth a million bucks !!!!!

  25. Man, what a timely post. Yesterday we had a Christmas party at the school where I teach. I told myself all day, “I don’t eat sweets. I don’t eat cookies. That’s just not something I do.” And for the first half of the party I was completely fine, content to eat the salad, mashed sweet potatoes, and the (primal) lasagna I brought to the party.

    About halfway through I was called out of the party by my supervisor and asked to make an uncomfortable phone call to a parent when the party wrapped up. That request immediately upped my stress. Upon reentering the room, I swear all I could think about was grabbing a doughnut and stuffing it in my mouth. It looked about 100 times more appetizing than when I’d left the room.

    But I recognized the connection between stress and food much quicker than if I hadn’t been around food right before the stress was applied. I laughed at myself, and human nature in general, and went back to my salad.

  26. Coming from a chemical engineering student who is just finishing up finals week, this information is so true. Emotions, plus the added stress from being socially acceptable is a killer on eating habits. I lost 17 pounds over the past summer, and I’ve gained about half of it back from having free access to ice cream in the dining hall. I’m working on trying to cut off the cycle at guilt, and it should be easier now that the semester is over. Thanks Mark for a great article.

  27. I do this all the time. I’m going through a period of extreme sugar consumption. I started around 3 weeks ago and I’m desperately trying to stop and get back on the paleo track. I eat because I’m lonely, bored, fed up, depressed, happy, angry etc. etc. etc. I can’t just stop; or should it be won’t?

    1. Michelle, I liked your last sentence. That’s progress girl. I am a sugar lover too, I don’t eat it now because when I do it doesn’t feel good anymore (headaches, etc – that carb hangover effect) and the little bit of enjoyment usually doesn’t last long…. maybe the first few bites.
      I’m trying to “embrace” my feelings of depression, boredom and lonliness and have found that those feelings go away faster if I just “enjoy the feeling” and then release it I guess. So that’s where you are likely headed….. I wish you success in your journey.

  28. I have the opposite reaction to food when I am depressed, stressed or anxious. I do not eat at all. I look at the food but it does not appeal to me and I walk away. Sometimes I go for a run or find another activity to distract me and then approach the fridge again with hopes of finding something appealing to eat.
    My friends who eat for comfort and pleasure who are convinced they are addicted to food, say that “they live to eat” and that I “I eat to live” .
    The underlying problem is there either way, it is just how we use food to cope.
    Great article.

    1. Me too. I’m NOT a stress eater, I’m a stress “yeah, this doesn’t taste good, I’m not eating it” person. As a result I’ve been able to keep the clothes I love for 20+ years and they still fit.

  29. This is where a good support group comes in. It is so important to have people willing to have a tough love talk with you when you need it. I’ve found that local support groups can make all the difference in the success of the lifestyle.

  30. Thanks Mark! Such a well-written post. I have struggled with eating issues for 20 years and bringing emotions to the surface and then grounding myself in my present physical experience is the only way I’ve been able to move beyond.

    Pressing the pause button, as you said, is exactly what I do. I think it creates a nanosecond where growth happens. Real emotional growth.

    And your words about guilt are spot-on. Thank you for covering this topic! There is no denying the emotional aspect to eating (sometimes it’s positive emotion too) and feeling every part of our primal existence allows us to experience life fully. It’s grand!

  31. This is a very timely post, as I am on my 12th day of water fasting. I realize that I eat often to procrastinate from completing a project or study. The reason to eat food is made clear when you are deprived of it.

  32. Great topic. I definitely eat when bored, or for gratification even when not hungry. It’s so easy and quick but at least I usually manage to keep it to “cheat days” and work the old 80/20 Rule. Very hard during the holidays when temptation is abundant. I cope mostly by skipping meals after cheat days but have now, thanks to the article, started a list of things I can do instead of eat. For myself, I did chuckle a bit over the Assess What’s Really Going On. Many times it just that I really want to Eat the (expletive deleted) Sugar or Buttered Popcorn or Blister Fried Peanuts. Because. It’s. Yummy! Not necessarily because I am working out some existential angst. To paraphrase, sometimes it’s all about the pleasure centers, baby.

  33. This post was fantastic, lots of great tips to curb emotional eating. I really struggled with food abuse in the past year and know this post would have been incredibly helpful then. I especially think it’s so important to “get our needs met.” That was the big missing puzzle piece for me…I didn’t make the connection that I was using food as a crutch because I wasn’t taking care of myself in other ways. Thanks for the post!

  34. This post was so profound that I hand-copied it. I wanted to internalize it on a deeper level. Thank you so much, Mark. Keep on writing.

  35. Taking care of two very young kids all day, every day, definitely takes me down the emotional eating rabbit hole. This post definitely is giving me some new ideas on ways to handle it. Ha, I think right now I mostly handle it by locking myself in the bathroom and crying.

    I also handle the need to eat away stress by packing the kids up any way I can (no coat? you’ll live this time) and getting us outside asap. Going outside has a profound impact on me, and the kids, actually.

  36. Thank you so much for this inspiring article. I am an exchange student in San Diego and fell in love with my life here. Leaving this new life, that has changed me so very much and all the people I got to know here behind, leaves me with a very sad and helpless feeling. I suffered from very bad cravings and almost destroyed all the hard work of the last couple of month. But this article reassured me, in what I already guessed and I am now not only trying to really take my thoughts of that d*** cookie but also learning how to be by myself and entertain myself !

    Thank you for this amazing blog Mark ! You contributed to my lifestyle change and I am very grateful !

  37. I really enjoyed this article because emotional eating is something I have been struggling with lately. I went Primal last November and really became serious about it in January but recently I have had cravings for chips. Now the chips I have been eating are usually gluten free or 100% veggie chips but I notice that I am horrible with portion control around them. Any other food I don’t have an issue with, and I’ve noticed that I have been falling back on potatoes whenever I want something “bad” this is something I have noticed over the last couple of weeks and even when my diet is on point and I slip a couple days each month I make myself feel horrible. I feel like I’ve gained weight instantly and I abuse myself mentally. It’s nice to be reminded that I am not alone and that I have the strength to overcome emotional eating. I’ve lost over 40 pounds in the last year and I guess the fear of it inching back is always in my mind.

  38. This is so pertinent for me. I’ve been on a wicked cycle of binging the past couple of weeks. A few days of (plenty of) good food, and then I stop and consciously think, “I’m going to grab some ice cream on the way home, and I’m going to eat it all tonight, and I’m going to hate myself for it.” And then I do exactly that, telling myself “it’s inevitable anyway” the whole time. It’s not even spontaneous or incidental, it’s *premeditated* binging.

    Lonely during the holiday season? Probably. Stress at work? Yup. Fear of success? Definitely. Time to unpack some baggage. *puts on hardhat*

  39. Thank you for this post, Mark. It’s very relevant.. 🙂

    I just have one question:

    “Just stop. Stop yourself from walking to the fridge. Stop your thoughts. Go clip your fingernails. Brush the dog. Vacuum or shovel. Throw in a load of laundry. Feel a little gripped? Okay, you’re ready for the next point.”

    What do you mean by “feel a little gripped?”

  40. Very good article. Lots of truth in there. Everyone’s comments resonate with me as well. I have an interesting thing that happened a few months ago. I have always been an anxious person, but in the past two years have actively focused on this as an area of improvement. One treatment option I pursued (with my doctor), was antidepressants, namely Paxil. After three months of being on Paxil, I had lost those last 10 pounds I had never been able to get off. I went off the Paxil around month 4, thinking I didn’t need help with my anxiety anymore, and yep, the anxiety came back, and within a few months, so did the weight.

    I feel like this is proof positive that I have an emotional eating issue. It’s certainly real.

    One strategy I use to give me pause is to pop in one of those mouth/throat numbering sore throat lozenges (the ones with benzocaine). Yes this is drastic, but sometimes I feel like it’s that or half a cake. I’m an engineer on an oil rig and its all you can eat desserts/food 24 hrs a day. Not ideal.

    Meditation is the way out I know. Regular meditation and moment to moment mindfulness is the answer to emotional eating. Anyone else have other things they do to give them pause/break the cycle?