How to End Emotional Eating

As many of you know, it isn't always hunger that causes you to reach for your favorite foods. Your moods and emotions can play a big role in how you view food and in how well you are able to stick to a healthy eating plan.

Emotional-Eating Triggers

Depression, loneliness, or simply being exhausted by a hectic daily schedule or too many responsibilities can set off emotional eating. Many people eat to fill a void or use food to keep themselves company. Some look to food as a distraction from a traumatic experience, such as the loss of a job, a death, or a breakup. Still others tend to overeat or go for junk food when they are happy. But most who succumb to emotional eating find that it can't be traced to one specific cause — it's simply a well-established pattern to fall back on food when needing comfort or deciding to celebrate.

The good news is that you don’t have to fall prey to this behavioral trap. There are better ways to deal with emotions, and it's much healthier to face up to your feelings than to bury them under a mountain of food. Furthermore, finding a different way to respond to your emotions will give you a positive plan of action when your triggers do arise.

Here are some helpful ways to prevent your emotions from getting in the way of your weight-loss goals:

  • Keep a journal. A food journal not only helps you keep tabs on what you’re eating but also on how you’re feeling at the time. Knowing what your eating triggers are will help you avoid them in the future. To break bad habits, you should record not only what and when you ate, but also the emotional circumstances that might have prompted you to overindulge and make unhealthy choices in the first place.


  • Distract yourself. Instead of focusing on your emotions (and food), engross yourself in a good book, listen to music, watch a movie, call a friend, or better yet, hit the gym or head outdoors and get some exercise.


  • Have healthy snacks at the ready. While we don’t recommend food as comfort, we all do reach for it from time to time, often without thinking. All the more reason to make sure what you put in your mouth is healthy. On all Phases of the South Beach Diet you can enjoy nutritious, satisfying snacks like almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, or soy nuts; natural nut butters; reduced-fat cheese sticks; or hummus or bean-based dip with veggie sticks. On Phase 2, add whole fruits and/or whole-wheat crackers or pita. On the go? Grab a South Beach Jumpstarts Carb Control Snack Bar if you're on Phase 1 or take along a protein- and fiber-rich South Beach Diet 100-Calorie Snack Bar or a Protein Fit Bar or Good to Go Bar. Be sure to keep snacks handy in your kitchen, desk drawer, purse, and backpack for those times when emotions may get the best of you.


  • Reflect. Before you scarf down any food in an emotional moment, take a second to think, “Is this really going to make me feel any better?” By stopping and reflecting, you’ll hopefully make a healthier choice.

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Jennifer K.

Jennifer K. Lost 110 lbs with The South Beach Diet!

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