6 solutions to stop emotional eating

Stress causing you to reach for a snack even when you’re not hungry? Try these tips and beat emotional eating

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woman eating coffee snack

Beat emotional eating

Changing the way you respond to stress and emotional trouble in your life is tough. Some experts compare it to a smoker trying to break the psychological cues that make him reach for a cigarette. You have to identify the feelings that make you want to eat when you don't really need to-and find methods that will help you control and redirect those impulses away from food.

Try these six tricks to beat emotional eating:

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Woman chewing gum

Chew gum

Sometimes what drives you to the refrigerator is just a need to move your jaw as if you're chewing something-and that can be satisfied by a stick of gum. Keep several packs of sugar-free gum around the house and the office so that anytime you feel the urge to eat, you can pop a stick in your mouth.

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woman bath relax

Relax first, eat second

When you come home from a long, busy day, chances are you're tempted to eat whatever's in sight. Instead, immediately devote 20 minutes to something relaxing. Play on the floor with the kids, spend some time stretching, take a warm shower, pick weeds in your garden or flowers for your dinner table. Suddenly, you're not so starving, are you?

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family eating dinner

Avoid eating alone

People who sit down for at least one meal a day with family are more likely to be thinner, eat healthier, and have lower risks of major diseases. You may be less likely to overeat at your next meal as well. Canadian food researchers had a group of people eat lunch either in twos at a table or standing alone at a kitchen counter. Although everyone got the same amount of food, the people who ate alone at the counter ate 30 percent more at their next meal.

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camera meal food

Click before you eat

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers had 43 people take a snapshot of what they were going to eat before they ate it, and that simple act had a very sobering effect on their indulgences. One of the study subjects said, "Who wants to take a picture of a jumbo bag of M&Ms?" Finally...a good use of your cellphone camera.

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happy healthy eating

Eat only at the table

There's a whole body of research that suggests that when you eat on the couch, at your desk, in the car, or standing at the sink, your brain doesn't always register that fact that you had a meal, and that can lead to feelings of deprivation and overeating later in the day. Even when you're just having a snack, take the time to put it on a plate (never eat right out of the bag or box), and then have a seat at the table with a glass of water or seltzer to enjoy with your mini-meal.

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woman eating chocolate

State your intentions

You're sad or lonely or bored and you're about to tuck into a large bowl of ice cream. Okay, fine. But first admit what you're doing by saying out loud, "I'm not hungry, but I'm going to eat this anyway." Brian Wansink, a food and diet researcher at Cornell University, has asked volunteers to try this method with great success. Simply taking time to think about what you're about to do may be enough to dissuade you from doing it. If it doesn't, admitting that you're eating when you're not hungry should eventually wear down your desire for that treat.

Related:
How mindful eating can help you lose weight
Why it's hard to say "no" to comfort food
Why you overeat on Mondays