4. Learn from binges
If healthier coping mechanisms fail and you succumb to emotional eating, put a positive spin on it with these strategies:
Go easy on yourself The more you yell at yourself, the more you’ll want to eat. “Don’t say you’re disgusting or call yourself names,” says Munter. Instead, focus on the facts—how you felt, what you ate—and let it end there.
Avoid knee-jerk dieting Don’t decide that you’re going to never eat another fattening bite for as long as you live. The point is to deal with the emotion, not the calories. “Deprivation will only lead to yet another binge,” Munter says.
Reflect later A few hours after the emotional eating episode has passed, spend some time thinking about what you were feeling and what you could have done differently. “In this way, each binge becomes a positive lesson about yourself and what propels you to overeat,” Munter notes.
Focus on inner strength As you become more practiced at sitting with difficult feelings instead of eating through them, you’ll begin to turn to food for fuel rather than comfort. “You’ll demonstrate that you can take care of yourself and that you can have compassion for yourself—and that’s a relationship you can build on,” says Munter.
Indeed, consider Grant’s transformation: “If I have setbacks, which I do, I don’t beat myself up,” she says. “I just try again the next day, re-focusing on small, achievable goals like drinking plenty of water, replacing sugary snacks with whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins and keeping a food diary.” The best part? “I’ve educated myself about exactly what I’m putting into my body, and that helps me make better choices about what and how much I eat,” Grant says. “I still do treat myself—I love my chocolate!—but it’s now a choice that comes from awareness versus a reaction to my emotions. And all these steps have added up to a much happier, healthier new me.”