Grouchy bosses…a fight with your spouse…your daily commute. Each of these can spell disaster for the most well intentioned weight loss program. Don’t let life’s stressors derail all your progress. Instead, combat emotional eating by remembering the 4 Rs:


1Recognize triggers.

First, you need to do a little detective work to find out what’s setting off your emotional eating. The answer may be obvious…or it might not. You may not connect opening bills with a bout of uncontrolled snacking a half hour later. When you find yourself reaching for something when you’re not hungry, or it’s not time to eat, ask yourself what you’re feeling. If the answer is anxious, mad, or tired, step back and identify the underlying trigger for the emotion, and what will help you deal with it effectively.

2Remove the stimuli.

You also must get away from what’s tempting you. This means no food in the car to soothe you while you’re stuck in traffic. If you invariably pull into the fast food joint on the way home to reward yourself for getting through a tough day, choose another route. If you know you’ll always crave the 3pm latte when the afternoon monotony sets in, don’t go to Starbucks with your friend in the next cubicle.

3Replace the habit.

Find healthier ways to channel your emotions. Easier said than done, we know! But just a little planning and awareness can break the cycle. When your boss gets you down, find a co?worker to talk to instead of heading to the vending machine. If you know getting your son to clean his room is going to be a battle, schedule a walk with a friend after.

4Realize that there are different kinds of ‘hunger.’

When your mind tells you you’re hungry, ask yourself what it is you’re hungry for. Perhaps you crave stimulation if your emotion is boredom. Recognizing points in your week where boredom tends to creep in can help you plan to find activities to fill the time. If you’re lonely and you hunger for companionship, focus on addressing this area of your life by fostering new relationships and nurturing existing ones. We all hunger for different things at different times. Making sure you don’t remedy emotional hunger with food is a key part of achieving and maintaining your weight loss goal.


Suja Pilli, MD

Shaun J. Adams, MSN, FNP-C

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