Most of us do it.

We eat because our emotions tell us to do so.

Although there is a negative side to emotional eating, it’s quite a natural part of life. In fact, it’s considered normal and even expected.

For instance, a piece of pie at a retirement party or a handful of chips during your five o’clock wind down are both examples of emotional eating.

The idea of emotional eating has grown to be widely accepted in our culture. Though, it does have a dark side. Emotional eating has a sly way of consuming our lives. Because it’s the norm, emotional eating often consumes us before we even know it’s happening.

This can be especially frustrating for those trying to lose weight. If you’re like most people in the throes of a weight-loss plan, you are painfully aware of the impact even a small amount of food can have. And further still, it can be an even bigger struggle to eat healthy when you go out.

Although its authenticity in our lives is undeniable, emotional eating can easily run away with you. It can consume your life to the point of incredible frustration. Dealing with the stress and depression which comes with losing weight can become a daunting part of life.

In light of this, here are a few ways to help you overcome the struggle of emotional eating.

1. Second Guess Your Urge to Eat

It’s not often that we challenge the feelings of hunger. After all, hunger pangs are a very real thing. Consider this, the urge to eat and actual hunger are two different things.

Whereas hunger is a true physical indicator that your body needs nutritious sustenance, the urge to eat isn’t such an honest ally. It’s important to challenge your urge to eat because more often than not this urge isn’t actual hunger.

Ask yourself when you last ate, what you’re craving, and why you’re craving it. When you take a step back to examine your urge to eat, you’ll generally find that there is an underlying cause that can be comforted without food. Or, at least, with the right food.

2. Pinpoint Triggers to Reduce Stress

As you very well know, our culture relies heavily on food to relieve stress. We lean on our comfort foods and go-to treats as a sort of crutch. In fact, the food you eat during stressful moments might serve as a lynchpin that seemingly holds it all together for you.

The problem with this notion is that it’s not true. Emotional eating doesn’t hold it all together for you. When you’re trying to lose weight, stress-induced eating only reinforces the cruel cycle of eating when stressed and then getting stressed because you can’t lose weight.

A positive way to battle this stressful cycle is to pinpoint those situations that trigger emotional eating. When you identify those things that cause you stress then you can effectively find another way to cope with external stressors. Alternative coping tactics might include learning to self-soothe or practicing increased self-awareness. Thus, eliminating any dependency you might have on emotional eating.

3. Run A 15 Minute Follow-Up

Have you ever felt like you absolutely had to have this food or that food only to regret it later? Maybe your regret was that the food made you feel bloated or it simply wasn’t satisfying.

It’s not uncommon to be struggling with eating healthy and experience this disappointment when you go out for a meal. Even eating at your own home can prove to be challenging.

So, monitor yourself and take note of how you feel after you’ve eaten. Give yourself 15-20 minutes, then ask yourself how you feel about the food you just ate. Maybe you ate something you wished you hadn’t or you kept eating after you already felt full.

The aim in developing this habit is to learn more about your patterns and also to learn from your mistakes.

4. Keep Track of Your Eating Habits

Keeping a food journal might seem like an obvious strategy to help you stay on top of what you eat. And, it is. The challenging thing about documenting such a big part of your day is that it’s time-consuming. Once you find your groove, though, the task won’t seem so surmountable.

As well as tracking the food you consume, it’s important to get to the bottom of your eating habits. So, take your journaling a step further and jot down your moods, as well.

Understanding the ebb and flow of your daily moods can offer to you a firm grasp on why you eat what you eat when you eat it. It can also help you to trace back to any negative emotions that might be influencing your emotional eating habits.

5. Find A Stand-In

Unless you’re an actor or actress, you might not altogether be familiar with the idea of a stand-in. Simply put, a stand-in is a substitute for one of the cast members on a TV or movie set. Usually made of cardboard, these stand-ins have one job; they take the place of the real thing.

In terms of emotional eating, the idea of embracing a stand-in can be a huge relief. It’s difficult not to feel our emotions, let alone act on them. So, coping with them in another way is often the best option.

While you have to determine what serves you best as a stand-in, many people simply turn to a food substitute. For instance, if you’re craving something sweet and feel like reaching for an entire chocolate cake then go for a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

There are hundreds of little stand-ins that can help you cope with your emotions. And, you can still satisfy your craving guilt-free.

6. Be Cautious During Times of Transition

If you’re like most people, you probably have an eating pattern during those “in-between” times. By in-between times, I mean those times of transition that segue two activities. For instance, when you get home from work before starting your nightly routine or while preparing a meal.

These moments can often be categorized as emotional letdowns. You sort of melt away and relax before the next big activity begins. Avoiding emotional eating during these times of transition can be somewhat of a challenge, too.

It’s important to practice self-awareness so that you don’t disrupt your weight-loss goals by mindlessly popping snacks into your mouth. Find another activity aside from snacking that supports your emotional letdown.

It’s a good idea to prepare for these little segues, too. Pack healthy food to snack on during the day, so you’re not tempted to indulge.

7. Map Your Craving Patterns

Learning more about yourself and your patterns enables you to understand what’s really going on in your life from day to day. Even the cravings that you experience can fill you in on any highs or lows that have become your norm.

Much like keeping a food journal, mapping your cravings embraces a similar approach. The goal is to familiarize yourself with what you crave at different times during the day. After you’ve become familiar with your craving patterns, the next step is to unveil why you crave those things when you do.

Maybe you fall into an afternoon slump and reach for a sweet pick-me-up. It could be that certain interactions trigger one or more cravings, like an office meeting motivating you to dip into the donut box.

When you map your craving pattern, you can grow to understand yourself better and implement proactive steps to help you manage emotional eating.

8. Rely on Enjoyable Hobbies to Bring You Pleasure

It goes without saying that food brings an element of pleasure to our lives. After all, there is a never-ending variety of food combinations to enjoy. The problem lies in our tendency to overuse this avenue of pleasure. You can think of it as being hooked on the feelings you get from eating a certain food. This feeling often keeps you retreating to the habit of emotional eating.

Searching for pleasure in life is an innate quality we humans possess. Though, depending on food to fulfill this search can be detrimental. It can quickly set your weight-loss plan back a few notches.

To battle this dilemma, a good strategy is to find other activities that also bring you pleasure. Now would be the time to embrace a former hobby you once enjoyed or even to take up a new interest. Make a point to open yourself up to a new way of experiencing pleasure.

9. Practice Encouraging Self-Talk

There is a strength that accompanies positive self-talk. Conversely, negative thoughts that escape your lips have the power to bring you down. Negative self-talk opens the door to emotional eating by releasing damaging thoughts into the atmosphere.

If you’re like most people, saying negative little comments to yourself is a long-standing habit. It could be hard to break. In light of how you might be battling depression about your weight-loss challenges, it’s definitely worth the try.

One great place to start is to practice self-talk that truly speaks to you. Encourage yourself in your weight-loss efforts and readily accept things that you perceive to be flaws about yourself, like eating certain foods.

There is no such thing as “bad” food, only a negative approach to some food. Acceptance through positive self-talk would eliminate the guilt that you might feel when you do eat certain foods.

10. Identify Any Medical Reason for Your Cravings

As you know, there are many reasons why you eat the food you do. There are even unique explanations for certain cravings you might experience. Undeniably, many of those reasons surround the way in your emotions. But, there are more reasons to crave certain foods than just your emotions.

It’s important to keep an open mind to the possibility that your cravings might be caused by a medical condition. If you have even the slightest inkling that you might be struggling with an underlying medical condition, seek help immediately.

Without proper diagnosis, you might undergo some intense frustrations or even depression with your weight-loss goals. So, be sure to explore every possibility when it comes to the causes of emotional eating.