You can’t plan for a bad day, but you can take these steps when it starts affecting how you eat. 

Credit: Getty Images

It’s fairly common to come home after a rough day at work and want something comforting to turn the day around. For some, a run, chat on the phone with a friend, or even a favorite song can do the trick. For others, eating is at the forefront of comforting activities.

In a recent post on our Cooking Light Diet Community Facebook group, a member confided in the group about her struggles with emotional eating. She asked the community for advice on how to remove herself mentally from emotional eating, and what to eat instead of the foods she normally reaches for when having a rough day.

We took some insight from real Cooking Light Diet member responses and checked in with Marci Evans MS, CEDRD-S, LDN, to find the best strategies to overcome emotional eating. Evans is the owner of Marci RD Nutrition, a group nutrition-counseling center specializing in developing smart, enduring strategies for overcoming eating disorders, disordered eating, and the backlash of chronic dieting. Here's what we put together from that feedback to help you overcome your next battle with emotional eating. 

1. Identify The Source

The first step to start managing emotional eating is to pinpoint the source, says Evans. She suggests keeping records of anything that may make you feel vulnerable to using food as comfort such as undereating during the day, following unrealistic meal plans, specific time of day, the people you’re around, specific emotions, or personal judgments about yourself and the food you’re eating.

Once you’re able to identify triggers for emotional eating, hone in those you can preemptively prepare for and those which you cannot. If you’re finding some days there are too many factors working against you, Evans proposes asking for extra support and increasing your self-love.

Some of our Cooking Light Diet members definitely follow the trend of taking the time to focus on self-love. Member Karen Denise advocates for doing something comforting like reading a book, watching a favorite TV show, taking a warm bubble bath, or crafting—whatever makes you feel happy to just be you.

2. Don’t Limit Yourself

We often label some foods as “good” and some as “bad”, which can affect both the way we feel about the things we eat and ourselves after eating them. Evans advises learning the difference between emotional eating and eating with emotion. She explains that humans are wired to enjoy food, and enjoying foods that match how you feel is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with food.

For example, when given the option between a salad or a soup and sandwich, pick whichever is satisfying while also providing proper nutrients. If you’re truly satisfied with your meal, you’re less likely to overeat later, Evans says. Cooking Light Diet member Anne Egelhof Ritchie allows herself to enjoy foods that will satisfy her in the moment with the help of her Cooking Light Diet menu. She’ll search the website for things that seem to match her emotional need, even if it’s a bit over her usual calorie range.

3. No Judgments

As Cooking Light Diet member Mary Martini told us in a Facebook post, “Always remember to sunset a bad day. When you go to bed, it's over. Tomorrow is a new day. No punishment or trying to make up for the day before.”

Evans encourages using “self-compassion and non-judgmental language” when you feel like you’ve truly overdone it. She says reframing the situation can help someone bounce back from an emotional eating binge. Instead of blaming a difficult day and feeling guilty, reevaluate the situation and focus on uplifting yourself. You can’t plan for days you’re more vulnerable to emotional eating, but you can learn from them and know that you’re trying your very best. Try not to feel guilty about a “mistake”, and instead take it as a step toward a healthier and happier you.