Young hungry woman in front of refrigerator craving chocolate pastries.

10 Quick Ways to Avoid Emotional Overeating

(Last Updated On: April 10, 2019)

If emotional overeating gets in the way of your fitness and health goals, then you need to take action. In a short amount of time, an episode of binging, overeating,  or even brief overindulging can really negatively affect the scale and your health. The impact of a quick rise in blood sugar and fats is damaging to not just your weight, but also to your emotional well-being. To maintain your fitness every day, you’ll want to limit and eliminate emotional overeating. Here are 10 easy ways to provide a distraction when you are thinking overeating or binging for emotional reasons. Over time by consistently practicing one or a combination of these items, you can successfully avoid your next binge.

#1 Start a journal 

Journal writing is a very good way to get your feelings out on paper, rather than take it out on the food. Get in the habit of jotting a few thoughts a day and you may find that journaling is an effective deterrent to overeating. In fact, reflect in writing what you are grateful for. This helps to put your life in perspective and causes you to remember what’s good in your life. To start your personal reflection journey, there are journal apps that you can download conveniently to your iPhone or iPad.

#2 Read Gretchen Rubin’s books and listen to her podcasts to find more happiness

Gretchen Rubin is a well-known author who has started a movement with her first book, The Happiness Project.  Her book describes her year-long attempt to discover what leads to true contentment with her young family and husband trying to follow along as she chronicles her journey. 
Her followup book, Better Than Before, details what she learned about making and breaking habits like sleeping more, quitting sugar, procrastinating less, and generally building a happier, better life.  

She also has a cool daily quick journal, based on her bestselling book The Happiness Project. In that book, Gretchen discovers the pleasure of writing just one sentence every day. The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal helps you to make a fascinating and revealing time capsule of the next five years of your life.

#3 Download the Headspace app

middle aged woman meditation
Use the Headspace app to learn how to meditate and feel great!

Headspace is a meditation app that offers easy-to-understand meditation sessions for beginners to advance. In as little as 10 minutes a day, you can take meditation sessions to help relieve anxiety, anger, depression, grief and more. The inspiration behind this hugely popular app is Andy, a former monk, who provides audio guidance through each session. The initial sessions are devoted to learning how to meditate. After you complete those, you’ll have access to dozens more. Once you establish the habit to meditate daily, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find easy relief when you get stressed out.

#4 Get more sleep

Commit to getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night most days of the week. Sleep is so important to good health and staying trim. This will help reduce emotional overeating. Good rest is vital to feeling good. In fact, the most recent studies suggest that when you do get enough sleep, you’ll weigh less. Plus, sleep will keep you steadfast on your food and exercise plans. Relax and snooze! It’s so good for you in so many ways.

# 5 Go exercise

Vector art featuring a variety of animated exercises in black silhouettes.
Exercise Shuffle: Use a variety of exercises in one routine to reduce boredom with your cardio routine.

There is no substitute for getting a sweat going to relieve anxiety, feel confident, and burn a few calories. Exercise provides a viable distraction. You always feel great after exercise, right? To make the session go by even quicker, try your own Exercise Shuffle, where you can custom-design your own cardio session, moving through several pieces of cardio equipment at 10-15 minutes a pop.

Chart outlining an exercise "shuffle" example.
Select your exercises and time to create an exercise “shuffle!”

#6 Spend time with close family and friends 

Three friends, two women and a man, are walking through a park together and smiling.
Walking in nature and spending time with friends is a quick fix to improving your mood.

To quote Harvard Happiness expert, Daniel Gilbert, “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” Friendships actually may lengthen your life and keep you away from social isolation. According to a 2010 review of research, the effect of social ties on lifespan is twice as strong as that of exercising and equivalent to that of quitting smoking. So, reach out to good friends or a close family member the next time you feel blue and your looking at that pint of ice cream to soothe your feelings.

#7 Commit to an act of kindness every day 

If you purposefully perform an act of kindness every day for seven days, you will feel better about yourself and make others feel good, too. Selfless acts of kindness, for instance, like paying it forward, might be just the ticket to happiness. (You’ll need to have no expectations of reciprocity.)The website,, provides countless ideas for acts of kindness and includes a Daily Gratitude reminder. Some suggestions from their site include buying a stranger a cup of coffee, complimenting someone, or giving up your train seat for someone who is standing.

#8 Listen to your favorite songs

Young woman enjoying music
Listening to music can help distract you from overeating. Just select your favorite upbeat music and enjoy.

Listening to music actually releases dopamine, much like your favorite foods will. That hormone, the same that’s released when you exercise, makes you feel great. In fact, overall, music can activate your pleasure senses. Also, listening to your favorite music can actually improve your mood. Listening to music for 12 minutes is long enough to do the trick. Happy music will make you happy (just like sad songs will make you sad). This is based on research studies, so put together a few of your favorite songs and get listening rather than reaching for that chocolate bar. You’ll positively impact your mood and save lots of empty calories.


#9 Clean out your pantry, closet or room

Sounds like a penalty, but cleaning will actually make you feel lighter, relieved. SImply, set a timer for 10 minutes and start cleaning. You’ll be surprised how much you can straighten in that short time and how much better you’ll feel. In fact, Peter Walsh, an organization expert, says that you can’t make healthy decisions in a cluttered environment, and not just in the kitchen. His book, Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight, has a plan to tackle both. And, who doesn’t feel good with a clean, organized kitchen?

#10 Take a walk outside

Shoes of people trekking in wood and walking in row
Boost your mood by walking along a trail or just through your neighborhood.

Walks outside are very therapeutic. Researchers say that walking outside, experiencing nature, can make us feel better. Taking a break and going for an easy walk can change your mindset for the better. According to the journal, Emotion, walking wakes up your mind, increases your energy, and improves your mood. So the next time you are thinking about grabbing that office donut, just take a walk instead. Your mind will thank you.

The List of 10 Quick Ways to Feel Better

This is not an exhaustive list of ways to improve your mood, but it does provide some ideas to distract yourself from emotional overeating and make you feel good. Over time, by building this habit of saying, “no thanks” to the pint of chocolate fudge ice cream when you are upset, you’ll see how much quicker you can turn things around. You’ll feel great and you can move on without impacting the scale and more importantly your well being.


Check out other other posts to help curtail overeating:  8 Tips to Recover from Overeating and 10 Easy Tips to Stop Nighttime Eating.


Disclosure: Fit Forty Forever, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. FitFortyForever, LLC is also a participant in Apple’s iTunes Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to iTunes products and affiliated sites.

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