Health and Fitness

Are You An Emotional Eater? Five Steps to Kick the Habit


fat woman fridgeby Dr. Bradley Nelson

Did you know that the number one cause of obesity is something called “emotional eating?” If you use food as a way to deal with stress and anxiety, you are not alone. Many of us unwittingly become victim to our emotions.

The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to understand the role unresolved emotions from past events play in your health. The biggest reason for emotional eating is our emotional baggage, such as feelings from divorce, abuse, our difficult childhood, or our difficult situation at work. Our emotional baggage exerts pressure on us in situations that occur.

Negative emotions can emerge so quickly that it seems they come out of nowhere. If you are late for an appointment, you may automatically feel anxious. If someone treats you rudely, you may immediately feel resentful or angry in response. When you allow yourself to react, your subconscious mind may offer up a negative emotion based upon the emotions you have chosen in similar circumstances in your past.

While you may have always responded in a certain negative way to a given situation, your past negative responses do not have to dictate your future responses. You have a choice every time you need to deal with or confront something negative.


There are also ways you can become more aware of how your emotions affect your eating and health. Here are five steps to help you understand and avoid emotional eating:

1. Find Your Triggers. Spend a little bit of time thinking about the things that actually trigger you. Get a piece of paper and a pencil and think about the different life situations you’ve been through. If you’ve been through a divorce, write that down. If you were abused as a child, make a note of that as well. Write down all of the difficult emotional times that you have been through. The triggers to your emotional eating will inevitably have arisen from these emotional events and traumas from your life, even if some of them occurred decades ago. Simply being aware on a more conscious level of the emotional baggage that you are carrying will help you to recognize those triggers.

2. Keep a Journal of Foods and Feelings. Start writing down not only the foods you eat but also what you were thinking and feeling at the time. When you ate that entire bowl of chips or carton of ice cream, what inner voice were you trying to silence? What specific stress were you trying to deal with? Understanding the relationship between eating and emotions is a major key to breaking bad habits.

3. Listen to Your Body! This is the most revolutionary idea that I would like to share with you. Believe it or not, your subconscious mind knows what’s good for you!  In fact, it is capable of telling you exactly what you should and should not eat if you want to lose weight! The key is learning to understand what your subconscious mind is telling you in the way your body reacts to the foods you choose.

4. Sway Test for Eating: There are a number of very effective ways to tap into the subconscious mind that are actually quite simple and easy to perform. One of the simplest and easiest of these I call the “Sway Test.” If you are standing in a relaxed posture, your body will tend to gently sway forward if you are thinking about food that your subconscious mind wants, and will sway backward if you are thinking about foods that it perceives to be harmful!

Here’s how it works: Turn off any distractions such as music or television so that you will be able to focus completely on the test. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Drop your hands to your side, and close your eyes. Allow yourself to completely relax. Try thinking about the word “salad.” Try to imagine the most delicious, healthy salad that you’ve ever eaten. The moment your inner mind connects with the thought of “salad,” and all the good fiber, vitamins, minerals and nutrients that go along with that salad, you will begin to sway forward, as your subconscious mind realizes just how good for you that salad would actually be. This typically doesn’t take more than five or 10 seconds, and gets easier with practice. Now, allow yourself to relax again. With your eyes closed, focus your mind on the word “Hot Pocket.” As you think about this ultimate form of junk food, your subconscious mind is somehow aware of the artificial ingredients that are in that product, the humectants, the preservatives, the food colorings and so on, that are going to make you fat. Once again, the moment your subconscious mind makes the connection with what a “Hot Pocket” really is, your body will start to sway backward of its own volition, in an attempt to move you further away from eating something bad for you.

5. Have a strategy: Create a plan for how you will respond the next time you are tempted to overeat. My recommendation? Wear a rubber band around your wrist. When you’re feeling triggered, when you feel a case of “emotional eating” coming on, snap that rubber band against your wrist to help you “snap out of” the underlying emotional loop that you are in.

Finally, remember that emotions don’t choose you; you choose your emotions, no matter what the situation is, and you can un-choose the ones that don’t serve you. While you may not have control over all of the events that affect your life, you do have the ability to choose how you think, feel, and act.

Becoming aware of this is in itself quite empowering. You are the author of your own emotional experiences. You can choose whatever emotion you want in any situation you are faced with. It takes some practice, and it’s not always easy, but it can be done.


About the Author: Author and international lecturer in bio-energetic medicine and energy psychology, Dr. Brad has successfully used The Emotion Code with thousands of patients around the globe to relieve symptoms and often affect cures in conditions ranging from depression to cancer. His best-selling book, The Emotion Code, offers step-by-step instructions for working with the body’s own healing power. Learn more at and


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