Emotional Eating

What Is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating means eating to manage or sedate emotions you’d rather not feel. It’s estimated that up to 75% of overeating is “emotional eating.”

How to Reduce or Stop Emotional Eating

Mindfulness has the potential to greatly diminish emotional eating behaviors because it has been demonstrated to:

  • Improve your mood states
  • Reduce feelings of psychological distress
  • Reduce your overall stress
  • Enhance your ability to detach from negative emotions
  • Reduce your overall experience of negative emotions
  • Increase brain activity associated with happiness and optimism
  • Be a highly effective way to deal with challenging emotions

Exploring the Research

In 2002 it was reported that mindfulness led to effective and lasting reductions of symptoms of psychological distress, and enhanced well-being and quality of life.1

In 2003 another study reported that mindfulness led to significant improvement in mood states, compared with controls.2

In the same year, a study reported that mindfulness was related to positive emotional states, and that increases in mindfulness over time relate to declines in mood disturbance and stress. The study concluded that mindfulness “has a significant role to play in a variety of aspects of mental health.”3

A landmark study reported that mindfulness increases activity in parts of the brain associated with happiness and optimism.4

A 2010 study reported that mindfulness could lead to more flexible emotional regulation and an enhanced ability to detach from negative states.5

Another 2010 study reported that more mindful eating and related mindfulness practices are correlated with better psychological health and less emotional distress.6

1Majumdar, M., et al. (2002) Does mindfulness meditation contribute to health? Outcome evaluation of a German sample. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 8:6, 719–730.
2Rosenzweig, S., et al. (2003) Mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers psychological distress in medical students. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 15(2), 88–92.
3Brown, K., et al. (2003) The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84:4, 822-848.
4Davidson, R.J., et al. (2003) Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65:4, 564-570.
5Chiesa, A., et al. (2010). Functional neural correlates of mindfulness meditations in comparison with psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy and placebo effect. Is there a link? Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 22:3, 104–117.
6Masuda, A., et al. (2010). Mindfulness mediates the relation between disordered eating-related cognitions and psychological distress. Eating Behaviors, in press, corrected proof.