How to Get Emotional Eating Under Control

Have you ever had a bad day at the office and headed straight home to retreat to the couch with a tub of ice cream? Does chocolate get you through those stressful relationship moments?

For some, eating can be more about filling an emotional need rather than true hunger.

Since June, trainer Jorge Cruise, author of Eight Minutes in the Morning, has been helping two San Diego mothers get their weight — and their emotional eating — under control, and charting their progress on Good Morning America.

The women felt that emotional eating, as opposed to eating when they were hungry, had prevented them from being their personal best.

Karen Dunn, a mother of two, who often ate while watching TV late at night, lost 20 pounds at the August check-in, and has now lost a total of 32 pounds. She has gone from a size 24 to a size 16/18.

Lori Brown, a mother of three young children who reached for chocolate when she was stressed or upset, lost 22 pounds at the August check-in, and has now lost 47 pounds. She has shrunk from a size 14 to a size 6, and now enjoys shopping in trendy stores.

"I didn't need a diet," Brown said. "I needed a lifestyle change. [Jorge] helped me address issues from my childhood which caused me to medicate myself with food. Now, my heart is open."

She interacts with other people on Cruise's Web site (, serving as a mentor.

Dunn admits she had some trouble changing her eating habits.

"I had trouble eating every three hours because I work two jobs," Dunn said. "I get up at 4 a.m. and light a candle and work out. When I need support, I call Lori or even call Jorge or I'll go online and talk to other people."

Here are Cruise's tips that helped Dunn and Brown stop emotional eating.

1. Use mantra: Is this what I really need?

Use a mantra to get you through moments of difficulty. Dunn and Brown wrote down their mantra in the palm of their hands. It is the question: "Is this what I really need?" You can ask yourself the same question whenever you are tempted to use food for a fix, when you are tempted to eat for an emotional reason and not because you are hungry.

2. Create a power photo collage.

Make a collage of images and pictures which inspire you. Brown, for instance, included a photo of herself at her heaviest weight, and at her lightest. She also used magazine pictures of fit, healthy women. The collages help you to visually commit to losing weight.

3. Use reminder beeper to remind yourself to eat every three hours.

You can use a beeper, a stopwatch, anything to teach you when to eat. Lori used a beeper to remind herself to eat every three hours. If she follows it, she knows she's on track. If she's eating at other times, she knows it is emotional eating.

4. Review your motivation daily.

People doing the best have a specific motivation for losing weight. It might be an upcoming occasion, or the desire to be fit enough to play with your grandchildren. Remind yourself daily about this reason, whatever it is. Brown had a bikini hanging on a hanger to inspire her, and that was a powerful reminder of why she wanted to lose weight.

Below are tips for emotional eaters just starting out on a weight loss program.

Tips for Emotional Eaters

Cruise has three key tips for emotional eaters just starting out on a weight loss program.   Tip No. 1: Get Moving in the Morning

Exercise should be done before eating breakfast, or even having coffee, so that whatever else happens that day, you have it in your head that you have accomplished something.

"It's the greatest thing to do each day," Cruise said. "Just 8 minutes of exercise right when you get out of bed. Start the day with an endorphin rush, knowing that you are on the right path."

Tip No. 2: Find Three Supportive Teammates

If you want to lose weight, enlist support. "It's a lonely job, losing weight," Cruise said. "People often find comfort in food. Well, they should find comfort in friends and family. They need support. They should have three people that they touch base with every day in order to maintain a regimen of support."

Tip No. 3: Eat Every Three hours

The third tip is to limit yourself to only eating every three hours, without in-between meal snacks.

"It's all about regimen and routine," Cruise said. "Don't get off the routine. It sounds so simple but it is really very hard. They have to know that there is a time and a place for food, and the other parts of the day should be food free. Again, all part of maintaining and sticking to routine."