BREAK THE CYCLE. How To End Emotional Eating!



Written by: Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kim Feinstein, Tucson Medical Weight Loss’ Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist

Why it is so difficult to break the Emotional Eating Cycle!?


- You have been emotionally eating for a very long time, both consciously and unconsciously, therefore, It is a deeply ingrained habit

- It can be frightening to consider your life when you don’t numb yourself with food

- You are overwhelmed at how to start identifying and serving your emotional needs without using food

- Processed sugary high fat foods are highly addictive, so even without the emotional component, they can be extremely difficult to give up.

- You haven’t learned alternative effective ways of tolerating and managing your feelings.


Thankfully, you can break the habit of emotional eating. What is needed to break the cycle of emotional eating is support, compassion, guidance, kindness, and a safe place where you can release your fears, identify your emotions, triggers, and what your real needs are, and then put in place a toolbox of strategies and methods to satisfy your emotional needs in a way that doesn’t require reaching for comfort food. Follow the steps below to begin breaking the emotional eating cycle!


Step One: Be Aware.
Much of emotional eating is so unconscious that it happens automatically. Before you attempt to change this habit, keep a journal. Write down where and when you stress eat. The office? Late at night? When you are alone? When you are tired, sad, lonely, or bored? Are there any patterns that you notice?


Step twoAre you physically hungry or emotionally hungry?  Always ask yourself this question before eating. Use the hunger scale below to assess how physically hungry and/or full you feel.

Hunger Scale- TMWL

How To Use The Hunger Scale

- If you want to gain better control and lessen the chances of overeating, try using this scale. Begin eating when you are between a “3” and “4”. You want to feelsome hunger pangs but still have control over what you will eat.


- Halfway through your meal, rank your hunger again using the same scale of 1–10. As you move through your meal, continue to check in with your physical satisfaction level instead of eating mindlessly on autopilot. If you are physically satisfied and still have food left over, do not continue eating. Instead, ask for a to-go box, push your plate away, or throw it away.


- If you are still physically hungry, continue eating. At the end of your meal, rank your hunger again using the same scale. Try to stop eating at a “5” or “6”. If you find that you have passed the point of satisfaction and are uncomfortable, realize that this happens and try not to beat yourself up or feel guilty. Instead, ask yourself, “Why did I continue to eat past the point of satisfaction?” “Was I overly hungry when I started? Did the food just taste too good, so I didn’t want to stop? Was it out of habit? Or maybe I didn’t want to “waste” it?


Try implementing this hunger scale method into your next meal and see if you leave the table simply satisfied rather than still hungry or excruciatingly full!


Step Three: Replace.
If you stop emotionally eating, you have to put something in its place.  Write down a concrete list of all the healthy, non-food related activities that give you a quick pick-me-up on a tough day. (Link to Alternatives to Emotional Eating handout from last blog??)


Below are several additional strategies and coping skills to help you end emotional eating!


1. PAUSE Formula (see above)


2. Calming Words

Use this skill to during the “pause” to fill the space between a thought to eat and an action. This skill is most helpful when you are trying to tolerate an urge to emotionally eat or you have a strong craving for comfort food.

Say a silent prayer or calming motivational (inspirational) word, verse, or mantra.

- This too will pass

- Keep calm and carry on

- Just because I want it, doesn’t mean I have to have it!

- I can do this


3. Focused Breathing Exercise: Q-Tipp

This skill is beneficial when you are deciding about whether or not to engage in emotional eating. The more you practice this skill, the more easily and quickly you will be able to make wise eating decisions.


Q: Quiet your mind: Close your door, turn off your phone, walk away from your computer. Sit in a comfortable spot. Close your eyes and empty your mind. Let go of distracting thoughts. Focus on the present moment. If you can’t stop what you are doing, that is ok. Just turn your attention to your breathing.


T: Touch base with your senses: Identify and label what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch around you.


I:  Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. If you need imagery, imagine inhaling the fragrance of your favorite scented candle.


P: Pucker your lips and very slowly, push out your breath.


P: Pause and hold for a moment.


Repeat this process ten times. If you still feel overwhelmed, repeat ten more times or until you feel calmer. Then make your decision whether or not to eat.


With consistent application of these tools plus a supportive environment where you can heal and empower yourself, you can move from a damaged, painful relationship with food and your body to a joyful, liberated one.

Good luck!


*Individual results may vary. Seek medical advice before starting any service including a weight loss program or med spa treatment. Contact us to make sure this is the right solution for you.



Written by: Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kim Feinstein, Tucson Medical Weight Loss’ Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist

1. Stress
Stress is the number one reason people give for why they engage in emotional eating. Stress causes people to want to eat for several reasons. One powerful reason is stress can bring on increased levels of cortisol. Cortisol has a beneficial function in the body, but excessive levels of cortisol brought on by chronic stress can create cravings for salty and sweet foods. In previous centuries, this enabled people to bulk up on foods that would sustain them during times when food is scarce; however, in modern times and industrialized nations, when food is rarely scarce, this previously adaptive mechanism causes excess weight gain and significant uncontrollable cravings.

2. Negative AND Positive Emotions
One of the biggest myths about emotional eating is that it is ONLY prompted by negative feelings. Yes, people often turn to food when they’re overwhelmed, lonely, sad, angry, anxious, and/or bored. However, emotional eating can also be driven by positive feelings, like happiness, excitement, and/or joy.

Occasionally, emotional eating is prompted by tragic life events, such as a death or a divorce. More often, though, it is the countless daily stressors that cause someone to seek comfort or distraction in food. Eating can be a way to temporarilysilence or “stuff” uncomfortable feelings. While you are numbing yourself with food, you avoid the emotions you would rather not feel.

3. Childhood habits:
Emotional eating patterns can be learned: A child who is given candy after a big achievement may grow up using candy as a reward for a job well done. A kid who is given cookies as a way to stop crying may learn to link cookies with comfort.

Reflect on your childhood experiences surrounding food. Did your parents reward good behavior with sweets, take you out for fast food when you got a good report card, or give you a cookie or ice cream when you were feeling sad? These childhood eating habits often carry over into adulthood and are presently operating today.

Emotional eating is a vicious cycle. Food is used to deal with an emotion, but the food doesn’t answer your emotional needs, and then you are left feeling guilty or shameful, adding to your emotional instability. Let’s further examine the cycle of emotional eating.


*Individual results may vary. Seek medical advice before starting any service including a weight loss program or med spa treatment. Contact us to make sure this is the right solution for you.

Breakfast (Protein Pancakes)

Protein Pancakes


  • 1 HealthWise Vanilla Drink* (powder)
  • 1 organic egg white (medium-large)
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of water (if desired)
  • Walden Farms Pancake Syrup

Mix the ingredients in a bowl using a spoon or a mini whisk. Place pan on the stove on medium heat and then place the batter in the pan. Let the pancake sit for about 2-3 minutes on one side, flip it, and then let it sit on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Depending on the pan and heat used, the timing might be slightly different.

Top with Walden Farms pancake syrup and if desired your favorite approved fruits or Walden Farms fruit spread.

*You may purchase HealthWise Drinks at any Tucson Medical Weight Loss location


*Individual results may vary. Seek medical advice before starting any service including a weight loss program or med spa treatment. Contact us to make sure this is the right solution for you.

Dr. Kim: Self Test- Are You An Emotional Eater?


Written by: Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kim Feinstein, Tucson Medical Weight Loss’s Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist

In my last blog, I briefly touched on the issue of emotional eating. For many, feelings are the most compelling reason for eating inappropriately. This destructive habit often sabotages weight loss efforts and leads to weight gain.

In fact, research suggests 95-98% of diets fail due to emotional eating.Furthermore, emotional eating erodes self-esteem by perpetuating feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. If you are like most who have been fighting this fight and you are tired of the struggle, just remember you CAN take control!

Take a moment now and think about your own experience with food:

  • Do you use food as a source of comfort or relief when you’re feeling sad, anxious, angry, bored, or lonely?
  • Do you attempt to numb your feelings with food?
  • Do you eat as a way to get through a difficult time (financial problems, relationship struggles, job loss, illness, etc.)?
  • Do you celebrate with food?
  • Do you reward yourself with food?
  • Is eating your main source of pleasure in life?

More specifically, think about the last time you ate inappropriately and ask yourself these important questions*:

  1. Did your hunger or urge to eat come on fast, or did it grow gradually?
  2. When you felt like eating, did you feel an almost desperate need to eat right away?
  3. While eating were you paying attention to what or how much you were eating or did you just stuff it in? Was your eating fast and/or frenzied?
  4. Did you crave something specific? (You are more likely to choose “trigger foods” to satisfy an emotional need).
  5. Did you feel guilty or remorseful after eating? Did it make you want to keep eating because you “blew it anyway?”

Now let’s review your answers!

  1. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, while physical hunger develops more gradually. Physical hunger begins with physical symptoms (i.e., hunger pangs, headache, etc.), which is very different from emotional hunger. Emotional hunger typically has a sudden and dramatic onset.
  2. Emotional hunger demands food immediately, and it wants immediate gratification, whereas physical hunger will wait for food.
  3. A significant difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger is mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about paying attention and being aware. When you are eating in response to physical hunger, you are more inclined to maintain awareness of what and how much you are putting in your mouth. Conversely, when you are satisfying emotional hunger, you are rarely mindful of what’s being eaten and you eat in a fast and frenzied manor.
  4. Emotional hunger often demands fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide instant relief. You feel like you need chocolate, ice cream or pizza, and nothing else will suffice. If you’re eating in response to physical hunger, even healthier foods appear delicious.
  5. Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.

If you missed it last month, here is a chart to help you differentiate emotional hunger vs. physical hunger.


Did your answers to the above questions reveal that you might be an emotional eater? Did you discover that you have been confusing emotional hunger with physical hunger? If so, we now want to understand why! What drives your emotional eating habits?

Check back very soon for my next blog when I dive deep into what has caused this emotional eating lifestyle and tips and tricks on how to beat the evil mind game!

*Adapted from Gould, Roger (2007). Shrink Yourself: Break free from emotional eating
*Individual results may vary. Seek medical advice before starting any service including a weight loss program or med spa treatment. Contact us to make sure this is the right solution for you.

Make Your Own Salad Dressings


One easy way to keep your meals extra healthy and avoid the extra calories is topping your salads with your own salad dressings!

Why intake added sugars, fats and high sodium numbers into your diet when you can take what you already have in your fridge and spice up simple lettuce all by yourself? Take a look at these easy recipes:

Grapefruit Vinaigrette


  • Grapefruit juice (from 3 segments)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Stevia to taste

Directions: Combine juices and vinegar together. Add Stevia to taste. Pour over mixed green salad and top with remaining grapefruit segments. Or use as a marinade for fish, shrimp or chicken.

Tomato Basil Vinaigrette


  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp minced onion
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh basil
  • 1/8 tsp oregano
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Stevia to taste

Directions: Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and heat slightly to a boil. Adjust liquid to desired consistency by adding a little more water or broth. Remove from heat and chill. Enjoy over salad with fresh ground pepper.

Citrus Ginger Dressing


  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • Ginger fresh or ground to taste
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • Stevia to taste

Directions: Combine spices with liquid ingredients. Enjoy over salad or double the recipe for use as a marinade. Warm slightly to enhance the flavors.

*Individual results may vary. Seek medical advice before starting any service including a weight loss program or med spa treatment. Contact us to make sure this is the right solution for you.

Make your kitchen as goal oriented as you are!



The kitchen is the heart of the home, but it can be a very dangerous territory for someone who is watching what they’re eating. The refrigerator can make or break someone’s weight loss goals. Here are some tips to keep your kitchen as goal-oriented as you are on your weight loss journey:

- Make fruits and vegetables more accessible than a bag of chips! Wash, cut up, and store your healthy snacks, such as celery, strawberries or oranges, in Ziploc bags or reusable containers. Place these snacks at eye level so it’s the first thing you see when you open the fridge door.

- Prepare A LOT amount of salad: A salad to start off dinner is a great way to fill up before the main course! You’re for sure to eat a salad with your meal if it’s already made, just scoop out a bowl of greens, top with cucumbers, tomatoes and onions, add a low-cal dressing (any Walden Farms’ dressings will work) and enjoy!

- Put measuring cups and tablespoons/teaspoons in plain sight: Measuring your food will keep your portions controlled and that gives you a sense of accountability. Seeing the measuring utensils on the counter will be a visual reminder not to forget to use them!

- Freeze fruits and veggies: Buy large bags of fruits and veggies at the store and wash, cut, and store them in Ziplocs in the freezer. You’ll not only save money when you buy in bulk, but you’ll also have them on hand to add to your smoothies, soups and side dishes.

- Make frozen smoothie bags: If you’re in a rush in the morning, prep fruit and veggie smoothie bags and keep them in the freezer. Simply empty the contents in the blender, and you’ll have a low-cal, fiber- and protein-packed breakfast that will fill you up.

- Ditch the unhealthy foods: If these foods are within your reach, you’re inevitably going to crave them. Throw out or give away the junk foods, because if it’s not in the kitchen, your less likely to be tempted!

- Use smaller size plates: Using a smaller plate will help with portion control so you don’t load up your plate and overeat. Monitor your portion sizes so you can make sure you’re hitting all the food groups such as proteins and vegetables, not just carbs.
- Double or triple the recipe: Whether you’re making soup, veggies, protein-style burgers, or anything else for dinner, don’t just make enough for one meal. Save the leftovers in a Tupperware container and place in the fridge so you can easily make meals for the next few days. If your lunch or dinner is already made, you won’t have to resort to takeout!

- Put any extra food away before you eat: After you’ve cooked up a healthy dinner, serve yourself an appropriate serving size, then wrap it up and put the leftovers away. If you leave it out, you’re more likely to go back for more. Out of sight, out of mind!


*Individual results may vary. Seek medical advice before starting any service including a weight loss program or med spa treatment. Contact us to make sure this is the right solution for you.