Expert Advice

How to Break the Cycle of Emotional Eating

Acella Pharmaceuticals, LLC., is partnering with Heather Procknal, NBC-HWC-CHC to bring greater awareness to the importance of thyroid care and education. This post is sponsored by Acella Pharmaceuticals and should not be construed as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor about your individual medical situation.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice. Consult a medical professional or healthcare provider before beginning any exercise, fitness, diet, or nutrition routine.

Weight gain and hypothyroidism often go together. When paired with emotional triggers and food cravings, it can be a frustrating and difficult cycle to break. If you have an underperforming thyroid and find yourself reaching for food during times of stress instead of nourishing your "physical hunger,” then keep reading.

In this article, we'll explore food cravings, emotional eating, and how to recognize when you’re eating for reasons other than hunger. Then we'll share tips for breaking the cycle so you can eat healthier and get back on track to feeling your best!

Food Cravings and What Triggers Emotional Eating

Food cravings are natural. We all have them, and they're not a character flaw. In fact, at the biological level, food cravings help us survive in stressful situations. Common food cravings typically fall into two groups:

1. Fast-acting simple carbs (such as sugary processed foods) that convert into energy quickly to help us "fight or flee" dangerous situations.

2. Slow-acting fatty foods (such as fried food and fatty meats) that help us store energy to use later, such as during a famine or going long periods without food.

In addition to basic survival and physical needs, food cravings can be a crutch for dealing with emotional needs. In fact, a recent study show that food cravings may be more strongly linked to our emotional needs than to our physical survival instincts.1 This means that our food choices are often emotionally driven, especially during times of high stress.

When you stop to identify the difference between “true hunger” and “emotional hunger,” you have more control over your reaction to cravings. And once you know what sets off your urge to eat for emotional reasons, you can start to find other ways to cope with those emotions.

Identifying Your Emotional Eating Triggers

Before succumbing to an emotional eating snack session, stop and ask yourself the following questions:

1. How are you feeling right now?
• Tired, sad, lonely, frustrated, upset, listless, bored, gloomy, angry, stressed or anxious?
• Which of these feelings are most likely to trigger food cravings and emotional eating for you?
• Once you identify how you’re feeling in the moment, you can better deal with the root cause rather than fill the void with food.

2. How hydrated are you?
• A general rule of thumb is to divide your weight by two, and that's how many ounces you should drink. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you should aim to drink at least 80 ounces of water each day.
• Being just 10% dehydrated can trigger intense hunger cues, which are often mistaken for food hunger instead of thirst and dehydration. So drink a glass of water, wait 20 minutes before eating, and then reassess your hunger level.

How much rest have you had recently?
• Fatigue can also trigger false hunger cues and make us more irritable and emotional than normal. Try taking a nap and set yourself up for better sleep by using these sleep tips.

Now that we’ve identified various emotional eating triggers, we’re ready to set ourselves up for success in dealing with them.

Here are six tips to help move through the waves of emotional eating triggers and make healthier choices.

1. Find new ways to manage your stress without food. What calming and relaxing activities can you do instead of eating?
• Meditation
• Reading
• Yoga
• Warm Bath
• Massage
• Gardening
• Crafting
• Journaling

2. Are you bored or lonely? Work on a hobby or try something new to give yourself a fresh perspective or a sense of accomplishment. When you get those feel-good hormones firing, you’ll be less likely to mindlessly or emotionally eat.

3. Don’t bring the crave-triggering junk foods home. Prevent junk food's temptation by keeping it out of the house and stock up on healthy staples instead.

4. Meal plan ahead of time. This helps ease the stress of cooking at home. Bonus – it saves you money by reducing the costs of eating out! Check out this blog post with healthy meal-planning tips.

5. Be ready while you’re “on the go.” Keep healthy snacks in the car to avoid running through a drive-thru. Check out this blog post for healthy snack ideas.

6. Make it easier to choose healthier foods by keeping “quick and easy” snacks in the house. Stock up on Greek yogurt mixed with fresh fruit and nuts or chopped veggies to dip in hummus. Here are some of my favorite thyroid-supporting recipes.

How to Break the Cycle of Emotional Eating

When you binge on unhealthy foods while trying to fill an emotional need, the feeling of satisfaction is usually short-lived. Once that good feeling recedes, you're typically left feeling even worse, which just perpetuates the cycle of poor eating habits and negative feelings.

To stay in front of that vicious cycle, try implementing a few of the tips above and notice how each small, healthy step leads to another. Remember that progress is greater than perfection. Give yourself credit for each step you take along the way.

REFERENCES: 1. Alexandra Mantau, Stefan Hattula, Torsten Bornemann, Individual determinants of emotional eating: A simultaneous investigation, Appetite, Volume 130, 2018, Pages 93-103, ISSN 0195-6663,


Important Risk Information

Drugs with thyroid hormone activity, alone or together with other therapeutic agents, have been used for the treatment of obesity. In euthyroid patients, doses within the range of daily hormonal requirements are ineffective for weight reduction. Larger doses may produce serious or even life-threatening manifestations of toxicity, particularly when given in association with sympathomimetic amines such as those used for their anorectic effects.
  • NP Thyroid® is contraindicated in patients with uncorrected adrenal insufficiency, untreated thyrotoxicosis, and hypersensitivity to any component of the product.
  • In the elderly and in patients with cardiovascular disease, NP Thyroid® should be used with greater caution than younger patients or those without cardiovascular disease.
  • Use of NP Thyroid® in patients with diabetes mellitus or adrenal cortical insufficiency may worsen the intensity of their symptoms.
  • The therapy of myxedema coma requires simultaneous administration of glucocorticoids.
  • Concomitant use of NP Thyroid® with oral anticoagulants alters the sensitivity of oral anticoagulants. Prothrombin time should be closely monitored in thyroid-treated patients on oral anticoagulants.
  • In infants, excessive doses of NP Thyroid® may produce craniosynostosis.
  • Partial loss of hair may be experienced by children in the first few months of therapy but is usually transient.
  • Adverse reactions associated with NP Thyroid® therapy are primarily those of hyperthyroidism due to therapeutic overdosage.
  • Many drugs and some laboratory tests may alter the therapeutic response to NP Thyroid®. In addition, thyroid hormones and thyroid status have varied effects on the pharmacokinetics and actions of other drugs. Administer at least 4 hours before or after drugs that are known to interfere with absorption. Evaluate the need for dose adjustments when regularly administering within one hour of certain foods that may affect absorption.
  • NP Thyroid® should not be discontinued during pregnancy, and hypothyroidism diagnosed during pregnancy should be promptly treated.


NP Thyroid® (thyroid tablets, USP) is a prescription medicine that is used to treat a condition called hypothyroidism from any cause, except for cases of temporary hypothyroidism, which is usually associated with an inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis). It is meant to replace or supplement a hormone that is usually made by your thyroid gland.

NP Thyroid® is also used in the treatment and prevention of normal functioning thyroid goiters, such as thyroid nodules, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multinodular goiter, and in the management of thyroid cancer.