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The Broccoli Test: How to Stop Emotional Eating

In this article you’re going to learn:

  1. The #1 reason why people are overweight

  2. A powerful test to see whether you’re emotionally or physically hungry

  3. Why focusing only on tactics when it comes to weight loss is as useless as a screen door on a submarine

  4. Three powerful questions to ask yourself if you’re about to emotionally eat

  5. The only way to overcome emotional eating

The #1 reason why people are overweight is because…drum roll please (video safe for work) …we’re eating when we’re emotionally hungry.* Not when we’re physically hungry.

*This is based on hundreds of new client questionnaires I’ve reviewed in the last 8 years since starting MyBodyTutor along with subsequent conversations.

Physical hunger is a gradual sensation that we feel in our stomach, and any food seems appealing. We usually feel good after eating.

Most people eat when they’re emotionally hungry though.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and we’ll crave specific foods. With emotional hunger we can have snack after snack and nothing hits the spot. We often feel guilty after emotional eating.


It’s because we’re not hungry for food. We’re hungry for something else.

It might be stress relief. It might be a distraction. It might be a quick escape. It might be a treat. It might be a feeling of control (in a counterintuitive way).

Keep in mind: It’s never about the food we’re craving. It’s about what the food allows us to avoid.

Here’s a simple but powerful way to determine if you’re physically or emotionally hungry.



I call it The Broccoli Test (TBT).

Simply ask yourself this question:

Would I eat broccoli right now? If you answer “yes” then you are physically hungry. Go ahead and eat.

If you answer “no” then you’re emotionally hungry. You are not actually hungry for food. You are hungry for something else (stress relief, a distraction, a quick escape, etc.).

The idea is that when we’re physically hungry any food is appealing. If the thought of vegetables doesn’t sound appealing we’re not physically hungry.


The first step to overcoming emotional eating is being aware of it.

Now, what if you realize you’re emotionally hungry? That’s the next part.


Before we move forward, I want to share why the “advice”, “Just eat less and move more!” is as useless as a screen door on a submarine. The reason? It doesn’t address the psychology of weight loss.

Tactics without the right mindset and psychology, is like getting bariatric surgery without understanding why we’re overeating in the first place. If we don’t understand the root cause, we’re just delaying the inevitable: gaining the weight back.

Without a foundation, people’s efforts are a waste of time. This is why “diets” don’t work for the long term. They don’t change habits and behaviors. They don’t focus on the mindset.

Most people go on what I call a “food diet”. The only thing they change is the food they’re eating. If the only thing you’re changing is the food you’re eating, you’re not going to change for the long term.


Okay, back to it.

I’m a big fan of asking ourselves questions. Questions change our perspective. And that’s what it’s all about.

So, if you realize you’re about to emotionally eat, ask yourself:

1. What’s really bothering me? Or what am I really hungry for?

2. What can I do about it?

3. Why don’t I do anything about it? ——> This is the kicker.

When we’re emotionally eating we’re choosing to be powerless. (Yes, I know I sound like a corny motivational speaker but it’s the truth.) We’re choosing to be powerless by going into what I call a ‘food trance’. In that food trance, everything is great.

Our mind finally turns off. Whatever was bothering us is no longer on our mind. We’re only focused on the pleasure of the food we’re eating…


The second we’re done indulging – the moment! – the good feelings go away, and we’re left feeling guilty and regretful. (This is one of the reasons why junk food can be addicting. We want more and more of that pleasure aka dopamine.) Shortly thereafter, the very reason why we emotionally ate comes back into play.

Emotionally eating only suppresses feelings. It doesn’t change them. It’s like an annoying door to door salesmen…if we don’t answer the door, they’ll keep knocking.

We might as well answer it sooner rather than later. Until we answer the door we’ll just keep suppressing emotions.

In other words, we want to be powerful. (Yes, I know. More corny motivational talk stuff.)

It’s the truth, though. If we deal with what’s bothering us, the cravings and urges will go away.

The key is getting specific about what’s bothering us. For example, rather than saying to others or ourselves, “I’m so stressed,” try this:

“I’m so stressed because X.” Or, “I’m so stressed because Y.” The more we can pinpoint what’s bothering us and actually take action on what’s bothering us, the less cravings and urges we’ll have.

In other words: Facing our stuff. Rather than stuffing our face.

This is the only way to get over emotional eating because we’re getting to the root cause of the emotions. This is one of the many frameworks we teach our clients, and it’s one of the reasons why the MBT program gets our clients such amazing results, guaranteed or your money back.

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