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 determine if you’re emotionally or physically hungry

  3. Why focusing only on tactics (aka what to eat) when it comes to weight loss is foolish

  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...we’re eating when we’re emotionally hungry.* Not when we’re physically hungry.

*This is based on thousands of new client questionnaires I've reviewed since starting MyBodyTutor in 2007.

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

Most of us eat when we're emotionally hungry, though.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. We’ll crave specific foods. With emotional hunger, we'll 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, a distraction, a quick escape, or a treat.

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

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

The Broccoli Test

I call it The Broccoli Test (TBT).

Simply ask yourself this question:

Would I eat broccoli right now? If the answer is 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. Better awareness leads to better decisions. Better decisions leads to better results.

Now, what if you realize you’re emotionally hungry? We'll cover that next.

However, before we do:

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 habits, mindset, and psychology (MPH as we like to say around here), is like getting weight loss surgery without understanding why we’re overeating in the first place. If we don’t understand the root cause, we’re delaying the inevitable: Gaining the weight back.

Without a foundation, our 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 and psychology.

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. The right questions change our perspective, which lead to breakthroughs. After all, a breakthrough is when we see something in a new way.

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, our mind finally turns off. All of our stress, worries and overwhelm vanishes.

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


A few seconds after we're done eating, the good feelings go away, and we're left feeling guilty and regretful. This is one of the reasons why food can be addicting. We want more and more of that pleasure. Shortly thereafter, the very reason we emotionally ate comes back into play.

Emotionally eating only suppresses feelings. It doesn’t change them. That's a big difference. It’s like an annoying door to door salesperson... if we don’t answer the door, they’ll keep on knocking.

We might as well answer it sooner rather than later. And until we do, we’ll just keep suppressing emotions.

Ideally, we want to choose 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:

“I’m so stressed because X.” Or, “I’m so stressed because Y.” The more we can pinpoint what’s bothering us and 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.

I know this is way easier said than done. However, this is the only way to get over emotional eating because we're getting to the root cause of it. This is one of the many frameworks we teach our clients, and it's one of the reasons why the MyBodyTutor program gets our clients such amazing results, guaranteed or your money back. If we've been able to help lifelong emotional eaters like Tammi, Lynda, Joe, Laurie, Stephanie and countless others when nothing else has worked, we can help you too. I promise! This is what I (Adam) live for.

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