I have a simple question. Since emotional eating is connected with the drive of hunger, it is difficult to tackle. What would be the Buddhist method of combating such a drive-related issue?

Here, I use the term 'emotional eating' to encompass:

1) eating for mere pleasure (attachment)

2) eating to avoid negative emotions (aversion).

3 Answers 3


The answer is mindfulness.

To see why, we need to look back to what caused this question to arise in the first place. Surely, the overeating caused some suffering and some wisdom could see that overall, this is a negative thing and needs to stop.

But that was not the winning decision at the moment of eating. The desire to eat stepped up powerfully, obscuring the wisdom and was the winner at that moment. The Buddha taught about sensual experiences - (the noble disciple), sees the allure of it (assāda), the drawback (ādīnava) and the escape from it (nissaraṇa)...

The reason wisdom did not win the battle at the moment of action is that the drawback was not fully understood (except intellectually). With continuous mindfulness, the causes and effects are seen...again and again. Seeing how, not wanting to fall, one falls into the trap anyway... When the allure, drawback and escape are seen, no techniques or restraint are needed, the desire falls away on its own.

This takes many instances, so need not to be harsh on oneself in the meantime. Just keep...observing the arising of the desire, the wisdom fighting that...and then either the wisdom wins in that instance and mindfulness then recognizes the ease that results...or the desire wins and mindfulness recognizes the drawbacks as they take shape...

Again and again....only two ingredients required -

  1. mindfulness and
  2. The wisdom gained so far

Please see this answer about a video by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu on addiction to pornography and addiction in general. That answer also states:

The other technique he proposes is to watch your mind for triggers and observe how lust arises in the mind and recognize it (basically insight meditation). You can find more info on this in his chapter entitled "Daily Life" of his booklet "How To Meditate".

I would say that the same technique could be applied to emotional eating as well.


Food, what ever kind, is used to simple cross to the other shore. Not for enjoyment, to "take on bulk", to "beauty" oneself, for the abounding of past unpleasant feeling (of hunger) and the abounding of future aviding unpleasant feelings (from overeating). Food is taken to get ride of desire for food.

The Four Nutriments of Life: An Anthology of Buddhist Texts, translated from the Pali, with an Introductory Essay by Nyanaponika Thera (2006; 33pp./98KB) [PDF icon]

Among the Buddha's most profound teachings is his observation that, like our bodies, our minds demand food for survival. Like a starving person, the mind hungers for sense-impressions; it feeds on thoughts, memories, ideas, and dreams; it even yearns for consciousness itself. This book includes carefully chosen excerpts from the suttas and commentaries that, together with the introductory essay, provide an excellent introduction to this vital topic.

[Note: This is agift of Dhamma and not meanr for commercial purposes or other low wordily gains in trade or exchange]

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