Feeling upset over something can often lead to emotional eating. We want to distract, avoid, or numb ourselves from feeling our feelings, but did you know that feeling upset is a choice?

The feelings you feel are driven by the thoughts you think.

So, in order to manage your feelings, you need to manage the way you think about things.

Did you know that you get to choose the thoughts you want to think?

I didn’t know this for the longest time. I always believed that the thoughts in my head were just the way it is. This is not true.

Yes, thoughts can pop up in your mind automatically, but you don’t have to believe every thought you think.

See, thoughts are simply sentences in your mind.

Sentences are things, and things can be changed.

You can decide what you want to think.

You get to decide what you want to make things mean.

Say something happens: Someone cuts you off on the road; your friend forgot your birthday; you step on the scale and see the number. These are just circumstances. A circumstance has no meaning until you assign it meaning with the thoughts you choose to think about it.

Here are some examples of thoughts you can choose to think and the corresponding feeling each thought creates:

Circumstance: Someone cuts you off on the road

Optional Thought #1: What a jerk! (or in my case, %&#$@!!!)

Feeling: Anger

Optional Thought #2: Wow, he must be in a hurry.

Feeling: Neutral

Circumstance: Your friend forgot your birthday

Optional Thought #1: She doesn’t care about me.

Feeling: Hurt

Optional Thought #2: I know she loves me; she must be really busy.

Feeling: Forgiving

Circumstance: You step on the scale and see the number

Optional Thought #1: I’m so fat. I’m such a loser.

Feeling: Self-hate

Optional Thought #2: This number is simply data on my self-care journey. The scale does not measure my worth as a person.

Feeling: Self-kindness

When you generate the feelings of anger, hurt, or self-hate, these feelings feel terrible in your body. It makes sense that we as human beings have come up with ways to distract ourselves from feeling these feelings. We do this by overeating, over-drinking, over-spending, etc. Anything to not feel the crappy feelings we feel.

But now you know that you are creating those feelings in the first place. This is very empowering! When you make the conscious choice to redirect your feelings by choosing to reframe the story you’re telling yourself about a circumstance, you directly change the feelings you feel.

When you generate feelings of forgiveness, self-kindness, or even feeling neutral about something, there is no need to distract yourself with food to shut those feelings down.

The less you upset yourself with your own thinking, the less you overeat.

If you really think about it, most of the time when we make ourselves upset, we get over it in less than a day, and sometimes within the hour—even without the numbing mechanism of overeating. Why? Because our mind has moved on and is now focused on other things.

So, if you’re not going to be upset over it tomorrow or even a week from now, why make yourself upset about it today?

It will take practice to catch your thoughts and actively swap them out for another, but making an effort to change how you are looking at a situation can definitely help you avoid all of those unnecessary extra calories you’re likely to consume if you don’t take any action at all.