Emotional Eating

By: Hayley Coles, Dietitian

Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating is the reason why so many diets fail: Often we are not eating just to satisfy hunger; many of us are turning to food as a coping mechanism to relieve stress, boredom or cope with unpleasant emotions. It has been found that around 90 % of overweight Australians comfort eat so you are not alone and may not even realise how often you are doing it.

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better, by eating to satisfy emotional needs, rather than to satisfy physical hunger.

Occasionally using food as a pick, me up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism and your first impulse is to turn to 'food', you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.

Emotional hunger can’t be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment to numb, comfort or distract you from those unwanted feelings but unfortunately, the underlying emotional issue remains, and we only end up feeling guilty for overeating.

Emotional Hunger - Comes on suddenly; Craves certain foods; Mindless eating; Not satisfied once full; Located in your mind; Feelings of guilt follow.

Physical Hunger - Comes on more gradually; Feels like normal everyday foods; Awareness of what you are eating; Feel satisfied once stomach is full; Located in your stomach; No feelings of guilt.

Identifying your triggers

Are you bored, stressed or feeling in a low mood? When do you tend to comfort eat? At work, at home, late at night? Keeping a food journal can help with finding out what triggers you.

Finding other ways to "feed" your feelings

The next step is to find alternatives to replace the emotional eating, things that soothe your emotions or calm you down after a hard day.

Boredom eating: Find a new book or start a new hobby or sport

Stress eating: yoga, meditating, or taking a walk

Depressive eating: Call a friend, play with your children or take the dog for a walk

It is well known that by reducing the amount of food-related decisions made daily you are more likely to stay on track and reduce the need to eat due to emotions. This is where a structured and individualised eating plan designed for your specific requirements by an Accredited Practicing Dietitian can help by taking the pressure off making daily food decisions.

Lastly, don't give up if you slip up, it is hard to stop emotional eating. When you slip up, forgive yourself and start over the next day. Learning from your mistakes and focusing on the positives will go a long way in ensuring your continued weight loss success.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the Medical Centre, or any other provider within the clinic.

Click here for more information on Hayley Coles appointments at Coomera

Click here for more information on Hayley Coles appointments at Nerang

Back to top