Emotional Eating: Breaking the habit

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How come we eat even when we’re not hungry? 

The phrase ’emotional eating’ can bring to mind someone sobbing, bingeing on chocolate or crisps – but it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Eating is as essential as breathing – we have to do it for survival, which is why it’s so easy to over eat. Breaking a habit like smoking, drug use or alcoholism isn’t easy – but if you manage it, your ‘poison’ can be completely avoided. Eating can’t be ‘given up’ so we have to look at what the the emotional attachment is.

We can eat when we’re tired, feeling unwell, stressed, anxious, sad, depressed, emotional, upset or even to celebrate.Some of us regularly over eat until we’re uncomfortable, but just can’t seem to stop. But why do we do it?

Here’s why we do it;

Sending our brain ‘satisfaction feelings’ when we’re not in a great mindset makes us feel better, which is why we ‘comfort eat’. But this isn’t just about eating junk food when we’re upset.

Our prehistoric brains were designed to ‘light up’ with pleasure when we found a precious source of energy; sugar, fat, carbohydrate – we were literally designed to gorge when we had the chance because to survive we needed to store energy as fat for the lean times. Nowadays though we have access to every type of food & lots of it! But our brains haven’t caught up and so we’re left with a bit of a problem: the battle between our prehistoric tendencies & our modern lifestyle.

Here are some tips;

If you’re staring into the fridge aimlessly, you’re not hungry – you’re probably feeding a ‘feeling’. Differentiating between real and emotional hunger will help reduce this.

Real hunger is satisfied when you eat – a few minutes into a meal your hunger will subside naturally – but if you just can’t get that satisfied feeling when you’re eating (like when you find yourself eating a whole packet of biscuits) then you are feeding something else, a feeling or emotion.

Next time you feel like over eating, ask yourself;

What am I feeling?

What do I really need to address?

If you’re just bored, find something to do. If you’re upset, speak to or call someone. Maybe writing down how you feel will help you get it out of your head so you can look at it afresh.

The key is to simply pay attention to what you’re doing – eat slowly & consciously. Let your taste buds do their job & notice each mouthful, enjoy it, savour it. If you eat in this way more often, you should start to notice when you begin to feel full. Remember that the over stuffed, bloated feeling you may get sometimes is not full – it’s over full & your body doesn’t need it.

Throwing food away seems abhorrent to most people – but consider this: Is it wasted any more in the bin, than it is in your body, turning it into excess unwanted body fat?


I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear your point of view and am more than happy to answer any questions. I reply to all comments.

So what is next?


We run a course designed to help you look at the emotional issues around eating. If you are interested click the button below.

The Weight Loss Revolution