5 Top Tips to help with Emotional Eating

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Eating away emotions...

When you've had a crappy day, are feeling stressed out, dealt with some emotional upset or are just in a bad mood (or a good one!) reaching for food can be the ultimate feel-good option.  It can boost those dopamine (happy) hormones and help you to temporarily block out those icky feelings, providing some self-soothing and distraction.

Ultimately, food can help you feel better, however this is a temporary fix.  Sure, this is fine to do every once in a while, but not if this is a consistent way of dealing with your feelings.


Eating away your feelings is a reaction that many can easily get trapped into. It's basically a coping mechanism that allows you to focus on food instead of emotions. It is almost an acceptable addiction in ways, in that no one knows you're doing it or have done it, it's easy to hide, and brings immediate pleasure.

The emotions are still there

But, at the end of the day, those emotions/stresses are still going to be there, no matter how hard you may have tried to erase them with what you are eating (or drinking).


And let's face it, it never is a big green salad that gets binged on.  It's usually unhealthy foods that can do a lot of damage to your body and in the end effect your emotions even more, making you feel more down and then quite often have you feeling guilty that you have “pigged-out” yet again on unhealthy foods. 


Instead of a few chips, you ate the whole bag, or instead of one row of chocolate you ate the whole pack, quite often feeling a bit shocked afterwards about what you have done.  Believe me, I have been there done that!

Some people even go into a slight trance state when they emotionally eat, not even noticing how much they are consuming. It's not until they "come to" that they realise the quantities they have consumed.


Then quite often the emotional beating up, shame and guilt starts, sometimes spurring on a renewed phase of dieting, which ultimately fails because the emotions/stresses still haven't been dealt with and turning to food to block them out still becomes the go-to answer.

But as you can guess - it’s not about the food

Dealing with emotional eating usually doesn’t have anything to do with the food. It’s about dealing with emotions in a healthy way.  Seeing emotions as a process instead of something to be blocked out or be scared of, and creating coping strategies to deal with them.

Read on to see my 5 top tips to overcome emotional eating.

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5 Top Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating

1.   Catching yourself before it happens


When you know you are feeling emotional or stressed out, remember to be aware of this and recognise it.  It can be easy to just have these emotions overtake you and next thing you are reacting and reaching for unhealthy foods.  The first step is recognising how you are feeling and taking control of dealing with your emotions instead of trying to erase them.


2.  Tell yourself to stop


Take a few deep breathes, close your eyes and be aware of your emotions.  Ask yourself if you actually are hungry (if so, see suggestions below).  But if you aren’t, then try out the following suggestions.


3.  Stick with the facts


Quite often when there is a surge of emotions it is easy to get overwhelmed - imagining the worst-case scenario.  When really, the cases of this actually happening is very minimal.


A great way to get through this thought pattern is to Get Real.  Write down what you are worried about, or are worried is going to happen.  Is this an actual fact, or just a perception that you have?  Can you prove it is going to happen?  And if so, what are some things you could do about it?  Start looking at other options of ways that things could play out, maybe seeing another person’s side or their emotions in the situation.  Maybe asking for some help may be beneficial.


Instead of seeing black and white, start to see the grey – the bits in between.


4.  Talk about it


Ring up a friend or family member and have a chat about what’s going on.  Sometimes saying out loud what’s in your mind can help to minimise the emotions.  Plus, the person you’re talking to could help calm things down or provide another perspective.


Maybe there are certain things that you are feeling like you are missing out on in your day/life and need to talk or write about to find out what you are really needing, then working out how you can fill that need in a beneficial way.


5.  The Freak-out List


Write a list of things you can do when you are feeling emotional or stressed out that have nothing to do with food.  Take a bath, go for a walk, paint your nails, do some gardening, do some exercise, get creative, punch a pillow, read a book, cuddle a pet, have a run around game with the kids, dance, write about it, yoga, meditation, have a cup of herbal tea, cry, laugh, take a nap, look at funny video’s online or your old photos, get a hug … the list goes on. 


Find another out-let to let those emotions out.

Emotions can feel all encompassing at times, but hopefully by learning to deal with them in a mindful way you will be able to accept them and work through them using the strategies above.

If emotional eating is something you deal with a lot and would like to get under control, have a look at my programme here

Image by Alexa Suter

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