How to stop emotional eating

Food is fuel.

  • It is not your best friend.
  • It is not there to solve your problems (unless one of them is hunger).
  • It is not designed to deal with your emotions.
  • It is not here to entertain you, or fill in your time, or make you feel happy, or to destress you…

Food is fuel!

…. Which is great in theory, but unfortunately a lot of us have a long history of resorting to food for a lot more than just fuel.

If you’re one of those people, here’s a 20 min video (recorded live) to help you STOP EMOTIONAL EATING:

If you’d prefer to short version, read on…

1. Understand why you’re doing it.

Usually it’s not the food that’s the problem – the food is an attempted solution to make you feel better (or sometimes to avoid feeling bad).

Determining the underlying issue is the first crucial step in eventually overcoming the emotional eating.

Sometimes people resort to food due to a lack of self esteem…

Sometimes it’s a form of escape…

Sometimes it’s procrastination…

Sometimes it’s temptation…

Sometimes it’s a lack of organisation…

A lot of times it’s a cry for help.

Figuring out WHY you resort to food as a solution, and writing this down, is important.

2. Understand the behaviour patterns.

The next step is to realise that emotional eating is usually based on habits and behaviour patterns.

Determining and understanding your behaviour patterns when you resort to food as therapy, is critical.

The behaviour pattern generally follows this sequence:

  • Temptation: You’re tempted to eat the food because it has made you feel good before.
  • Behaviour patterns: You engage in certain rituals e.g. Put the kids to bed, get them settled then head straight to the fridge.
  • Excuses: You make justifications as to why you’re allowed to eat the food e.g. I’ve worked hard all day, one little slice isn’t going to hurt, I need to feel good because ‘x’ has made me feel bad about myself etc. You’re mentally giving yourself the go ahead.
  • Eating: You begin eating and momentarily feel better.
  • Guilt: You regret what you’ve eaten and how you’ve acted and now starts the self hate and negative mind talk e.g. I’m never going to lose weight, I hate the way I look, I feel disgusting, I wish I was….
  • Action: Over a period of time (which may be an hour or even a couple of days) you start to feel positive again, and so the cycle continues…

3. Create structure for new habits.

The key to breaking the emotional eating cycle, is to stop these behaviour patterns and create new habits as a solution to the underlying issue.

Write out the scenarios of what happens when you over eat, or eat the food you’re trying to avoid.

  • Include what, when, where, why, how and who. 
  • It’s important to consider the period of time PREVIOUS to the actual event of eating.

For example:

You slept through your alarm and missed your usual morning gym session.

Went to work, had a really busy day and only ate a small salad for lunch (as you felt guilty for missing the gym).

By the time you get home you’re starving, you’re thinking about the washing that needs to be brought in, dinner that needs to be cooked and a million other jobs staring you in the face….. so you eat half a family sized packet of choc chip cookies.

Then you don’t feel like eating dinner (again you’re feeling guilty…. plus that’s one extra meal you don’t have to cook) so you skip dinner and make up some excuse for not eating with everyone else.

Then a few hours later you’re hungry again and you think to yourself “today’s a write off anyway I may as well just finish the choc chip cookies and start again tomorrow” so you eat the cookies ….. and the remains of any other opened packets you can find.

For each scenario construct an alternative behaviour pattern following these guidelines:

  •  Be Practical: You’re not going to be able to use retail therapy each time you get stressed at work and reach for a tim tam. Make sure your actions are easily maintainable.
  •  It Must Be Enjoyable: Placing unrealistic demands on yourself like “every time I feel like chocolate I’ll do 50 burpees instead” is not going to work. Remember you’re reaching for the food because you want to feel good, so you need to replace the eating with something else that makes you feel good.
  •  It Must Be Adaptable: The more you engage in the new behaviour patterns, the quicker they will become habits. Consider if you can implement your new plan of attack anywhere and at any time.

Following on from our previous example:

Go to bed earlier so you don’t sleep through your alarm.

If you can’t go to bed earlier, don’t sleep through your alarm anyway.

If you don’t have time to make it to the gym, do something at home – a 15 min workout is better than no workout!

Stop and breathe!!!! Missing one gym session is not going to make you unfit (missing 2 in a row may though). This is not the end of the world.

Pack your lunch the night before.

Have emergency meals in the freezer.

Know places near your work where you can buy a healthy lunch.

Drink more water than usual whilst at work.

Stop and grab a healthy snack for the trip home so you’re not starving when you walk in the door.

Ring a friend on the way home and vent about your crappy day.

Don’t have choc chip cookies in the house.

Have a frozen meal for dinner so you don’t have to cook.

Talk about your day with your family / neighbours….


Creating new habits is hard! You can’t expect to change your behaviour over night without a period of learning, adjustment and a lot of trial and error!

Find out more about how I can help YOU online:

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