What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is when you eat for reasons other than hunger. Those reasons may include:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Sadness
  • Boredom
  • Loneliness
  • Hurt
  • Mourning
  • Using food as a reward
  • Using food to soothe yourself and distract yourself from what’s really bothering you

The commonality among those is the lack of hunger. We call it emotional hunger rather than physical hunger and it can interfere with making healthy eating choices, ultimately standing as a major barrier to achieving your healthy eating goals and losing weight.

If you notice that you often reach out to foods for the emotional reasons outlined above, you might be an emotional eater. Other signs include changing your eating habits once more stress is added into your life and noticing that you are not eating out of hunger but rather to soothe a certain emotion.

What are some ways to deal with emotional eating?

Identify which of the above emotional eating reasons belongs to you.

One way to figure out what triggers emotional eating is to keep a food journal. Write down when and what you eat. Also, write down what you were doing and feeling before you started eating. Ask yourself, was this emotional hunger or physical hunger? You can use this information to find patterns in your eating habits. For example, you might notice that every time you leave your stressful work environment, you drive through a fast food place and order a large burger, fries and a large coke.

Find other wa

ys to manage stress and your emotions

  • Take a short relaxation walk if the weather permits.
  • Stop and think: If it helps, on a piece of paper draw circles and write down in each circle a problem in your life that is stressing you out and perhaps triggering emotional eating. Then, attempt to find actionable solutions to those.
  • Call a friend or go for coffee to vent and talk or simply to distract yourself from emotionally eating.
  • Last but not least, see help from a professional healthcare team such as a Registered Dietitian and Registered Psychologist for support and help to overcome your emotional eating.

IMPORTANT: remember to find solutions to your problems instead of numb the feelings of stress using food or alcohol. Always be happy, don’t let anything stop you from giving life the biggest smile you have ?

Hannah Deacon, RD