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Updated: Dec 23, 2023

Emotional eating is something many of us have had experience with. Sometimes we may use food to tackle negative emotions such as sadness, loneliness or stress. This can be heightened in the darker, cold months as we may look toward food for comfort. Emotional eating is not inherently problematic, however when it is the only coping mechanism it can be troublesome, leading to weight gain and a poor relationship with food.




Physical hunger

Builds up slowly and some time may have past between your last meal. You may also notice physical sensations such as stomach rumbling, or a dip in concentration.

What is emotional hunger?

Emotional hunger is different to physical hunger and it may come on suddenly without any build up. Often emotional hunger does not resolve with food and it may happen shortly after a meal or snack. This is usually because food is a very easy distraction. It takes us away from the stressful situation and gives us something to do.

What can be done about emotional eating?

The below is a simple technique that you may want to try to begin tackling emotional eating.

The key thing to do is to begin to recognise that you are experiencing these emotions.

The next steps you might like to address are asking yourself:

  • What is causing me to feel like this?

  • What do I need right now?

  • When did I last eat? Am I physically hungry?

This will allow you to begin to identify your needs and figure out whether it is physical hunger and you need food, or emotional hunger and you need to address the cause. It is important to listen and take action on your body's needs so that you begin to build trust.

The less you use food to numb or cope with your emotions, the more you will start to see food as food instead of a coping mechanism. Food may begin to lose its special touch, and may provide less comfort as you address your emotional needs.

Food related issues can be multi-faceted and more support is required. If this is something you would like to explore the I would like to introduce you to A Bitesize Guide to Intuitive Eating™

This is for you if..

  • You often find yourself in the cupboards looking for food (again)

  • You're hungry all the time even if you just ate

  • You are tired of yo-yo dieting

  • You want to reclaim trust in your body around food

  • You want to stop emotional eating

  • You want a balanced and sustainable approach to food

Please note the information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical or dietetic advice. If you have any queries regarding your diet or your physical or mental health, please speak to your GP or a registered healthcare professional.

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