Emotional Eating

28 Oct 2021

Emotional Eating

There are many emotions or events that can contribute to overeating. The foods we eat when we are emotional can be less nutritious options, higher in calories and are often those higher in added sugar and fats. Some of these foods may seem addictive. This is because they release trace amounts of mood elevating hormones. Consequently, eating these foods can feel like they help manage negative emotions.

Food can also be a distraction. If you are worried about an upcoming event or situation eating can be a welcomed distraction. However, once you have finished eating, your attention returns to your woes with the addition of a feeling of guilt from overeating.

The emotions that trigger overeating are strong. There are, however, strategies to assist in overcoming these emotional triggers for eating.


  • Learn to recognise true hunger
    Stop and ask if you are truly hungry. If you think the reason for wanting to eat is emotional, wait 10 minutes and then reassess the feeling of hunger.
  • Know your triggers
    For the next few days, write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you feel when you eat and how hungry you are. Overtime patterns may emerge.
  • Look elsewhere for comfort
    Instead of reaching for that candy bar, treat yourself to a walk, a chat with a friend, or listen to music. If you think your stress is about a particular event, try talking to someone about it. Plan enjoyable events for yourself on a regular basis.
  • Try not to go food shopping when you are feeling emotional
    Aim to keep nutritious foods in your house so they are available as an easy option. If you are feeling hungry or blue, postpone trips to the supermarket or corner store so you’re not influenced by your emotions.
  • Snack healthy
    If you want to snack betweens meals try preparing healthy snacks. Some suggestions are unbuttered popcorn, fresh fruit, yoghurt, or vegetable sticks with a low-fat dip.
  • Eat a balanced diet
    If you are not getting enough calories or are eating at irregular times it will be easy to give into your emotions and overeat as your blood sugar levels will not be stable. Aim to have balanced meals containing a variety of vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates, lean protein and water.
  • Exercise regularly and get adequate rest
    Your moods will be more manageable if you exercise regularly and sleep well.

If you overeat at one meal, forgive yourself and move on with the next meal. One occasion of overeating will not undo your nutrition goals, but an all-or-nothing approach and overeating for the rest of the day or week will more likely impact your health goals. Learn from the experience, plan and focus on the positive changes you are making.

If you want more information about healthy eating, contact our friends at Rebound Health. They have Accredited Practicing Dietitians on board to help work with you to create a healthy eating plan. Contact the team on 9907 6023.

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