Navigating emotional eating

Emotional eating is one of the areas that people looking to lose weight find the most challenging.

With the UK still pretty much in lockdown, and the constant influx of information and news of the pandemic, we are all living in a high-stress environment, for some, perhaps even with the added financial stress, relationship strains, or being on furlough, job insecurities, the emotional stress can be downright detrimental to your weight loss efforts, especially if you self-identify as an emotional eater (and don't forget the stress response we have been talking about which causes binge eating for many people).

Knowing Your Triggers

Getting to know your triggers is one of the most important steps in the process, so important that it is one of the first things I get my clients to do in the Stop Binge Eating Program--because without knowing the triggers, we can't get to the root cause and use alternative strategies to deal with the trigger situations or emotions. A food journal is insightful as it helps you identify which emotions, events or even people lead to emotional eating.

Is it stress? Loneliness? Anger? Anxiety? Boredom?


Mindfulness is a hot topic, but rightly so.

It helps you notice your urges, emotions, cravings and thoughts early on so that you can intervene early.

Mindfulness is all about being living in the present moment, one-mindfully, judgmentally. Being judgmental means accepting the moment as it is, not trying to judge the feelings, yourself, your thoughts or your urges. They are not good, they are not bad--they are simply what they are.

Mindfulness allows us to take a step back so that we can respond to the situation effectively.

Am I hungry?

What am I feeling?

What just happened?

With that space, we then decide the next best move from there, instead of letting our brain run on autopilot and turn to food mindlessly.

Research has shown that if the more we use mindfulness to overcome urges, we grow. We become more resilient and the more able we are able to manage them more effectively.

Distract, Not React!

Look for alternatives to food that give you the same feelings food give you.

Here are a few suggestions for some of the most common emotional triggers.


Have a support network. How about a Zoom Happy Hour with your girlfriends? Or ring a close friend?

Is there anyone in your regular support network that always makes your day?

Play some happy music to change your mood?

Or look through some old photos with happy memories captured.


Some intense exercise (even just a few minutes) for the happy hormones

Have a change of environment, go to another room, get some fresh air in the garden, go for a walk.

Mindfulness practice--your anxiety decreases as you focus your mind on other things in the moment

Do something with your hands (we tend to fiddle when we get anxious or stressed)--arts and crafts, knitting, nail varnish...

Being tired

Did you have sufficient sleep? If not, don't feel guilty if you need an early night.

Self care--why not have a warm bubbly bath, or use some essential oils or scented candle? Do something that allows you to completely relax.

You deserve some "YOU" time! Boredom

Establish a routine, create structure for your day

Learn a new skill/hobbies

Distract yourself with some engaging activities (not just reacting to stimuli around you) e.g. puzzle books, go for a walk, drawing

Hungry for more?

Download my free 3+2+0 guide to stop binge eating

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© NutriPsych-Stop Binge Eating Clinic 2019 and beyond

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