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What do we mean by emotional eating?

Emotional eating refers to those times when we eat not because we are hungry but to help us cope with difficult emotions. We may turn to food for comfort when we feel low, stressed or bored. This can lead to unhelpful habits, particularly if your goal is to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

What can I do to reduce emotional eating?

Understand your eating patterns and identify the times when your emotions are turning you towards food for reasons other than hunger.

Think about your triggers

Think about the times when you turn to food for comfort. Does it happen at a particular time of the day? How were you feeling? What was happening around you?

Try keeping a food diary

Reflecting on how you felt at different times of the day and how that might have affected your food choices. This may help with identifying your triggers. Once you understand your triggers you can be better prepared for when you notice those events or feelings happening and have alternative strategies in place.

Try to make small changes over time and be kind to yourself as you adjust your habits

If you find you can’t initially stop turning to food as a comfort try to choose healthy foods and avoid food high in fat, sugar or salt.

Over time try different ways of coping till you find what works for you. You might find getting some fresh air or a short walk helps, or maybe picking up a pencil to write down how you’re feeling or even doodle. Finding distractions will help you to move away from emotional eating and support your mental wellbeing.

Be proud of yourself for the changes you make, they’re not easy. There will be setbacks, but returning to alternative coping strategies after you slip up will help those new habits to build.

  • Have you tried keeping a food and emotions diary?
  • Do you know what your “triggers” are for turning to food?
  • What do you enjoy doing that might help you cope with emotions instead of eating?

 If you are worried that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder speak to your GP. Support is also available from BEAT by clicking here.


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