Think Before You Eat: Stop Emotional Eating

Mindset // Sarah Link // 20 July 2015

Do you reach for food to fill a void, hide your feelings or just out of habit? Here is the key to stop those emotional cravings for good! 

Eating is essential for fuel to survive and thrive, and there’s no doubt it’s one of life’s great pleasures. But many people turn to food as a habit, like checking Facebook, biting nails or fidgeting, or to cover up feelings with emotional – or compulsive – eating.

Don’t Blame Yourself

What is emotional eating? Quite simply, it’s using food to suppress or deal with emotions, or “feed a feeling” rather than feed a hungry tummy. Emotional eating can derail the most diligent dieters or gym-goers.

Note that emotional eating is NOT about a lack of discipline or about being greedy. It goes deeper than that, and it’s important to get to the root of the problem.

Ride Out Compulsions and Emotions

Mish says to “ride the wave of emotion”, and she’s right! It’s important to recognise that, like the waves in the ocean, emotions come, and they go. Many people are taught from a young age that negative feelings are bad – but they’re not. They’re just an emotion, like everything – happiness, sadness, anger, boredom, disappointment – they’re all the same thing!

Be Conscious of Your Eating Habits

First, recognise that you’re doing it. Track your food for a week or two and see what trends pop up: do you always look for a mid-morning bikkie to avoid a heavy workload? Maybe a snack after dinner because you’re bored watching TV or a bit lonely? Then set up a game plan to combat those times.

Make a Plan

Next time you reach for that piece of cake or handful of chips, stop and ask yourself, “What’s really going on here? Am I hungry? Am I bored? Am I frustrated?”.

If the answer is hunger, then a fresh, whole foods-based meal will satisfy you and keep you full until your next meal.

But what if it’s not hunger? Accept how you’re feeling. Then sit back and allow yourself to fully experience that emotion. Observe it as the feeling comes, then falls. It can be incredibly liberating to know that’s all it is – and you can handle it without food.

Change Your Habits

The best thing about habits is that you can break them! Many of our 12WBT success stories have had habits that needed to go! If boredom is your trigger for mindless eating, it’s time to switch things up.

Replace a not-so-good habit with a better one. Your morning coffee and biscuit break could be replaced with a quick walk around the block to get some air and recharge. Buying yourself that book you’ve been wanting to read will soon take over that post-dinner craving: get an early night with your book and a herbal tea. Feeling lonely? Call a friend or relative and catch up on news.

Find Other Pleasures

This technique is also good for those who view food as their main pleasure. Food certainly is a wonderful part of life – sharing meals with family and friends or eating a good-quality, delicious piece of chocolate. But if the thing you look forward to most in your day-to-day life is eating, then perhaps you need a rethink.

The solution? Look for other ways to reward yourself that don’t involve a family block of chocolate. Join a club, start a new hobby or sporting team or meet friends for a walk instead of coffee and cake.

Fill the Void

Emotional eating is just that – eating our feelings. Many people eat to mask uncomfortable feelings, hiding them under a burger and fries.

If there’s a void in your life, food will most certainly not fill it – not long-term anyway. No matter how many slices of pie or servings of lasagne you eat, it will still be. Our mindset lessons are all about this!

The key to success is to find the void, work through it and you’ll be tackling emotional eating head-on.




  1. Suzanne thorough good Reply

    Always good advice!!

  2. Suzanne Knight Reply

    So great to read this and get back on track. I have been away fr cold home and enjoying sunny Queensland with many international visitors to our country. Returning home next week to cold weather and healthy eating again.

  3. Jen Reply

    I’ve had too many major life changes this year, I know I am emotionally eating, I just don’t seem to be able to stop it yet, I will try yet again to eat mindfully 🙂

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