Helping Emotional Eaters

October 20, 2018 BY: LISA

Tips for Health Professionals

I recently presented a workshop at the National Eating Disorder & Obesity conference at Tweed Heads. I decided to take my kids and my mum, given it was school holidays, to take advantage of the warmer weather, only to find it was raining and overcast most days. The irony was that Melbourne apparently had some beautiful weather while I was away!


But it wasn’t all bad. Following my presentation, it was interesting to hear that some clinicians that work in the eating disorder space felt that my Food Freedom Framework would work well with their eating disorder clients as well. I traditionally work with people who are struggling to lose weight so it was interesting to hear that others would also benefit. This backed up the experience I had at the DAA conference where one clinician purchased the Framework to work with her oncology patients to assist them to develop a healthier balanced outlook to food which I also found surprising. It’s really nice to hear that clinicians in different spaces are finding the product useful.


Do you have clients that struggle with emotional eating?

When clients are struggling with emotional eating the first question I encourage them to ask themselves is, “Will eating now make me feel better later?” Often people tell me, at first they do feel better but later on there is the feeling of guilt. By asking a question that helps to focus on a future state it can assist people to make a more mindful decision rather than acting on auto-pilot.


Another thing I encourage clients to think about is what they can do to distract themselves from the feeling that they need to eat when they’re not hungry. Providing a space in your appointment to ‘trouble shoot’ means they are more likely to succeed given they know what they will try, and they don’t have to try and be inventive when the craving or a mood hits them. Fore-warned is fore-armed. When your client has a list of things they can use to distract themselves or deal with strong emotions, the more likely they are to try something different.

NeuPaddy / Pixabay

A concept used by counsellors is called ‘urge-surfing’. This where you encourage the person to imagine their craving is like a wave that will build and build and then disperse. The idea is to help the person ‘ride the wave’ of their craving, knowing it will go away. If they have something they can distract themselves with this will help them surf the urge more effectively.


I explain to my clients that usually the only reason they have a craving is because they are banning that particular food. If they were free to eat whatever they wanted then forbidden foods and rebellion cease to exist and in their place is just a solid technique for making decisions about what they want to eat or don’t want to eat. This is where the framework really helps clients.


Case Study

I had a lady attend her review session the other day feeling a bit lost as she had to go on pain medication for her back issues. She explained this in turn made her depression worse and she subsequently had been doing a lot more emotional eating which was making weight loss harder. She felt down about being stuck in this cycle.


We worked together using the strategies above and considering the particular events that triggered her to eat in order to formulate a plan she could use the next time that she found herself in a situation where she was eating after dinner, when she didn’t really want to be. She was happy when she left the appointment as she had a plan that considered all her triggers and likely barriers; one that provided a step by step ‘guide’ of things she could do next time she felt down.


All the best

Lisa APD


All enquiries, Lisa 0413 956 107 Appointments 1300 725 806
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