How to Kick Emotional Eating

May 16, 2014 BY: LISA


I was speaking with a long term client today and she had been going through a really stressful time. As a result she had put on a bit of weight as her lifelong habit has been to eat in order to make herself feel better.


Why does emotional eating make you feel better?

When eating for comfort is such a well-used coping strategy there is a belief that it actually makes you feel better- it can be useful to understand why you might think that:

  • Is it the feeling of fullness?
  • Is it the distraction of eating takes your mind off your problems?
  • It’s highly likely that it’s a psychological connection between the food and the person or people in your life who have given you food to feel better in the past. If you do this enough then the action of eating and the feeling of wellbeing become associated for you.


Is emotional eating a problem?

Its fine to use food as a comfort and coping strategy until it’s not fine. When you are eating for emotional reasons rather than hunger it can quite quickly lead to an increase in your weight – which for most people is not a good result. If this is the case for you then unfortunately your well used coping strategy has to change.


Strong emotions & stress can breed anxiety

When we are in a stressful situation it can be really overwhelming and you start to think that you can’t cope and that you need an outlet and in comes the food.


The problem is when things stay in your head it’s like walking around in a crowded room with the lights off. It’s scary and unknown and your fear amplifies accordingly. A useful strategy is to start writing down the problem(s) on paper so you can look at them more objectively. One thing I do know is that your head can really amplify a problem into something far bigger than it actually is. By writing things down when you are really stressed it’s like “turning the light on”. Suddenly you can see more clearly what is around you and the sense of anxiety and fear diminishes. This allows you to put more practical and functional actions in place a so you can see where you are and what you are dealing with.



Today I spoke about the idea of “Self Soothing” – it’s something we teach our babies to do so they can resettle themselves without needing someone else to do it for them. It’s a skill, and one that could come in handy for breaking an emotional eating habit.

When my daughter was very young I remember the Paediatrician telling me that as the parent it was my job to teach my child how to go to sleep by herself. At the time I was letting her fall asleep while feeding and then walking very slowly on tip toes to the cot and putting her down carefully so as not to wake her up- that was the easy path! The hard job was ahead of me. When I think back to when I was teaching her to self sooth, to teach herself how to go to sleep without me, it was painful and quite difficult listening to her cry. However in the end, after a few weeks of interrupted sleep she developed the skill and has been a great sleeper ever since.

It’s time to reassure yourself that if a baby can do it, so can I.


How to kick emotional eating and re-learn how to comfort yourself

  • Is it about going cold turkey?
  • Can you expect to never feel the need for comfort again?
  • Will it be easy and work every time?

No on all counts. 

It’s about expecting that you will need to be comforted and having a plan to do something else to provide comfort instead.

It’s about re-teaching yourself to “self-sooth” without food. Will it feel easy and natural? No, but just like me having to listen to my baby cry you know that it is a short term pain for a long term gain.



Remember your current coping strategy is not working. Eating to deal with feelings is now causing more grief than comfort.








New ways to sooth yourself:

  • Have a shower or bath
  • Listen to music
  • Give yourself a manicure/pedicure or facial
  • Take time out to read a book
  • Have a nap
  • Talk to a friend
  • Write your thoughts in a journal

Add to the list your own ideas of what makes you feel a bit better or distracts you from your mood.


Don’t expect it to work every time but just like trying to break any habit it will take some practise and perseverance. You may feel uncomfortable and anxious that you are not eating for comfort but the good news is that once you ride out the feeling you will be left with a sense of pride that you may not have experienced for a long time.


What I do know is that if it’s worth teaching a baby to self-sooth as part of resilience and coping skills for life it is worth re-teaching yourself so you can break the habit of emotional eating and start to regain control of your weight.


If you need some help I’m running a workshop in Melbourne on Saturday June 28th –come along and bring a friend for FREE. Let’s tackle this issue together. From flat and frustrated to Fit and Fab.

Good Luck!

Lisa APD





All enquiries, Lisa 0413 956 107 Appointments 1300 725 806
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