How to Stop Emotional Eating

Learning about nutrition, and putting what you learn into practice, is fairly essential if you intend to lose weight. But knowing what’s healthy to eat and what isn’t, doesn’t tend to be the biggest problem for most people. Most know how to eat a lot healthier than they actually do, but for some reason can’t seem to do it!

Another problem a lot of people face is eating when they’re not hungry, or eating beyond what they need. Every time this happens you stand to add to your fat reserves. What is stopping people making healthier choices, and often has them eating when they don’t need food, or makes them eat too much? It is comfort and emotional eating.

To lose weight most people need to learn how to stop emotional eating.

What Causes Comfort Eating?

Our ancestors ate when they could, and they ate pretty much whatever was available. Today we have food available the whole time, and we have massive choice too. As a result people now eat for many different reasons, and genuine physical hunger might not be at the top of their list every time.

Everything you eat starts with a decision. This could be because you are genuinely hungry and your body needs food. But this isn’t the case when you meet a friend, intending to have just a coffee (because you’re not hungry), and end up sitting there eating a great big muffin! And how guilty do you feel after that?

Decisions about food are often dictated by a feeling or emotion, but this isn’t always consciously recognised. Emotions, such as stress, sadness and boredom, can have enormous power to direct your eating decisions. They are often in direct conflict with what you really want.

Comfort eating can result from a lack of a particular skill that helps a person cope with their feelings. Because these feelings aren’t dealt with well, they are numbed out instead with ‘comfort food’. Comfort food is nearly always food that is unhealthy and fattening. You don’t tend to have a blow-out on a bag of apples do you?

How to Stop Emotional Eating

There are 3 parts to learn when it comes to how to stop emotional eating.

Firstly you need to pause when you feel the urge to eat

This is about stepping back for a moment when you feel the urge to eat.

What’s going on with you? Are you responding to a hungry feeling that has been gradually building up? If so this is a cue to eat, this is genuine physical hunger.

Or have you very suddenly become hungry? If so you need to look a bit deeper because chances are your emotions are at play here. How are you feeling? Has something just happened to stress you out, or upset you? Are you tempted to eat because you’re bored?

Maybe you don’t even feel hungry at all, because you’ve just eaten and someone has offered you a pudding.

Someone I’ve helped to learn how to stop emotional eating, used to raid her fridge when she got upset. With practice she was able to step back for a few seconds when she felt the stress triggering her to eat. This gave her the chance to move onto the second step.

Secondly you need to make a conscious decision

This is about giving yourself a chance to see if eating is the right thing to do right now.

Whereas before you may have eaten on autopilot, now you have stepped back and paused for a few seconds. This gives you a chance to make a decision – one that you’re going to think about, rather than one that you don’t. This puts the power back in your hands, it puts you in the driving seat.

Are you going to eat, if so what exactly? Are you going to have second helpings, or a pudding? Or are you going to do something else instead of eating?

After pausing for a few seconds my client would recognise she had a choice. She could act out her old destructive habit of emptying the fridge, or she could make another decision. Making a different decision put her on the road to learn how to stop emotional eating.

Thirdly you need to have a plan

This is about having a pre-thought out plan to use, for those times you know your emotions can get the better of you. In this state you’re unlikely to make a good choice, unless you’ve set yourself up well beforehand.

You might know that getting stressed gets you heading straight for the fridge. When you get stressed now you’ve taught yourself to:

  • step back for a moment
  • check in with yourself, what’s going on inside?

But you’re still stressed and need to eat! This is where having a Plan B is essential.

If you have nothing up your sleeve you’ll revert to your default – emptying the fridge. Think ahead – what can you do differently?

Back to my client. Her plan was to remove herself from her house for a short time. She would go out for a quick walk to calm down (keeping her away from the fridge), and by the time she gets back the worst of her stress (and urge to eat) has passed.

You could compare this to a child sitting on the naughty when they’ve been naughty. They have to sit there with their feelings for a while, until they calm down. This lady is doing the same by going for a walk. Bad feelings pass if you give them a chance. You don’t have to head for the fridge.


Comfort and emotional eating often feel out of a person’s control, but when you step back and break it down it’s possible to gain power over this. Like any new skill this is going to take practice, especially at first. But it can be learned and mastered. And once you learn how to stop emotional eating you can lose weight and enjoy your food a lot more!

Have a fantastic week!

Dr Julie

PS Uber Slim is a 12 week online weight loss course and 2 complete sessions are devoted to learning how to stop emotional eating. If this is a problem for you perhaps now is the time to tackle it by investing in this course.


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