Emotional Eating: A Deeper Understanding

January is the time for quick fix dieting, ‘new year, new me’, high expectations and unrealistic goal setting.

When it comes to dieting there’s often much more to it than the oversimplified saying of ‘eat less and move more’. After Christmas there’s also an added pressure to lose weight which the media pushes despite whether you have weight to lose or not. All of these pressures can be contributors to the struggle to lose weight.

You might be surprised to hear that we’re not here to jump on the ‘new year, new me’ bandwagon. In fact, we’re here to talk more about the emotional aspect of eating. This is something which regularly gets swept under the carpet in all the all-consuming talk around diet and weight loss. It might be January but let’s take weight loss out of the equation for now whilst we highlight some key facts around understanding emotional eating and top tips for what you can do about it.

Firstly, emotional eating is to some degree very normal, it’s not something to feel guilty about, it’s more just something to be aware of. Emotional eating often refers to the excessive overconsumption of highly palatable (high sugar, high fat) foods consumed in one go.

Although, emotional eating can also describe eating patterns which are utilised to manage emotions. One doesn’t always have to be consuming large amounts of high sugar, high fat foods. Everyone’s eating patterns will look different and your emotional eating might look different to someone else’s.

How to know when you’re emotionally eating.

Learning to identify the difference between emotional hunger and true hunger is really important when it comes to identifying whether you’re eating for comfort or whether you’re eating as a result of biological hunger. Below are a few key signs which will help you to tell whether you’re emotional eating are.  

  • If the hunger comes on suddenly
  • If you’re craving certain foods
  • Feeling guilty after eating
  • Acknowledging a large consumption of food but feeling out of touch whilst eating or eating at a fast speed
  • Removing yourself from social situations and comforting yourself with food
  • Negative self-talk around eating

If you’re beginning to feel out of touch with your eating patterns and have noticed some chaos within your eating behaviours there are a few questions which you can ask yourself.

  • Are you experiencing any difficult relationships?
  • Are you stressed at work?
  • Are you worried about something?
  • Is there something you’re not speaking up about?

For some people, their emotional eating may be a familiar pattern which has played a role in their life for many years and therefore it might be rather challenging to identify. In such cases, we encourage you to seek professional personalised help. Should you find that you’re emotional eating every now and again there are a few things which you can do to help to manage this style of eating.


  • Engage in self-care activities.

Emotional eating often comes about as a result of stress. Opt for relaxing activities such as reading a book, enjoying a cup of tea or listening to a podcast.


  • Get active

This has nothing to do with the food you’re consuming. Getting active can play a huge role in helping to reduce overall stress.


  • Sleep, Sleep and Sleep

The combination of a lack of sleep on your mood and appetite hormones makes emotional eating more likely when you’re tired. Try to ensure that you’re getting between 7-9 hours sleep per night.


  • Eat a healthy balanced diet

Eating a healthy balanced diet rich in good quality proteins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables can help to stabilise your blood sugar levels and contribute to a reduction in sugar highs and lows.


We hope these tips are helpful. Remember should you feel that you’re struggling to control your eating patterns or your relationship with food then we recommend seeking personalised, professional advice.