Emotional Eating


I was giving a seminar on weight loss and exercise a few weeks ago and asked “why do you eat?”

The answers were common,” because it’s there”, “I’m bored”, “it’s expected”, “it’s time”, “to cope”, “it’s a habit”.

Notice what’s missing?

No one, said “because I was hungry.”

When I mentioned this everyone laughed and nodded. Then I asked, when was the last time you felt hungry?

Silence. No one could remember the last time they felt hungry. Everyone was there because they wanted to lose weight.


It is not that uncommon.

We eat because it is a way to celebrate and socialize. We eat because of traditions, habits, cues. We eat to calm and soothe emotional states. We eat because it is what we do when we watch tv, go out with friends, work. We eat to relieve boredom, reduce stress, push back anger. We eat because food is available every where we go. We eat for many reasons. Sometimes because we are hungry.

If you are struggling with your weight ask yourself, when was the last time I ate because I was hungry?

Hunger is a physical feeling. It is not a craving. Becoming too hungry can cause overeating. Remember the last time you ate, was it a physical feeling or something else?

Mindfulness based eating helps people to understand their emotional eating cues. Awareness can help change the response to emotional cues and allow us to make different choices, but that doesn’t always work.

A study published in Frontiers in Behavioural Medicine looked at how our environment changed our food decisions. They were interested in the idea that we have control over how and when we eat, but that is being constantly undermined by a constant stream of sensory overload. 

In other words, advertising and marketing of junk food.

These same researchers then suggest that using simple cues or reminders about healthy food choices could be all it takes to make better decisions. Finding ways to interrupt the regular cues to eat, the endless stream of cues, to eat unhealthy foods can make enough of a difference to stop the eating cycle.

Maybe if you are a lab rat. Which is how they did their research. It might be a start, but last time I checked it was easier to control your environment if you were trapped in a lab. To change a habit you need to keep the same cue and the same reward, but substitute the routine. This means understanding what is the reward? If it is not to satisfy hunger, then the solution is personal and only you know the answer.

Change your mind, change your health,


Join the book club!

Get on the list! Join the club, get the latest on books about health, fitness and changing your life.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.