What is Emotional Eating?

by Leanne Ward
Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is when someone responds to stress or difficult feelings by eating, even when they don’t have true physical hunger. The foods that one consumes are often high in carbohydrates and calories and have low nutritional value (ie. are ultra processed foods). Emotional eating can interfere with maintaining a healthy and balanced diet/lifestyle and can lead to a poor relationship with food long term.

What can I do?

The most important thing to realise with emotional eating is that your body isn’t truly hungry. Your body is craving comfort but it doesn’t need to come from food! Often when we’re emotional, we are looking for something to provide us with a feeling of safety, calm or comfort. Of course, food can do this as we have a strong emotional link to food going right back to our childhood but food doesn’t have to be the only option. Find other ways to self soothe & provide your body with comfort, safety and a calm feeling. I love taking a hot shower, it instantly refreshes me & makes me feel safe, warm & comforted. Afterwards I’ll journal my thoughts, spend 5 minutes doing deep breathing then go for a 5-10 min brisk walk outside or do some yoga. This provides the exact same (if not more!) level of comfort, safety and calm my body was craving!

If I still want whatever food I was craving afterwards, I’ll allow myself to eat it but it’s typically in far smaller portions then I would have eaten before I had a hot shower and learnt to ‘nourish my emotions’. Because I’ve already provided my body with the comfort it needed, I only need a little taste of whatever I’m craving & can happily stop after just a few bites. I’m eating the food for pleasure not hunger. If I’m truly hungry I’ll go and eat a proper meal as I know my body needs proper nourishment which cannot be provided by processed foods. Where a lot of people run into problems is they feed their emotions instead of their body and they eat far more than they ever intended as they were never truly hungry to begin with. The key here is to learn to ‘nourish you body’ and not your emotions.

It’s 100% ok to eat the foods you love (ie, what I call SOUL FOODS) but do so when you’re in a calm and clear mindset so you can eat them slowly & truly savour every single bite rather than inhaling it because you’re already feeling guilty, emotional, tired, stressed or upset. Learn to deal with difficult emotions in ways that don’t involve food. An activity I love to do with my 1:1 coaching ladies within my LEAN Gut Mind Method program is to get them to write a list of all the things that provide them with a sense of calm, safety, pleasure or comfort. This list is then readily referred to whenever they are feeling emotional instead of turning to processed foods.

Want to know more?

Check out podcast #2 I recorded for you guys on non-hungry eating & podcast #10 on how to beat sugar cravings! Search ‘LEANNE WARD NUTRITION’ in your podcast app to find my episodes or click here to take you to my podcast. Feel free to leave me any comments below or subscribe to my podcast so you don’t miss an episode!

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Tiffany August 30, 2019 - 9:54 pm

This was very informative and I loveee your podcast. I’m all caught up and waiting for the next one 😊

Leanne Ward August 30, 2019 - 10:33 pm

Thank you, so happy to hear. New podcast will be up on Sunday 🤩


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