#ActiveApril Health & Wellness

The 3 ‘D’s to overcoming Emotional Eating

April 3, 2019
Emotional Eating

Have you heard of the term ’emotional eating’? I’m sure we all have experienced this during our life.  You know the feeling: it is around 3pm and you crave something sweet to have with your afternoon coffee or tea.  Watching TV after dinner and you just have to have those snacks while indulging in your favourite TV show.  You feel a bit down and so make some comfort food to pick up your mood.

How often do you feel this way?  You may be emotional eating more than you realise.  Read the questions below and if you answer ‘Yes’ to any you may be Emotional Eating.

Are you an emotional eater? 

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
  • Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
  • Do you reward yourself with food?
  • Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
  • Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

In 2013 an American Psychological Association survey found that 38% or respondents had overeaten or eaten unhealthy food options in the last month because they were feeling stressed.

Growing up we may have formed emotional associations with food if it was used as a reward or treat.  Usually it was also unhealthy food such as lollies or sweets.

The 3 ‘D’s to overcoming Emotional Eating

Diarise what you eat, drink and your mood

Start and food and mood diary. I’ve attached a copy HERE if you would like to download a diary to record what you are eating and drinking over the period of a week.  It is surprising what feelings and emotions can trigger and affect our eating patterns.

It isn’t just when we are feel down that we turn to food. We also use food as a reward and celebration when there are other alternatives apart from food to reward ourselves for achieving our goals.

By keeping a diary and also how we felt at the time we were eating can show us when we are vulnerable to Emotional Eating and provides us with information and habits which we can work on changing.

A diary will also show us the type of food we are eating

By planning our meals in advance and only shopping for those ingredients we are less likely to snack on the wrong types of food.


Don’t Diet

I’ve written before about how I believe ‘Diet is a Dirty Word’.  We associate dieting with strict eating regimes and follow the many fad diets on offer just to find a quick fix.  This won’t help.  Quick fixes are just that – they work for a short time and then we fall back into our previous eating habits and the weight comes back on.


Forget dieting and embrace healthy eating for life.

That means avoiding processed foods as much as possible and eat whole foods with the emphasis on vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, fish and chicken and less red meat.

If we diet we restrict ourselves and then can fall off the wagon at the first sign of what we believe is hunger or we get demotivated and binge on food.

Nourish your body with nutritious food and don’t deprive it. It isn’t about starving yourself but eating healthy options which satisfy hunger.

Distract Yourself

Boredom, mindlessly watching TV and not thinking about what you are snacking on all adds to the emotional eating cycle.

Substitute a healthier behaviour instead of eating when you aren’t hungry. Call a friend, go for a walk, change the time you normally eat, taking up a hobby.

I recently read Holistic Self-Care ‘A’ is for Ask by Janet Mary Cobb. In her article she suggests we should ask our bodies what is doable. And poses the following questions in regards to eating.

  • Why are you craving this food?
  • How is this food making you feel?
  • Is this food energizing you? Which foods give you energy?
  • Are really hungry?

So next time you reach for the snacks PAUSE and ask yourself these questions.

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13 Comments

  • Reply Bren Pace April 3, 2019 at 01:11

    Oh my gosh! I do this, depending on the type of stressor. I can sit and work and just shovel food in my mouth and think nothing of it! Wouldn’t be too bad if it was veggies or fruit but I choose fatty stuff for comfort food. These are helpful tips, Sue. Thank you for sharing it!

  • Reply Candi Randolph April 3, 2019 at 06:44

    Hi Sue, I’ve found that by faithfully tracking what I eat + staying with clean, unprocessed foods (for the most part) my tendency to eat junky food to feel better or when I’m stressed is greatly reduced. It’s quite amazing what happens when you keep track of what you eat and why. Great post!

  • Reply Denyse Whelan April 3, 2019 at 07:18

    Ah, this topic is one I am very aware of….my eating history had (note: PAST tense!) a lot of emotional eating in it. I ate for comfort and to soothe. It was often ‘mouth hunger’ that I ate from: texture, etc. I admit to being very overweight and often ate comfort foods over ‘real’ food. Then I had quite a few things happen at once for me and eating became less of a focus for comfort. I do have a story on my blog about that. Two books that have changed much of my mindset are called Mindless Eating and MIndful Eating…and when you think about it, it sums up what eating is about for many of us. Thanks Sue, great topic. Denyse x

  • Reply Retirement Reflections April 3, 2019 at 13:09

    These are great tips, Sue. Distract yourself (and sometimes “delay yourself”) are what usually work best for me.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric April 7, 2019 at 08:50

      I think having a way to distract ourselves certainly helps. I know if I get caught up in something I don’t even think about food. It is a matter of finding what works for us, isn’t it?

  • Reply Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au April 4, 2019 at 00:00

    I’m definitely an emotional eater Sue – I want to eat when I’m bored, I want to eat when I’m not hungry, and want to I eat for comfort. I find it’s a constant series of small battles that I face to not to fill myself with calories I don’t need. Your tips were all really sensible and helpful – thanks 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric April 7, 2019 at 08:40

      I think we all succumb to EE, BBB, and for me it is boredom that will trigger mine. We can overcome anything if we have some strategies in place for when we feel vulnerable. 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca Jo April 4, 2019 at 02:31

    I cant find the link to the diary page you were talking about… did I miss something?

  • Reply pat April 4, 2019 at 07:00

    I’ve never actually dieted. I’ve “watched what I eat” better sometimes than others, avoiding snacking or adding more veggies. I am definitely an emotional eater! One thing that has really helped me is to have healthy snacks readily available. Grapes (versus chips) have been a recent snack food, even if they are not in season. And I also notice drinking water can calm the snacking attack….so I try to do that as well. I love the phrase “embrace healthy eating for life”!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric April 7, 2019 at 08:36

      Hi Pat, I’ve tried every diet going around when I was younger but these days I’m like you and ‘watch what I eat’. Having healthy alternatives ready is the way to go isn’t it? It is all about being prepared so that if we falter we have a back up plan. Have a great weekend and yes I love the phrase too, it says it all. x

  • Reply Janet Mary Cobb April 4, 2019 at 10:33

    Does eating 40 dozen cookies AS I BAKE THEM count as emotional eating? Or hiding in a walk-in fridge to devour an entire chocolate cake? I have stories of my emotional eating issues — thankfully, after leaving the convent much of this was brought under control. I’m much more mindful in eating now. But always good reminders – especially about ‘boredom’ eating. Another great post. #MLSTL

    • Reply Sue Loncaric April 7, 2019 at 08:33

      Oh my goodness Janet you certainly have had your EE issues haven’t you. My sister had anorexia and bulimia back in the late 70s and she would raid the refrigerator at night and then purge during the day. Boredom eating gets to all of us I think and I know I succumb at times. I’m so pleased to read that you have overcome your EE and feeling healthier. x

  • Reply Debbie April 12, 2019 at 18:05

    I think we all suffer from EE Sue and it’s a topic we don’t often discuss. I am much better at managing what I eat these days and find not having things in the house helps me a lot! Great tips again and a good discussion with the comments too.

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