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Emotional Eating - What Is It + Tips to Overcome It

Emotional eating can be defined as “the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotions”. Such as loneliness, sadness, stress, anger, fear of boredom. If your goal is fat loss - periods of over-eating will only affect our ability to drop weight if we eat above our deficit calories. Typically, this is what happens when there’s a period of emotional eating - as we tend to reach for highly palatable foods (which tend to have the most calories). 

There’s no doubt that all of us experience waves of negative emotions in our day to day lives such as a hectic time at work, loneliness as we may be separated from family or friends during this period or going through a break-up. We’ve all been there gurl. It’s about recognising those emotions and the ‘food focus’ mindset we can slip into and replacing it with a different action that supports those emotional needs.

Here’s some of my tips for overcoming emotional eating:

  • Write it down: I love journaling for a multitude of reasons, in particular, to reflect on any problematic feelings. You can use journaling to write down when you want to emotionally eat, instead of actually eating in response to these emotions. Note down when this usually happens, what you want to eat and what emotional level you’re at from 1-10. This is a great exercise to identify if you’re experiencing actual hunger or emotional hunger.
  • Changing the habit: Once we’ve identified what triggers our need to overeat, it’s time to break the circuit with a new habit. We overeat in response to certain emotions, so rather than relying on food to ‘fix’ that emotion, is there something else that will support you? For example going for a walk, calling a friend or watching some Netflix. 
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: There have been a multitude of studies that have proven that mindfulness and meditation can help to overcome overeating and emotional eating. Take a few minutes to sit down, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. We have a mindset section in the TWS app where you can follow a guided meditation with me and learn more about what mindfulness is and how you can incorporate it into your everyday life. I also highly recommend the app Waking Up. 
  • Increasing calories: At Train With Soph we’re all about enjoying the foods we love in moderation to create a sustainable healthy way of living! If you feel like your diet is too restrictive and contributing to periods of overconsumption of food, then it might be time to increase your calories. If you’re a member, flick me an email and I can help you out! I can even add in some treats if you need them like my famous egg-white pancake, a few squares of dark chocolate and my fav, the protein mug cake! (Recipes all found in the Cook With Soph recipe eBook), did I mention they’re low cal?

If you’re still really struggling with emotional eating and overeating (I want to normalise how common this is, and let you know it is something you can change), I would highly recommend seeking professional help from a psychologist or asking your GP.

You can also call the butterfly foundation national hotline right now on - 1800 33 4673