Are You An Emotional Eater? |

Are You An Emotional Eater?

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Whether it’s overeating, not eating enough or a combination of both, emotional eaters often use food to cope with stress, stifle anger, get in control of their weight or even as a reward. Leading us to feeding our feelings, not our hunger, emotional eating can trigger an unhealthy relationship with food as well as with our bodies. From the tell-tale signs of the disorder to how to tackle it, we sat down with Registered Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert to find out more...

What exactly is emotional eating?

Firstly, it’s really important to respect that everyone has a unique and special relationship with food and there is a big difference between an eating disorder and emotional eating. If you are preoccupied with your weight and body shape and feel like your life is dominated by food choices then this may indicate an eating disorder. On the flip side, emotional eating is very different – it has everything to do with our relationship with food and how we use food as a coping mechanism when we are stressed or emotional. In short, we believe food can offer a temporary lift in mood and distraction from pain.

What are the signs you are an emotional eater?

If you recognise any of the following symptoms then this could be a sign you have a tendency to eat emotionally:

  • Do you mindlessly eat?

  • Is there always a distraction when you eat, be it the TV or your phone?

  • Do you eat in secret?

  • When you get angry, sad, frustrated, happy or stressed, do you go straight to the kitchen for food?

However, it’s important to note this list isn’t exhaustive – if you suspect you are an emotional eater, try keeping a food/mood diary to monitor your behaviour and note how you respond with food to your emotions.

What’s the main difference between emotional and physical hunger?

Emotional hunger isn’t really a phrase I would use to describe it but an emotional state can trigger the drive to reach for a calming fix from food. Physical hunger is a natural process when the body is telling you it’s time to get some fuel – these signals start in your gut and work their way up to your brain; it is not your brain that tells your stomach when it needs food. Think of your gut as a second brain in your body running the operation.

At what stage does emotional eating become an issue?

Please seek support as soon as possible if it is eating that is upsetting you, causing prolonged distress and impacting your health. There are so many support networks available now, such as B-Eat, which offers free telephone advice (0808 801 0677).

Is there a common trigger for emotional eating?

While this does vary between individuals, emotional eating can often be linked to your childhood experiences – e.g. how you were brought up around food and your mindset around it. Do you have an all or nothing attitude around food? Do you have your own food rules or items you perceive to be good or bad? Everyone experiences emotions in their own unique way so this is a very individualised experience.

On a Similar Note

How can we break the cycle?

If you usually use food as a reward or source of relief after a busy or particularly stressful day, try finding an alternative – perhaps take up a new hobby or set aside a couple of hours a week to do something you genuinely enjoy, whether it’s going for a run or reading a book. These kinds of distraction techniques can be really useful when it comes to overcoming the habit of emotional eating.

Can emotional eating affect our metabolism in the long run?

The metabolism isn’t that simple and again, this depends on the severity of the eating habits and lifestyle factors but ultimately yes, your health can be damaged if you are neglecting your body and not fuelling it adequately. Despite what people believe, malnourishment is commonplace in this age of ready meals and fast food, and it’s important to know that you can be deficient in nutrition at any size or weight.

What’s the best way to tackle our cravings?

Get in tune with your body – learn to identify how you are feeling and go from there. You may start to notice a pattern with your cravings and emotions; for example, you may realise you crave high-carb, sugary snacks when stressed. In turn, learning to recognise this and deal with the stress in a different way is one of the biggest steps you can take. While this may take time, learning how to be more mindful and eating in this way can have a huge impact on your relationship with food.

So how can we eat more mindfully?

Be aware of your surroundings and turn off technology when you eat, including your phone, as this will really enable you to think about what you are eating – do you enjoy it? Take time to appreciate and think about the taste, smell and texture of your meal. Another very simple way to eat more mindfully is to simply put your knife and fork down between each bite, making an effort to chew your food for longer.

Re-Nourish by Rhiannon Lambert is available to pre-order now on Amazon, priced £17.99. For more information and to speak with Rhiannon, please visit and follow her @Rhitrition on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


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