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Emotional Eating: The Mind-Body Connection

Emotional Eating: The Mind-Body Connection

Ever eat when you’re stressed?  Eat when you’re not really hungry?

Join the club!

Wired to Eat Under Stress

Looking in the RefrigeratorWe’re actually hard-wired to eat when we’re under stress or anxiety. This comes from the brain’s evolutionary process, from a time when fight-or-flight was a necessary daily survival skill (think Cave People). The energy gained from the extra food calories could help the body react and survive.

Our brains still have that old wiring that unconsciously tells us to eat when we feel stress. And every time you go for that candy or chips (or fill-in-the-blank with your stress-food of choice), you reinforce that wiring.

So is it food you are really craving?

Answering YES to more than one of the following questions is a clue that your eating patterns may be driven by emotions rather than hunger:

Are You an Emotional Eater?


  • Do you often eat when you’re not physically hungry?
  • Does your hunger come on suddenly?
  • Do you crave specific foods (often times, carbs or sugar)?
  • Do you want to eat when you’re upset, lonely, sad, worried, bored, or irritable?
  • Do you sometimes feel a sense of regret or guilt after eating?
  • Do you find yourself eating unconsciously (and suddenly surprised at what or how much you just ate)?
  • Have you been on lots of diets and put lots of energy into losing the same weight again and again?
  • Do you feel like even though you just ate, you still want more?


No matter what you weigh, if you often eat when you aren’t hungry and any of the above questions ring true for you, you are using food to fill other needs.

The Heart of the Problem

There is never enough food to make upsetting situations or feelings disappear. There will never be enough sweets to make sadness or boredom go away…never enough snacks to make anger or stress go away.  Therefore, emotional eating never satisfies.

Problem #1: Using food as a means to feel better about a situation or about yourself.  This is comfort eating.  If you do this, then comfort is what you really crave!

Problem #2: There’s a good chance you’re not even aware of why or how you use food for comfort. It’s a subconscious and automatic behavior pattern. You may not know which emotional states cause you to reach for food.

The Heart of the Solution

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==> Resolve the underlying issues that cause you to use food for anything other than physical hunger.

This is the real solution to ending emotional eating, ending battles with your weight gain, and ending yo-yo dieting.


Find out what you REALLY crave

We make about 200 choices a day about food and we’re only aware of about 25, according to Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating. You’ve got to get real with yourself by increasing your awareness of what you’re eating and why.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to get connected to your own body and understand more about both your physical needs and your emotional needs. Then you can consciously choose healthy and supportive ways to fill the real “craving” of the moment.

If you’re reaching for food to help you handle upsetting situations or feelings, you will never be satisfied. To quote song lyrics, it’s like “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Maybe you’re going for chocolate when what you really crave is to feel respected. Maybe you’re eating too much ice cream when what you really crave is to have a friend to be there for you. Maybe you’re finishing off the bag of chips when what you really crave is to feel like you’re not a failure.

Start transforming your relationship with food, and with yourselfwoman-on-scale-istock_000011472381xsmall

  • Know the difference between physical hunger and emotional hungers.
  • Keep a food log: what, when, where, why are you eating?  What is your emotional state when you eat?
  • Ask for help. Emotional eating is automatic and subconscious, so it’s often hard to identify the emotional component of your own eating patterns without a little help.
  • Interrupt emotional eating and ask yourself:  why am I eating now and what am I really craving?
  • Learn new tools for dealing with stress and emotional upsets in healthier ways.

Have the courage to get real with yourself and you can transform your relationship with food (and with yourself) forever!


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