"Netflix and... Ice Cream?"
Are you battling emotional eating?

This guide includes 10 tips to help you lose more fat
...especially if you are prone to emotional eating

Short on time? Get the key tips in the slide deck version of this Emotional Eating Guide on SlideShare or go through the slides below:

When you hear the term Emotional Eating, you may imagine someone on the couch with a blanket and a bowl of ice cream, crying over a lover breaking their heart.  

A tub of ice cream or a whole bar of chocolate later, and the person is content and feeling better relative to how they were earlier. It may seem like a phase that people eventually move on from or outgrow as time passes, but Emotional Eating has claws that dig deep and the health risks associated with it are far too many to ignore.

What is emotional eating?

There are days when your strongest food cravings come at you when you're emotionally compromised. The feeling of being sad or depressed may force you to gravitate towards food for comfort — consciously or unconsciously. It doesn't have to be a feeling of loneliness, sometimes being stressed out or just being bored will trigger a psychological hunger. When you eat despite not being hungry, and you do this frequently, that's what you call emotional eating.

Emotional eating is the term that is being used to refer to a condition in which people use food not to satisfy their feelings of hunger but as a way to deal with their negative emotions. We all have done it at some point in our lives – eating because of boredom, or because you have felt a little down and think that chocolate might help the situation, instead of recognizing that feeling, where it comes from and dealing with it. However, when you practice this method on and on you grow closer and closer to emotional eating and all of the risks that come with it. Most often, it is the feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, disappointment, fear, etc. that are being stuffed away with food. Emotional eating brings the risks of depression, anxiety, binge eating, and obesity into your life, studies suggest. (1, 2, 3, 4).

When it comes to emotional eating, it is one thing that it causes damages to our mental health. But it also causes damages to our physical health if you think about it. One of the first choices for food in moments like these is empty calories – chocolate, ice cream, chips, cakes, etc. which are all nothing but a bunch of calories with nothing nutritional in them. All of these food choices are related to the risk of metabolic syndrome, which on its own can quite easily lead to diabetes type 2 and heart disease (5).

How Do You know If It’s Emotional Hunger?

The biggest problem for many people is that they don’t know the difference between psychological or emotional and physical hunger. That’s why they overeat and gain weight but also find it difficult to slim down. In order to lose weight or keep it in a healthy range it’s vital to learn more about emotional versus physical hunger. Before we move on to symptoms of emotional hunger, we’re going to explain the difference between the two.

While physical hunger develops gradually psychological hunger occurs suddenly. Also, physical hunger is felt within your stomach while emotional kind is felt mostly in a person’s head or on the surface of their thoughts. When you’re physically hungry, you just want to eat and resolve the hunger which is why you’re open to different food options, but psychological hunger is usually more specific than that. Most importantly, physical hunger doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself.

As you can see, being emotionally hungry can lead to people mistaking it for actual hunger. Go through symptoms mentioned below to determine whether you also deal with emotional hunger.

  • Your hunger comes out of nowhere. Whether you're working in front of the computer or watching T.V., you suddenly feel the need to eat something. It's as if you have a void you need to fill and your body thinks you can fill it with food.
  • You crave specific comfort foods. You don't crave for vegetables or fruits. You want to stuff your mouth with food you know can be bad for you: Sugary and salty snacks, creamy cakes, and even that expensive frappe from Starbucks loaded with all the flavors and extra whip cream.
  • You often find yourself eating uncontrollably. It all starts with a handful of chips or a small bite and before you know it, you've eaten half of tomorrow's worth of calories in one sitting. To make it worse, you may not have even enjoyed the food, you just stuffed them right in one after the other.
  • You keep wanting more food despite being full. There's full and there's stuffed. You know you shouldn't eat more, but you also know you can. As long as your eyes see food, you have to keep chewing on something.
  • You feel sad or guilty afterwards. The rush of guilt that comes right after an emotional eating episode makes you swear not to repeat the same thing tomorrow, but you know deep down you're not mentally strong enough to hold yourself accountable. And the cycle goes on.

Known Causes And Triggers

If there's an effect, there's a cause. In order for something to happen, something else must make it happen. It's the same with emotional eating, it just doesn't happen randomly. Here are some of the factors that may influence and trigger emotional eating.

  • Stress. Can you guess the leading cause for emotional eating? Well, it is the stress of course! (6). Figures show that 38% of adults say they have overeaten or consumed unhealthy foods in the past month because of stress. Of these, 49% of people report engaging in these behaviors weekly or more. About 33% of people say they engage in unhealthy eating behaviors because it helps them avoid thinking about stress (7). And when you are stressed, your body is producing an extra amount of cortisol – also known as the stress hormone. Well, with that extra cortisol in your blood, it is only expected to crave salty, sweet and fried foods or the so-called comfort foods to soothe not your physical hunger but your stressed mind (8, 9).
  • Avoiding bad emotions. No one likes to feel bad and if you don't have the ability to tolerate painful and sad feelings, you're susceptible to emotional eating. Why? The reason is simple; you start considering food as comfort, an escape from everything bad that’s happening in your life right now.
  • Boredom. This is a common behavior for those who are overweight or live a sedentary lifestyle, especially those who like to watch TV. Think about it – how often does it happen to wish for something salty or sweet while you are in front of the TV, searching through the TV guides? A study done has actually proven that watching TV shows and programs that are boring and unappealing to the individual encourage the behavioral to peruse excessive eating and emotional eating for that matter (10).
  • Upbringing. This goes way back to when you were a little kid. Maybe when you were throwing tantrums your parents bought you ice cream and it made you feel better, or perhaps they rewarded getting good marks in school with pizza or a bucket of fried chicken and fries. These innocent habits don't exactly translate well into adulthood, especially when you're conditioned to reward yourself with food even with the simplest of achievements i.e. the "I deserve this" mindset.
    Even studies confirm that emotional eating in childhood has a lot to do with the environment in which the child is raised (11). Children are like sponges who absorb everything that happens around them, including behaviors. That’s why it’s not uncommon for children who were rewarded with unhealthy food (or punished with healthy food) to continue with their destructive eating behaviors well into adulthood.
  • Socializing. You might think that socializing, getting out for drinks and food with your friends, colleges and family members is what is keeping the feelings of loneliness away from you. When in fact, if you do not watch out all of that eating that is happening on occasions such as those, you will quickly find yourself engaging in emotional eating without even feeling the taste of the food (12).
  • Physiology. Sometimes being too hungry leads to overindulgence. Allowing yourself to feel too tired or deprived of food will make you think of eating buffet's worth of food. When you're hungry, it makes you extra vulnerable to emotional eating specially because your body is literally screaming at your brain to eat something.

Are You An Emotional Eater?

Acknowledging you have an eating disorder is the first step in curing and preventing it from happening again. Denial will only make it worse over time and it will come to a point where you would end up with diseases that have the potential to be life-threatening. Don’t despair! There’s a way out of this vicious circle. Although serious this problem is manageable with effective and well-structured strategy. If you think you or a loved one have emotional eating problems, we compiled a list of ways to curb the problem and make regain full control of your body.

Tips And Strategies To Stop Emotional Eating

The general idea behind emotional eating treatment is enabling the person to develop a healthier relationship with food in the form of better eating habits, trigger recognition, and ways to prevent or reduce the chances of succumbing to food.

Much of the treatment involve mental and psychological ways to curb the eating disorder, but there are also suggestions with regards to putting up physical barriers for yourself.

  • Keep a food diary. Dedicate yourself to keeping a food diary in which you will write everything that you eat and drink on a daily level. That way, you will not be able to ignore the mistakes that you have made before. In addition, you will be aware of what you are eating exactly which will not only help you control your emotional eating, which is contrary to being aware of what you are eating, but also work towards weight loss to achieve your weight goal (13).
  • Manage your stress. Anxiety over meeting new people or panicking because of a looming deadline, anything that forces you to think you’re in trouble is stress. When you’re stressed, it’s when your body is going full instinct mode and as we discussed earlier, stress makes you want to feel good instantly and food is the easiest and most convenient stress reliever available today. Preventing stress from happening is nigh impossible, but you can reduce its impact in your life by being proactive. It will take another article to list down how to manage stress, but the general idea is to always be one or two steps ahead of it. Simple ideas such as doing things ahead of schedule or looking up people you’re about to meet can reduce the stress in both activities. The goal is to find a unique way to manage stress. For some people, it is taking short deep breaths, and for others stress relief comes in forms such as reading, writing, exercising, meditation, yoga, you name it.
  • Think twice before you eat. When you have the urge to eat, always ask yourself if you want to eat out of hunger or if your hunger is triggered by something not related to your stomach at all. Pausing for a moment and double-checking yourself helps prevent unnecessary eating activities.
  • Seek support. Maybe it’s not you, but the people around you that’s forcing you to eat whenever they like. Tell them about your problem and ask them to help you overcome your eating disorder. Who knows? Maybe some of them are emotional eaters too and you can help each other out.
  • Escape boredom without food. Food is not just the only way to treat boredom. You can always take a walk outside, solve math puzzles, find a colleague or friend to talk to, watch funny videos on the internet, or just take a short nap. Reading books or articles on the internet can also help. Just take a look around, and you’ll see options are endless. There are many things you can do to keep yourself occupied, entertained, and boredom-free. 
  • Out of sight, out of mind. Not seeing food is an effective way of controlling your appetite. If you consciously avoid stocking your fridge or desk with foods you know you’re weak against, you’re one step ahead of treating emotional eating and actually preventing it.
  • Eat a little bit of everything. While not seeing the food that can break your mental fortitude works, depriving yourself of your favorite delectables is just as damaging as overindulging on them. The poison is in the dose and the secret lies in moderation. A bite out of your favorite chocolate bar every other day shouldn’t be that bad, but if you want to control your cravings, maybe using an appetite suppressant like PhenterPro SR tablets can help. Unlike other appetite suppressants, PhenterPro SR can also burn fat for energy which in turn can help defeat food cravings for longer.
  • Give in to healthier foods. Cravings are primal instincts so there will definitely be times when the urge is too strong to ignore. You have to prepare for that and what better way than to surround yourself with healthier alternatives? Stocking up on foods like nuts, seeds, brewed coffee, and sweet fruits will allow you to indulge on the type of food that won’t harm you. With that said, portion control still matters especially since sweet fruits still have sugar.
  • Think about the food you’re eating. This is also known as mindful eating, or being aware of what you eat at all times. Don’t let yourself get distracted while eating such as when watching a movie or while waiting for someone. Being mindful helps keep you in control of how much you eat and lets you stop when you know you’ve eaten enough. Some ways of being mindful include waiting a few minutes before deciding if you’re actually hungry and telling yourself how many servings you’ve eaten already each time you are about to “go for one more”. Evidence confirms that practices promoting mindful eating have a positive impact on decreasing emotional hunger (14).
  • Get more sleep. Create a sleep schedule for yourself that will allow you to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours each night. Not only will you let the rest and comfort stabilize your hormone levels, especially the cortisol levels and with that regulate your appetite the next day, but you will also turn away from the opportunity to sit in front of the TV or computer and go through a whole bag of chips (1516). Outside of appetite, sleep can also help optimize your body’s metabolism and can help you burn more fat as energy efficiently which will prevent you from feeling the need to eat because of fatigue. For instance, sleep has a positive impact on leptin (17), a hormone that regulates hunger and plays a huge role in metabolism. By normalizing levels of this hormone, sleep can help you become more energetic, and it will also allow you to regulate your appetite for healthier eating habits.

Seeking Professional Help

If you’ve tried every suggestion and self-help options available and you still can’t quite get a hold of your emotional eating problem, perhaps you should consider expert help.

Since emotional eating is more of a mental health problem, you would do well to seek a psychological therapist or any other mental health professional.

Going through therapy can help you understand why you’re an emotional eater and quite possibly trace the reasons and hidden triggers you may not be aware of.

Emotional eating is considered a quick and easy way to relieve oneself from life’s many challenges. The problem lies in the challenges in life that we don’t fix or find a solution to. If we don’t fix those issues, emotional eating will become more frequent until it spirals out of control.

To stop this cycle, you have to find it in yourself to not just be accountable with when, what, and how much you eat, but also try and improve your life in such a way that you will less likely succumb to emotional eating.


  • Cardi V, Leppanen J, Treasure J. The effects of negative and positive mood induction on eating behaviour: A meta-analysis of laboratory studies in the healthy population and eating and weight disorders. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015;57:299-309.
  • Koenders PG, Van strien T. Emotional eating, rather than lifestyle behavior, drives weight gain in a prospective study in 1562 employees. J Occup Environ Med. 2011;53(11):1287-93.
  • Ricca V, Castellini G, Lo sauro C, et al. Correlations between binge eating and emotional eating in a sample of overweight subjects. Appetite. 2009;53(3):418-21.
  • Konttinen H, Silventoinen K, Sarlio-lähteenkorva S, Männistö S, Haukkala A. Emotional eating and physical activity self-efficacy as pathways in the association between depressive symptoms and adiposity indicators. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(5):1031-9.
  • Roberts CK, Hevener AL, Barnard RJ. Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance: Underlying Causes and Modification by Exercise Training. Comprehensive Physiology. 2013;3(1):1-58. doi:10.1002/cphy.c110062.
  • Yau YHC, Potenza MN. Stress and Eating Behaviors. Minerva endocrinologica. 2013;38(3):255-267.
  • Al’ Absi M, Nakajima M, Hooker S, Wittmers L, Cragin T. Exposure to Acute Stress is Associated with Attenuated Sweet Taste. Psychophysiology. 2012;49(1):96-103. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01289.x.
  • Geer EB, Lalazar Y, Couto LM, et al. A prospective study of appetite and food craving in 30 patients with Cushing’s disease. Pituitary. 2016;19(2):117-126. doi:10.1007/s11102-015-0690-1.
  • Chapman CD, Nilsson VC, Thune HÅ, et al. Watching TV and Food Intake: The Role of Content. Tomé D, ed. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(7):e100602. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100602.
  • Salvy S-J, de la Haye K, Bowker JC, Hermans RCJ. Influence of Peers and Friends on Children’s and Adolescents’ Eating and Activity Behaviors. Physiology & behavior. 2012;106(3):369-378. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.03.022.
  • Burke LE, Wang J, Sevick MA. Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2011;111(1):92-102. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.008.
  • Moynihan AB, van Tilburg WAP, Igou ER, Wisman A, Donnelly AE, Mulcaire JB. Eaten up by boredom: consuming food to escape awareness of the bored self. Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;6:369. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00369.
  • Knutson KL. Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation. Sleep medicine clinics. 2007;2(2):187-197. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2007.03.004.
  • Prinz P. Sleep, Appetite, and Obesity—What Is the Link? PLoS Medicine. 2004;1(3):e61. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010061.
Just added to your wishlist:
My Wishlist
You've just added this product to the cart:
Go to cart page