The Uncomfortable Truth About Emotional Eating

uncomfortable truth about emotional eating

If ever these was a case for demonstrating the role your mindset plays in your weight loss success, it’s the uncomfortable truth about emotional eating.

Although we tend to categorise all eating for non-hungry reasons as emotional, there are actually three different type of eating that we do even when we’re not hungry, and they each have an impact on your weight.

In this video we’ll introduce you to all three types of non-hungry eating*. Watch the video below:

 *Non-hungry eating is a registered trademark of Rick Kausman, author of If Not Dieting, Then What?

1.Emotional Eating

This is the type of eating we do to relieve or soothe our emotions – a way to bury feelings with food. Emotional eating can play havoc with your weight loss efforts.

2. Mindless Eating

Mindless eating is the type of eating you do when you’re not really aware of what you’re putting into your mouth. Brian Wanskink, is his book Mindless Eating, says that we make over 250 food decisions every day, 200 of which we can’t really explain.

3. Habitual Eating

Habitual eaters often associate food with a particular environment or particular time of day, and they continue to eat a certain food whenever those environmental or time-sensitive cues are there.

Over the next three weeks, we’re going to to cover each of these in turn: what they are, why we eat like this and how to manage our eating better so we don’t keep turning to food because we’re upset, not being mindful or purely out of habit. What I wanted to do today was to introduce you to Emotional, Mindless and Habitual eating because they are going to sabotage  your ability to lose weight, or keep weight off, unless you take charge of them. As we write the posts and upload the videos, we’ll come back and provide links so you’ll have a 4-part series on how to take charge of your emotional, or mindless, or habitual eating (or all three!).

Why I’m writing about eating for non-hungry reasons

I’ve wanted to put this series together since the beginning of the year because I went through a bout of emotional eating myself. Having had an eating disorder followed by me doing a lot of work on changing my relationship with food, I don’t tend to do much emotional eating nowadays. You’ll find that the better your mind and body connection, and the better you are able to deal with your emotions, the less you’ll feel the desire to eat emotionally, mindlessly or out of habit. And, most of the time, I’m in charge of when, why and how I eat.

However, a few weeks ago I went through almost a week of becoming quite occupied with food. Day after day I didn’t just feel like having an afternoon treat, I would go out of my way to get a cake, buy a packet of biscuits or throw something together that was sweet and comforting. Every night after dinner I thought “I may as well” have some chocolate, which resulted in a few chunks of whatever I could find. When I went to the movies at the weekend, I bought a large packet of chips with the full intention of devouring the whole packet on my own.

This may not sound like a big deal to you. But, for me, I knew there was something wrong. I may do this kind of thing now and again, for a day, but not for days on end like this. I was eating emotionally, mindlessly and habitually, and when almost a week had gone by I knew I had to look a little deeper.

So, I took a step back and asked myself what was going on. Why was food occupying a large than usual space in my mind and my life? Why did I keep acting on all of my cravings? Why did I have this “I may as well eat it” mindset?

The answer was that I was feeling totally overwhelmed. I was juggling too many things, I wasn’t resting enough, I wasn’t tuning into my need for a comfort and reassurance deeper than a temporary fix with food. And that one powerful emotion had resulted in almost an entire week of eating for non-hungry reasons.

Food is a powerful force…

Going through this experience reminded me how dominating  and debilitating it feels to have food be such a  powerful force in your life. And how much you can beat yourself up for feeling that you should be able to just not have those yearnings for food…that you should be stronger and better than that.

The truth is, food is an extremely powerful force in our lives and it frustrates me no end that so many weight loss gurus make light of our connection to food. All you need to do, they say, is simply stop eating so much and you’ll be able to stop this terrible habit overnight.

If only it were that simple…

Changing your relationship with food so that you respond more naturally to your body’s hunger cues, eat when you’re hungry and only occasionally eat “for the hell of it” is not an overnight process. It takes weeks, months, even years, to be in flow with why, what and how you eat.

And that’s why we decided to put together this 4-part series about eating for non-hungry reasons.

Next week we’ll look at emotional eating because that’s the one that has the biggest impact on your weight, your mindset, and how you feel about yourself.

As for me, it wasn’t until I took a step back from my non-hungry eating that I was able to start managing my overwhelm better, which led to me resuming my normal eating patterns.

I hope, after going through this series, that you’ll be able to do a similar process yourself.

So, are you ready to take charge of your non-hungry eating?!


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10 thoughts on “The Uncomfortable Truth About Emotional Eating

  1. let me correct myself. on second thought i think i actually experience all 3 types at various times depending on what is or isn’t happening in my every day life.

    • Oops, didn’t see this one. You’re not alone…and good for realising you do all three. Hope the next three videos and posts help a little :-)

  2. Great video.
    I relate to habitual eating. In particular 4pm! I’ll have worked hard during the day and just run out of steam. I won’t want to stop but I need an energy boost and reach for something sweet. I try protein bars but I’m still left wanting sugar. Any tips?
    Also any suggestions for handling the desire for carbs and stodge at certain times of the month?

    • Tif, I’m right there with you, usually I am a habitual eater out of the three! So, if we back-track you may not be eating enough before 4pm. Are you trying not to eat carbs?

      If so, try eating more carbs in the first part of the day (maybe oats for breakfast if you’re OK with oats, some legumes for lunch like lentils, or an alternative grain like quinoa) and see if that helps with the 4pm crash.

      Also, perhaps you are pushing too hard and need a 4pm break for 20 mins, rather than trying to surge ahead?

      With the time of the month cravings, partly just allowing yourself to have the things you want can help as it stops you wanting it out of all proportion. But if the desire for carbs and stodge is a bit of hand you may need to look at your hormone balance, particularly progesterone. If you get intense sugar cravings at that time of the month, it can be due to a deficiency in progesterone. ~ Tora

  3. Hi Donna and Tora,

    I liked the explanation of the 3 non-hungry types of eating. I eat habitually all the time. But that’s good for my case. I am following a 6-meals body building diet so having set my mind to eat every 3 hours has helped me take in the amount of calories I need every day (3,000 calories/day).

    • I tried to do a ‘body building’ type of diet for a while and know exactly what you mean. It felt so totally odd and uncomfortable for me to eat when I wasn’t hungry and when I didn’t even want food – so I had to make it a habit by timing when I’d eat! How’s it going, are you bulking up? ~ Tora

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