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The Effects of Emotional Eating

If you find yourself running to the fridge or the biscuit cupboard when you are feeling angry, sad, frustrated or anxious, then you are one of the millions of people who would classify themselves as an emotional eater.

Emotional eating can occur when food becomes someone’s response to an emotional cue, which may be either internal or external and acts as a short-term cure for negative feelings and emotions.

Emotional eating can often result in overeating and can have a direct relation to weight gain and self-esteem. If you are able to recognise your emotional eating patterns, you can find the right help and treatment to overcome it.

We are all guilty of reaching for certain foods to comfort us during an emotional time - whether that be a stressful day at work or an argument with a friend or family member. If done occasionally, it is not necessarily problematic, however constant emotional eating can cause several side effects.



After the emotional danger has passed, there is usually a sense of guilt and remorse after realising too much food has been eaten. This guilt also has the potential to lead to more emotional eating outbursts or low self-esteem, resulting in a vicious circle.


Those who tend to eat when they are feeling stressed or anxious are comforted by the feeling in their stomach that masks their emotions. This often results in overeating and stomach pains as well as nausea later on. The impact of emotional eating is quite severe, and you may find yourself feeling these symptoms even days after eating a larger quantity of food during one short time period.

Weight Related Health Problems

Repetitive emotional eating can result in a whole host of weight-related health problems. Diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue and high blood pressure are all examples of how your body pays for over eating outbursts.


Recognise Hunger

Emotional eating usually occurs when someone is not actually hungry, but reaches for food as a cure to help them feel better. To stop this from happening, one good mechanism for resolving emotional eating is to question whether you are hungry when you feel yourself reaching for food. If you are truthful with yourself and realise that you are not actually hungry, then your brain is more likely to make a healthier connection with food and help break the habit of associating negative emotions with eating.


Food being used as a distraction mechanism is very common. One way of reducing emotional eating patterns is to find another distraction, so that when you are experiencing negative emotions, you reach to something as an alternative to food. Try finding distractions that are likely to help improve your healthy lifestyle, such as going for a walk or catching up with a friend.

While it may seem that the core problem is that you are powerless with food, emotional eating actually stems from feeling powerless over your emotions. If you feel that you are an emotional eater or if you know someone who is, contact the LiveWell Dorset team today for more help and guidance on how you can approach your negative feelings so you don’t rely on comfort eating.

How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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