Emotional eating: why you and what you can do

emotional eating - why you and what you can do

Understand emotional eating, the triggers of stress eating, how to harness the tools to fight the cravings, manage your food intake with smart.food and care for your body.

Food is more than fuel. It's information. It tells your body how to behave. It's not just about sustenance, because we're not machines; it's about a sense of satisfaction that goes beyond the physical.

What Is Emotional Eating?

When you routinely use food to feel better emotionally or to suppress negative feelings, rather than to satisfy your hunger, that qualifies as emotional eating or stress eating. Equating food with pleasure or even love, looking forward to eating, dreading the idea of not having what you crave for, and going out of your way to have it, are textbook signs.

What Is Emotional Hunger?

Unlike physical hunger, it can hit you out of the blue. It's an urge to eat specific comfort foods with a certain texture, smell, or taste. It's in your head rather than your stomach, it's never satisfied, and it usually leads to a feeling of guilt and shame. When you find yourself eating more and more, even though you feel uncomfortable, sick, or in pain, you're an emotional eater.

Why Me? What Am I Doing Wrong?

There's a common misconception that emotional eating is due to a lack of self-control and discipline. In fact, this is a type of addictive behaviour caused by a release of opioids in your brain from eating foods high in sugars and fat. Opioids rewire the reward system in your brain, so that all you think about when you're feeling low is food.

What Triggers Emotional Eating?

Some of the things that trigger your emotional eating can be yours and yours alone. Others you share with millions of people. The most common ones are:

Cultural or traditional

People are very attached to their ethnic or home-made food and think it's disrespectful not to eat it all when it's given to them, or they think eating more is a sign of status.

Social or romantic

For some, eating helps overcome the pressure of socialising and looking for companionship. It gives them a sense of belonging and common ground. It helps them cope with the fear of letting people in. As this study puts it, social influences are 'powerful and pervasive'.

Marital or familial

Depending on a single person to regularly cook your meals, can limit your access to a varied diet and can also encourage snacking, eating unhealthy food to satisfy cravings, or even developing extreme eating behaviours, as this study shows.


Over the years, eating preferences and behaviours were passed on from father to son to ensure survival, as this study shows. Even if food shortage is not an issue for people today, they need to pay more attention to hunger and fullness than their parents did to self-regulate.

fight emotional eatingNostalgia and childhood behaviour

Conditioning, rewarding or even restricting food intake are things most parents do. As this study shows, the 'do as I do' approach is better at promoting healthy eating habits than the 'do as I say' approach.


Being very critical of yourself when you overeat feeds a feedback loop, and it takes a lot of effort to get back to the drawing board.


Some people use food as a coping mechanism or a substitute for when they feel the urge to succumb to an alcohol or a drug addiction.

What Can I Do About It?

control emotional eating
To begin with, you need to understand that this is very common addictive behaviour. Here are some of the ways to start to understand and control your overeating.

Learn to cope with negative feelings

Despite what self-help books tell you, feeling upset is not something you should avoid. In fact, allowing yourself to feel sad, lonely, or bored every now and then helps train your mind to overcome impulses over time.

Join a support group

Family and friends can be in denial, a little bit too eager to help, or they may have strange ways of showing their love and support (i.e. through food). So, if they can't relate to your concerns, try joining a support group to tackle emotional eating, weight, both, or more.

Keep a food diary

Visualizing what, when, and how much you eat can help put things into perspective. Try to keep a detailed diary of your intake, whether it's with an app or with pen and paper. Some apps come with brilliant graphs and bright charts that show you when and how you tend to overeat.

Know what you're eating

In time, you'll learn to interpret food labels and their 'hidden' ingredients. As you learn about the various kinds of nutrients, as well as additives, preservatives, fat and sugar substitutes, you'll naturally lean more towards smartfood and healthier eating habits.

Respect your body


respect your body

Weight was once a status symbol, and body shape was a given. Fat was fat, and that was that. Now that gaining weight is associated with junk food, hormonal imbalances, and sedentarism, the body has become a source of embarrassment for many.

People think body hate stops with weight loss, but that negativity only serves to fuel the emotional eating cycle. The only way to break it is to first start respecting the body, and then setting weight goals.

Manage your intake

  • Learn to leave it on the plate. Only eat what you want and need.
  • Acknowledge the effect of nostalgia on your cravings.
  • Tweak portion sizes, serve your food on smaller plates, buy fewer and smaller boxes and bottles, and shop less.
  • Try to eat out more, so you're not tempted to have leftovers or second helpings.
  • Eat slowly, take small bites, chew thoroughly, and appreciate your food.
  • At get-togethers, don't eat what's in front of you simply because it's there.
  • If being around people who are eating is too tempting, then try to fill your time with something else.
  • You're fooling no one if you think you're hiding your food; might as well come clean.

When you're hungry for health...

enlite.me smart.food may help you with your sugar and other food cravings, at the same time allowing you to quickly lose excessive weight without exposing your body to the risk of protein and electrolyte imbalance.

enlite.me is a proven, healthy and convenient weapon against overweight and obesity. Each enlite.me meal replacement sachet is enriched with all the natural vitamins and trace minerals you need for complete nutrition and provides you with at least 33% of your daily requirements. 

enlite.me smart.food is suitable for diabetics

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