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5 Steps to Overcome Emotional Eating

Co-Written by Talia Cecchele & Andrea Clares

5 Steps to Overcome Emotional Eating

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is characterised by a drive to eat in response to an emotional trigger, such as boredom, anxiety, sadness or excitement, in an attempt to alleviate, reward or cope with a feeling.

There are several different types of hunger, and emotional eating is different to the response to physical hunger. In fact, people who experience emotional eating will tend to ignore their physical needs by restricting when they are hungry and by eating until uncomfortably full in the absence of hunger. This can lead to the feeling of being out of control with food, overeating energy dense and processed foods, feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety and low mood.

Is emotional eating normal?

Everyone overeats and turns to food for emotional comforts on occasion, but if food turns out to be the only mechanism available to cope with our feelings, this can lead to a never-ending restrict/binge cycle and a negative relationship with food and your body.

It is important to remember that emotional eating is not due to a lack of willpower or weakness. You have not failed. Emotional eating is an adaptive response and with the right knowledge and support you can learn new coping strategies. To repair your relationship with food, we must be kind, curious and remove guilt and judgement from eating.

How to identify emotional eating

Do you think you are an emotional eater? The following questions can help you identify if you’re experiencing any of the typical thoughts or behaviours of eating in this way:

1. Do you tend to eat more when you feel stressed, angry or bored?

2. Do you eat until uncomfortably full?

3. Do you feel that food controls you?

4. Do you crave specific foods?

5. Do you often feel guilty after eating?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and would like support to overcome your eating difficulties, we're here to help.

At the TC Nutrition clinic, we support many clients with emotional eating or binge eating to find balance with food and overcome disordered eating habits. To find out how our dietitians can support you, get in touch to enquire about a private nutrition consultation.

Steps to break the emotional eating cycle

Consider these top 5 tips to overcome the emotional eating cycle and heal your relationship with food.

1. Ditch restrictive diets and food labelling

Labels such as 'good vs bad,' 'healthy vs unhealthy,' and 'clean' are examples of an unhelpful thought pattern. Restricting certain foods can make you crave them even more, lead to binge eating and becoming trapped in a restrict-binge mindset and emotional eating cycle.

2. Know your triggers...

...and find alternative ways to support and alleviate your emotions. Keeping a 'food and thought' diary (download ours here for free) can be helpful to identify triggers or pattern of eating. Becoming aware of things like stress, loneliness, tiredness or social influences (e.g. social media) and how these impact your food choices. Experiment with other activities to delay the urge to eat such as calling your family or a close friend, having a hot bath or going for a walk around a peaceful place.

3. Tune in with your body’s hunger cues

Try using a 'hunger and fullness' scale. Before automatically heading to the fridge, pause and take a second to check in with yourself:  How am I feeling? Am I hungry? What do I really need/want? If your body is really calling for a particular food, give yourself permission to eat it and enjoy it whether it is an apple, a cookie, a slice of pizza or a bowl of roasted veggies.

4. Practice mindful eating

Try savouring each and every mouthful. Do you really pay attention to how you eat and your eating environment? How many times do you chew your food?

5. Eating frequent meals and snacks

This helps to regulate blood sugar levels can help prevent extreme levels of hunger. Eating snacks such as, carrot sticks dip in hummus, fruit with yoghurt, toast with peanut butter or a handful of nuts can help prevent over eating.

Support to overcome emotional eating

If you are struggling with emotional eating, overeating or binge eating. Please seek support from your GP, psychologist or Registered Dietitian for specialist support. Our dietitians would be delighted to support you at the TC Nutrition virtual clinic with 1-1 nutrition support. Or if you'd like to get started independently, download our free Recovery Kickstarter Guide.

Talia Cecchele

Founder of TCN

Talia Cecchele is a Highly Specialist Eating Disorder Dietitian and Founder of Talia Cecchele Nutrition, a virtual clinic of specialist eating disorder dietitians. Talia is passionate about supporting people to ditch the extremes of dieting, bring balance back to nutrition and find food freedom by overcoming food rules. You can follow Talia on Instagram @tcnutrition for more content and resources


Talia Cecchele Nutrition is a team of registered dietitians that specialise in eating disorder recovery, disordered eating, digestive issues and sports nutrition. We aim to bring balance back to nutrition, help you to break free from food rules and find food freedom. We offer virtual consultations and group programs so whether you are based in London, the United Kingdom or around the world we would love to support you. To enquire about a private consultation please fill out a contact form.


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