Emotional Eating: guilty as charged!

So common and so frustrating at the same time! Just when we started our new diet to get on the health train, the fridge is calling us… When we emotionally eat, it typically can be the result of uncomfortable feelings such as stress, frustration, disagreement with someone close to us or even a form of procrastination. When we experience uncertainty, life is continuously changing, fear of the unknown, job insecurity, feeling its not safe to go out. This turmoil is resulting in increased stress, fatigue and anxiety. We all experience stress differently, and find different coping strategies, but for some people (guilty as charged) Emotional eating and food can be of comfort – so pass that wheel of cheese!

Emotional eating can be known as stress eating, comfort eating, binge eating and can be a reinforced negative cycle. When in this cycle, you are triggered by something that makes you uncomfortable, so to deal with this negative affect state and help us control our emotions – we reach for food that makes us feel safe. Our body typically craves foods that are high in fat and salt, or high in sugar and processed. Yum right. While this gives us an immediate satisfaction and we feel satisfied, this can lead to negative relationship with food, then the implications of our body image, then sometimes self-loathing that we feel unable to control our impulses. Oh, and then the frustrations because we do not know how to change or comfort ourselves in any other way.

Where does this begin?

So first lets investigate some reasons of Emotional eating? This could have been reinforced during childhood when parents used a reward for good behaviour (lollies, chocolate), also eat all your dinner otherwise you won’t get desert. That leads to a compulsion to eat all the food on your plate even if you are full, then reward yourself with something sweet. Desert as a reward because I’ve been good. When someone is worried or upset, sometimes food can be a distraction so you are not left alone with those uncomfortable feelings.

This can fall hand in hand with denial (which is a coping mechanism to keep us emotionally safe) so if we distract ourselves with food, then I don’t have to think about what is really going on. Have you heard of dissociation- or numbing out? When we get overwhelmed or something is too much for us in that moment, we dissociate. A good example is when you are driving to work, but when you get there, you can’t remember how you got there? To stop dissociating – first recognise when you are doing it. What has trigger you to numb out. First rub your limbs to get you back into your body, then say something positive or with gratitude and compassion to help you look forward. Positive reinforcement that everything is ok, and you can handle this. If I’m nut hungry, then I don’t need food to distract myself.

Emotional eating could also be a replacement addiction habit, such as smoking. When we have smoke breaks, we remove ourselves from the situation and engage in hand-mouth movement. This is reinforced as comfort and safety. Think about it, as a smoker… When we stop smoking, how else do we feel safety and comfort? Additionally, when we are anxious, stressed and overwhelmed, feels like my head is spinning and I don’t know where to start, so the pantry looks like a good idea. This is also self-sabotaging behaviour known as procrastination… that dirty P word.

If Emotional eating is not considered problematic for you, then no judgement – you do you, honey! The problem can arise when this behaviour is ingrained and we feel we are powerless to change, even when we want to.

How can I take back control of Emotional eating ?

Solutions? Learning to self soothe and self-regulate, obviously this can be impossible if we don’t know what it is or it has never been modelled to us (talk to a therapist). Self-sabotaging behaviours such as procrastinating, understanding why we are sabotaging and how we can talk ourselves through it with confidence and self-belief.

Mindful eating is huge (look at YouTube), this goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence – steps are understanding what has triggered us, why has it caused us to retreat into the fridge, evaluate if we are actually hungry or escaping emotions, find new solutions on how to calm ourselves. This process is a way of meeting our emotional needs. Breathing and meditation can help with reducing anxiety when we feel overwhelmed, this can then be a replacement habit. When you are feeling overwhelmed, can replace with an activity you enjoy such as walking, reading, movie, dancing, talking to mates and playing with pets.

Get organised with meal prep, if you feel that you are an emotional eater who can’t yet escape its grips – cut up & pre-prepare foods you enjoy to snack on that are healthy like carrot sticks, cheese, nuts, boiled eggs, olives and your other faves! Your new golden rule to have a healthy relationship with food take the pressure off (reduce guilt and self-loathing) can be eat all foods that have “had a life”. Anything such as fruit, vegetables, nuts etc. Give yourself the best chance at success, get organised and take back control, embrace setbacks with judgement and move forward with your best interests in mind.


This information has been provided by Elena Bishop, Director at Supportive Therapy MSW BScPsy AASW

If you are looking for more information or even to talk to someone about what you are experiencing, please feel free to contact me at There are a lot of free resources for you to access, as well as online store so you can view self-guided therapy sessions and eBook’s that may benefit you.

You are not alone. There is always help. Thank you for your time. 


All the information contained in this document is general advice only. This is not specific to any situation or person or based of any clients case study. This information is from the main concerns facing the majority of my clients as a collective and has proven to have made a significant positive difference in an individuals or couples experience.. If you are triggered or offended in any way, please contact Supportive Therapy immediately so we can make you feel at ease and explain our perspective. This information is intended for empowerment and knowledge in the best interests of my clients. This is not intended to replace therapy, but to aid in personal growth, personal development and the recommendation that this book is to be reflective within in person therapy. Everything contained in this document is the intellectual property of Elena Bishop, director of Supportive Therapy Arana Hills. You do not have permission to share, reproduce, copy, adapt, display or anything similar that violate copywrite laws. The consequences of ignoring copywrite of the contents within this document will result in legal action. I have worked hard and reserve the right to protect my property without it getting into the wrong hands and being used unethically or fraudulently.

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Meet Elena

I started my practice to make a positive difference – to have a voice for the voiceless. I am someone who inspires positive change in people’s lives. I support you in exploring your current concerns & investigating your history to uncover patterns that you may not even be aware of. I motivate you to feel strong & confident, to evolve into a better version of yourself and be happy in your relationships.

As well as running my Private Practice, I am the Brisbane Mothers’ Mental Health Network Coordinator, Publishes monthly articles in several outlets, and customises Training & Education for my clients on her YouTube channel. These are examples of a holistic approach to my clients needs for education, empowerment and normalising how we all can struggle at maintaining our unique and healthy relationships.


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