Conquer Emotional Eating

Emotional eating has as much complexity as there are people in the world. Everybody has an entirely different experience.

On the other hand it is incredibly simple. You: 

  1. Eat impulsively and without thinking.
  2. Eat for reasons beyond the need for food.
  3. Hold false beliefs about food that prevent you from reaching you goals.

If we can remove the above three factors from the equation, we are left with only two times to eat.

  1. When we are actually hungry
  2. If we have decided we are going to eat (including ‘unhealthy’ foods and celebrations).

Physical hunger versus emotional appetite

It is important to separate the physiological need for food from the emotional appetite for it.

One is essential to survival and the other is a surefire way to ruin your goals!

The truth about hunger and weight loss

If you want to lose weight you will feel physiologically hungry and you won’t always be able to satisfy it. The process of ‘not having enough calories’ is what will cause your body to raid the stores of fat to release them for energy.

To make progress, you’ll need to feel hungry from time to time. The difference with physiological hunger is after 30 minutes your body will free up stored fat for energy use and your hunger will pass.

Emotional appetite does not follow the same rules.

You are experiencing emotional appetite and driven to emotional eating any time you are not eating based on hunger signals. Emotional eating is never useful and this handbook will help you remove this habit and develop a healthy relationship with all foods.

The five emotional eating habits

Action is the driver of all change.

We could write and talk about emotional eating all day, but only action creates change.

The emotional eating handbook has five active habits you can implement in order to create success.

Confronting emotional eating - 5 proactive habits 

Emotional Eating Proactive habit 1 – write down your triggers

Actively try and highlight the moments you feel triggered to emotional eating.

  • Is it boredom?
  • Is it social events?
  • Disappointment?
  • Success?
  • Is it Fear?
  • Do you feel anxiety?
  • The smell of food?
  • Relationships?
  • Locations?

When it comes to behaviour, awareness is nine tenths of the law. If you can successfully identify the triggers and moments that draw you towards emotional eating, you can start the process of overriding them and taking control of your decisions.

Your habit is to identify your triggers as they happen and create awareness

Emotional Eating Proactive habit 2 – pause

The most valuable gift we can learn in mastery of self, is the ability to pause and 'take a moment' before engaging in behaviour.

A profound pause that creates space for rationale.

Of all the habits we can create in defence of emotional eating this is the greatest of all.

While pausing for a single minute may seem such an insignificant amount of time, this moment creates a vast ocean between your emotions and your ultimate behaviour.

In the context of emotional eating that is groundbreaking.

Within the newly formed ocean between you and your action, your logical mind can rise to the surface and enter the debate. (That is not to say your logical mind will always win the argument, but at least it will enter the conversation.)

Within this minute, a number of questions can arise.

“Do I really want that piece of cake? Maybe a handful of nuts is better?”

“Am I actually hungry? Maybe I’m bored?”

“How am I going to feel afterwards. Is it worth it?”

Work at developing this habit into your daily routine in the same way you work at exercising every day.

Here is the habit:

  1. Whenever you are going to eat, set your phone/watch timer to 60 seconds.
  2. In that 60 seconds, bring rationale to your decision. Ask yourself questions about your hunger.
  • Am I hungry or thirsty?
  • Am I hungry or am I trying to change the way I feel?
  • Are there healthier options I could eat instead?
  • What other things could I do instead?
  • How does this decision align with my goals?
  • Is this ‘junk food’ part of my plan or is it driven by emotions.
  • What am I actually looking to achieve?
  • Am I bored? Do I feel angry? Am I frustrated?
  1. At the end of the 60 seconds, make the decision and take action accordingly.
  2. If, five minutes later, you get driven to emotional eating again, repeat the process. Before ANY food passes your mouth, your behaviour is to pause for 60 seconds.

That is the proactive emotional eating habit you are introducing to your life.

Exercise ✓

Eat plenty of vegetables ✓

Drink water ✓

Pause for a minute before eating ✓

Creating habits is central to success. Take every habit you build seriously if you believe that habit is important to your long-term success.

Emotional Eating Proactive habit 3 – control your environment

If the foods you desired when confronting emotional eating are not available then you can’t have them. If healthier foods and/or water are available you will have them instead.

This strategy really is that simple.

There is a two-step approach to controlling your environment.

Remove all temptations

  • Clear your cupboards of tempting foods, treats and snacks that you know you would be tempted by if available. (We know this can be hard with small children, but not impossible.)
  • Look to remove temptations from your car and anywhere else you may go.
  • Remove temptations from work as much as possible. (We understand this can be hard.)
  • Take minimum cash to places like the cinema or coffee shops, so you can only buy what you planned for and nothing more. 

Have suitable replacements available at all times

  • Make a list of healthy snacks you can enjoy (replacement snacks are a last resort).
  • Have them available.
  • Have a bottle of water available as a first solution all the time.

Note: This habit should be seen as a temporary habit rather than a permanent one.

Emotional Eating Proactive habit 4 – create a new habit

There is a saying in behaviour change circles.

If an inanimate object can do it, it’s not a behaviour. A chair can ‘not eat’ therefore, ‘not eating’ is not a behaviour.

If we are going to stop one behaviour, in this instance emotional eating, we need to replace it with another positive one.

What positive habits can you replace your emotional eating with?

  • Drinking a glass of water?
  • Taking five minutes of meditation?
  • Walking 500 steps?
  • Reading a book for five minutes?
  • Doing 10 push ups?
  • Find a positive habit that you can enforce to replace your emotional eating habit and make that a habit.

If you are an emotional eater you must take this as seriously as you take your daily workout for your goals.

Note: As a last resort you can have a healthy snack as your replacement behaviour but this is a short-term solution. As we are trying to avoid eating for emotions, so using food is not ideal.

Emotional Eating Proactive habit 5 – think sustainable

Feeling restricted and deprived of foods is not positive for long-term goals. As a result, people can be frightened to eat foods that have always been associated with comfort eating, but it is important to change your relationship with food if you want long-term success.

Provided you have a predominantly healthy diet, there will be no considerable difference to your diet between choosing a banana or a small chocolate bar or cookie as a snack.

Having reasonably sized snacks that you enjoy scheduled into your plan – those you have previously overeaten and felt guilty eating in periods of emotional eating – will change your relationships with these foods to a positive and enjoyable one.

No food is good or bad. It is just food.

You can have a balanced and enjoyable relationship with all types of food. Provided you either:

  1. Have them scheduled into your nutrition plan that is based around your goals.
  2. Eat when you are physiologically hungry.
  3. Do not eat when you are emotionally hungry.

Final word

The habits here are not ideas.
They are not concepts.
These habits are not words for you to read and agree with.

They are habits – like exercise or eating vegetables.

Taken from Transform for Life by Daniel and Alexandra Bartlett.

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25 Comments
  1. Heather 5 months ago

    This is wonderful. I want to print this out and read it everyday. Thank you

  2. Kärt 5 months ago

    This one totally hits home for me. I always want something to eat when i’m watching a movie after kids are put to bed. And it has always been this way, years and years. It got to a point to when I didn’t have anything to eat while watching a movie/series, I just didn’t watch it! Well, I still don’t actually. I often eat my dinner after everybody else just to eat it while watching something and if i’ve already had dinner, I just NEED to have a snack. Even if it’s a little one, but too often, they are not little 🙁 and I’ve noticed that I plan these snacks ahead. If I’m tired, I know i’all go for something not so healthy, whereas when i’m feeling good, I make a healthier choice. But as you said, I just replace food with food. And I can’t say I always enjoy eating while watching something, it’s like a mindless thing, mindless eating. So used to it and I hate it, because this habit totally sabotages my results. I usually eat healthy and I’ve been doing TBP workouts for 8 months now, regularly, and I know I could have achieved more by now. I’m not overly mad at myself and still proud of what I’ve accomplished, but it’s just annoying. Doesn’t help that my spouse is exactly the same. At this point, i’m proud of myself for making healthier snack choices.

  3. virginia maroto nieto 5 months ago

    Wow guys, congratulations. It is not only perfectly structured but I can´t be any more accurate.

    Thank you for everything you do guys, you´re truly amazing.

    • Author
      Daniel Bartlett 5 months ago

      I’m delighted it was useful for you Virginia! Thanks for being with us!

  4. Heather Santos 5 months ago

    This is a chapter I need to metaphorically highligh. I have improved in this area tremendously, but sometimes I feel that emotional eating urge creep over me. I learned a new trigger (I say new, I’ve just finally allowed myself to acknowledge it), but being over tired for me leads to emotional eating. I have been following the 60 second rule and it really does help. I’ll also grab a glass of water and do some deep breathing to try and “reset” so to speak. I really cannot wait for your entire book because I know it will be a game changer, and it will help me out quite a bit! Thanks Daniel for hitting on another important topic!

  5. Sherry Chaffin 5 months ago

    Soooooo good… keeping this to read regularly. This is my problem lately, which is so frustrating, as I was able to ignore/control my cravings for unhealthy snacks for so long. Lately, not so much, but reading this helps to remind me that I did it before, and I can do it again.

    • Author
      Daniel Bartlett 5 months ago

      You’ve got it Sherry – you’ve come so far already!

  6. dtangen 5 months ago

    Excellent write up. I love the part about being aware and discovering your true triggers. If we can master that, that is a huge step.

  7. Emily Laumand 5 months ago

    Emotional eating has always been and still is my downfall. It’s a daily struggle that I just cannot seem to conquer and it’s beyond frustrating.

    • Author
      Daniel Bartlett 5 months ago

      You CAN and will defeat it. Try to follow the steps without overthinking the process.

  8. Lisamarie Collaco 5 months ago

    Daniel,
    Great post. I am an emotional non-eater. I can see how many of the principles can also be applied to non-eaters.

    Lisamarie

    • Author
      Daniel Bartlett 5 months ago

      Great point. I think awareness, pause, preparation and positive replacement could be applied to almost any number of unique situations Lisa.

  9. Amanda Cook 5 months ago

    LOVE THIS tip THE MOST!!

    “think sustainable

    Feeling restricted and deprived of foods is not positive for long-term goals. Many people are frightened to eat foods that have always been associated with comfort eating, but it is important to change your relationship with food if you want long-term success.”

    Thanks, D 🙂

  10. NARA 5 months ago

    Oh, I needed this so much… I consider myself a responsible, measured and strict person. I exercise regularly, I´m a committed TBP lover, but when it comes to eating, I could shamefully say that I´m a compulsive eater. Not all the time, because I have my good periods when I feel stronger and more in control of the situation but I also have those periods when no matter what I eat, it is never enough… and I feel so guilty and miserable… I´d love to read your new book and I hope (I’m sure) it will help me. Thanks, my friends!!

  11. Mark Long 5 months ago

    Thank you…needed to read this. Had an episode last night after doing so well.

  12. Merrilee 5 months ago

    Really excellent. Makes me want to read the whole book! For years, I’ve gotten away with eating just about anything I wanted without gaining much weight. My young kids and busy household and off-and-on exercising kept the weight off, mostly. No one would suspect that I am an emotional eater. Even though I have a fairly trim physique, I know myself well enought to recognize some of those triggers: buying candybars at the pharmacy (location/habit from childhood), keeping a stash of candy in the cupboard for those stressful days when my kids and home are stressing me out. I tell myself that I exercise SO THAT I can indulge. But recognizing the different REASONS I might indulge are going to be helpful.

  13. Victoria Rogers 5 months ago

    This is a very valuable read. I thought I’d cracked emotional eating until last week when I got a cold and then was just drawn to sweet food everyday to make me feel better. But guess what it didn’t make me feel better! I need to to remember it’s not something you just crack, it’s something you continually need to be aware of. At least I’ve got to the point where I can identify that as emotional eating and get on top of it before it becomes a daily occurrence again.

  14. Jo Osman 5 months ago

    Really helpful breaking it down into common sense steps like this! Will pin these steps to my fridge

  15. Kim 5 months ago

    I am looking forward to incorporating these habits to finally overcome emotional eating! Thanks for this! Will your book be available for purchase by non-members?

  16. Sandra hilliard 5 months ago

    This is so written for me.thank you for helping us all be successful. I will be saving this blog.

  17. Mohsin 5 months ago

    This is exactly my problem. Wonderful article. Very useful tips.

  18. Michal Caspi Moav 4 months ago

    I exercise on a regular basis for two years already, but there seems to be no change in my body. It I only now after I joined TBP that I understand that nutrition has a huge role and that I eat too many carbs and junk food, although I always thought I hardly eat anything. Thank you! I’m so glad I found you! You are the best!!

  19. Ed Lew 3 months ago

    Fantastic, make a good decision very day in every moment. And replace a regretful habit with a progressively good.
    Great simple advice.
    Emotion, Nutrition, Movement- not always in that order but always working together.
    Thank you.

  20. Theresa Willing 3 months ago

    Love this after all food is just food. I have been so guilty of emotional eating, but now have learned to remove all the bad stuff from the house except ice cream my husband say i don’t love him if I don’t buy ice cream!Any way moderation is the key for me. Thanks for all the info. Now when I get hungry I will do 10 push ups!

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