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  • Writer's pictureDr Tracey Evans

Emotional Eating Example

Emotional eating is also referred to as comfort eating or stress eating.

Regardless of the name used, the principle is the same - food is being used to substitute for, avoid or fulfil an emotional need.

Let me provide an example on how emotional eating may look. There will be differences for everyone but having worked with people who comfort eat, this is a pretty typical example.

Example of comfort eating

After a long day at work Emma finally sits down in front of the TV with a large bag of crisps and the biscuit tin. Comfort foods vary, someone else may choose chocolate and sweets or cheese and crackers.

After comfort eating

It is not until Emma sits back and lets out a frustrated sigh at how full and sick she feels, that she realises just how much she has eaten.

This is an example of mindlessly eating, meaning that Emma was not aware of how much she was eating and was probably distracted by watching TV at the same time. Emma's inner critic (inside her mind) reminds her how useless she is, how it is no wonder that she is fat and that she has no willpower whatsoever.

Let's take this example back a few steps to identify what had really happened.

Pre-comfort eating

Emma had got home from work tired, her partner is working away, she did dinner for the kids, helped with the homework, did bath time and then put them to bed.

The kids were playing up at bath time and started fighting, Emma ended up shouting at them and so the bath experience was exhausting and the kids started to cry. When she finally settled them to sleep she sat in front of the TV with snacks.

This example will resonate with many people. It is not untypical for many parents juggling modern day life. If we asked Emma how she felt when putting the kids to bed, she would probably tell you that her inner critic was telling her what a terrible Mum she was because she can't handle the kids and had made them cry. She would have felt terrible about herself and questioned her parenting skills.

This inner dialogue and critical self-talk is mentally exhausting and stressful.

It is this stress response in the brain that initiates the cravings and urges for comfort food. This was a typical habit for Emma at the end of a tiring day, Emma had got used to grabbing snacks without giving it a second thought when tired and stressed.

Does this sound familiar? Do you recognise these behaviours in yourself?

Comfort eating is a learnt behaviour, it provides temporary relief from the stresses of daily life. It may also fill a gap such as loneliness or boredom. The problem is that short term relief is usually paired with long term health effects such as poor mental health, weight gain and anxiety.

The good news is that is is possible to re-wire these learnt behaviours to improve long term outcomes.

If you want to break the cycle of comfort eating reach out to me - that is the first step towards FREEdom from comfort eating.

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