Emotional eating.

Hi guys!

I totally planned to post about something else this evening, but this came up and I want to talk about it.

What I want to talk about today is emotional eating. I know eating mindfully is an important part of a maintaining a healthy relationship with food. We’re supposed to eat when we’re hungry, stop when we’re satified and find productive ways to deal with the rest of our negative emotions.

But where does comfort food and emotional eating come into the picture? Is it something that should be considered “all bad”? Is it accptable to reach for a block of chocolate when we’re feeling sad, stressed, angry or just in need of a pick me up? If you crave something to eat – not because you’re actually hungry but because you crave the enjoyment that comes with partaking of that particular treat, is it wrong to indulge?

The reason I’m asking all these quiestions is not because I’ve formulated an opinion on the matter, but because I have a confession to make. I emotionally ate today. I just found out my little brother has a severe case of pnemounia, I am taking my drivers exam soon, and there are a bunch of things piling up that left me feeling stressed and pressured at dinner time.

After eating dinner I was craving something sweet. Usually a cracker, banana, and some nut butter fill that craving, but since I’m down to my last bit of nut butter and am saving it for tomorrows breakfast I didn’t want to eat it. So I settled for some cereal with almond and yogurt. that worked great till I put some honey in it, and had to trash the last bit because it tasted so bad. But after eating I STILL wanted something so I had a cracker and cottage cheese. After that I had a little voice at the back of my head telling me to stop eating, but I STILL was craving something. So I had another 1.2 cup cereal with almond and yogurt and figs. Then the guilt set in because I realized that I was emotionally eating as opposed to trying to satify my hunger. I was trying to relieve my stress, worries about my brother, and the pressure of all the other things I still had to do by eating.

For most people this wouldn’t be SUCH a big deal, but seeing as I have suffered from an ED in the past, this was extremely hard for me to cope with. I kept beating myself up, thinking I was being a little piggy and overeating because I was feeling worried and stressed. Eating disorders are all about control and this was so “uncontrolled” that it scarred the heck out of me.

Basically I felt like this.

Now that I’ve calmed down a little I realize it is not such a big deal. I mean one cup of cereal with yogurt, almonds and a chopped up fig won’t kill me. But I am wondering if what I did was so wrong? Ok, for me personally eating does not do anything to calm my negative emotions, but what about the people that it does? My mom for instance eats a block of chocolate whenever she’s feeling really irritable and 5 times out of 6 it works. So is it really such bad thing?

I know boredom eating/nibbling is generally very discouraged on healthy living blogs and I’ve read some post when people beat themselves up over eating “too many evening snacks” or “eating although they weren’t really hungry”. So I’m wondering if there is a discretionary allowance for eating simply for pleasure or other emotional reasons (a.k.a comfort eating) in a healthy lifestyle? Is there a balance to be found in not only eating for the sheer, biological necessity of it, but for the emotional satisfaction and feeling of well being it give us?

Please feel free to share your thoughts, because I want to hear your opinions on the matter.




  1. I tend to have a vanishing appetite when stress or sad things come around, but I find that seeing as cooking is my hobby, I’m constantly “bored” and enjoy eating on a regular basis (read: every hour). There is absolutely nothing wrong with using food as a source of comfort in a time of need. It’s when it becomes an unhealthy obsession that it causes problems – like people who turn to eating mounds and mounds of food to completely hide problems.

    You’re pointing out what is stressing you out and you’re fully aware of what’s bothering you, you’re not mindlessly eating to fill some sort of void. When you’re aware of what you’re doing and you just want some sort of pleasure to make you a bit happier in a time of stress, I don’t see any problem with that. There’s a fun / enjoyment factor that comes along with eating – good mental health is just as important as good physical health. Don’t worry yourself about it too much at all, that’s just going to make the stress even worse.

    And I’m really sorry to hear about your brother. I hope he has a safe and quick recovery and he’s in my prayers. Take care, good luck on your exam, and God bless~

  2. Honestly, I admire people who indulge in treats here and there regardless of hunger cues. You know why? Because it means that they value themselves enough not to care. They are eating something because they enjoy it… not because they ‘need’ it or because it’s necessarily healthy. I hope that sometime in the future I can re-establish this ability, because I definitely don’t have it anymore.

    Keep in mind that hunger isn’t always physical. If you body is lacking something specific, sometimes cravings can come in the form of things other than tummy grumblings: a sweet tooth, a migrane, lethargy, or even just obsessive food thoughts.
    Just something to think about 🙂

  3. thanks for posting about this!! I’m in recovery from anorexia and have been wondering about the emotional eating/comfort food duality as well. I have that same battle with myself, “well, I WANT that, but I’m not hungry for it…so what do I do? What is right?” and what’s scary is that there isn’t really a RIGHT answer. I think it varies for everyone, just like how it works for your mom (and mine : ) ) but healthy living blogs don’t condone it. I’m working on finding out what works for me. This is part of learning to listen to your body, learning how to not eat when you don’t want to (and not having that be an ED thing) and eating when you DO feel hungry. It’s a process but thinking about all elements of it can only make it develop into something truly meaningful and healthy.
    Looking forward to reading more!

  4. First off….I snack like that ALL the time at night!

    Second off…I think its SO IMPORTANT to learn to enjoy food.

    Last night I was “bored” and found myself making food for enjoyment. I started feeling incredibly guilty but I do realize that I could use the food anyway and Ive been eating this way for a long time and it hasnt effected me in a negative way yet.

    Yeah, so I think its important to learn how to enjoy food and its okay to eat if your not hungry–its not the end of the world. The problem comes when you do that EVERYTIME your bored or upset. My dietitian use to tell me it’s an issue if you become a “one trick pony”. Meaning, if EVERYTIME your upset you go to food or everytime your bored you go to food…then its a issue. But every once and a while, it’s no biggie! It’s totally okay, in my opinion!

    Dana xox

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