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‘Emotional Eating’ Explored Differently

Take a moment to think about the thoughts that come to mind when you hear ‘emotional eating’.

We are conditioned to think of emotional eating as something unequivocally bad.

But I hope to help you see it from a different perspective by the end of this blog.

What role can food play?

I’d like you to think about the role food plays in our lives. Yes food satisfies a physical need through providing energy and nourishment. However food can also satisfy our emotional needs. These emotions can range from happy to sad. Think about it… food is core part of celebrations. Some people eat food when they feel happy. Others eat to help soothe and distract from deeper emotions.

Food provides safety

Food provides safety from the moment we are born. A baby’s innate instinct allows them to find the breast in order to receive nourishment. Throughout life this then evolves into further intuitive behaviours around food. However for those who may have grown up in less fortunate situations; who experienced trauma; or with less access to supportive and trusting role models, food can naturally fill that space and provide a source of comfort in ones life.

Has food been your main source of comfort that helped you through tough times?

Has food acted as your main tool for self-care?

Then maybe food might need a thank you for keeping you safe.

The relationship with the brain

Eating for comfort can become a learned behaviour throughout childhood and can continue later in life. Overtime, eating certain foods triggers the release of dopamine (happy hormone) from the pleasure centre of our brain. Our brain then down regulates and becomes less sensitive to this response. Overtime this might mean that we require more food for the same comforting effect. So if you find that you have needed more and more food to make you feel good, this is biology at play, not an absence of control on your part.


With all this information in mind, I invite you to think about what role food plays in your life and whether it is truly helping you manage your emotional well-being.

We can recognise that food is a valid coping mechanism and comfort, whilst also exploring what other forms of self-care may support us in the long-term. We may like to think of food as one tool in our self-care toolbox amongst others as we know a toolbox is most useful when there are multiple tools we can choose for different occasions.

Please reach out to your trusted Dietitian or other Health Care Professional to support you through this journey.

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Mali Unahi - Dietitian