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Emotional eating for reasons other than hunger .i.e. in emotional eating here Yourdon feel because you are hungry but you eat to satisfy some emotional need. The emotional need may be 

  1. Stress

  2. Anger

  3. Anxiety

  4. Depression

  5. Oneliness

  6. Boredom

  7. Sadness 

It may sound hard to appreciate for some. No wonder that One might wonder and ask ‘’How come I eat to satisfy my one on my emotions? When did I do that? No. It’s not true’. Such a response is not surprising may arise for the simple reason that when you do emotional eating you are not aware of it because it’s usually a subconscious process i.e. you are not consciously aware that you are doing emotional eating. This is what working at subconscious level means.

Emotional eating should be differentiated from the type of eating that we do some time to pick you up or to celebrate a birthday. This is not bad and everybody does it at times. Emotional eating, however, comes into being when you unconsciously adopt eating as your way of coping with stress, anxiety or anger, etc. 

Emotional Hunger

 A particular feature of emotional eating is that; in emotional hunger’ you are focused on some particular food, so called ‘comfort foods’.  Brain Wansink, Ph.D., director of Food and Brand Lab. At University of Illinois, “comforts foods are foods a person eat to obtain or maintain a feeling”.

The satisfaction you get from emotional eating is very short lived and is almost invariably followed by a feeling of guilt as afterwards you start cursing yourself for eating without actual hunger and putting unnecessary fat and cholesterol on you and thus compounding your difficulty.  But since you have developed this defense mechanism at a psychological level, you do it again whenever you are confronted with a stressful condition. You will find yourself increasingly powerless unless you are determined to shun it.

Emotional eating leads to overeating 

overeating is an important cause of obesity. According to Jane Jakubczak, a dietitian at the University of Maryland 75% of over-eating is done because of emotions, so dealing with emotional problems is fundamental to eliminate over eating.   

If you are finding it difficult to appreciate what emotional eating is and how it comes into action, here are some points that differentiate it from actual hunger:

  1. Since ‘Emotional hunger’ is not related with having your stomach filled or empty, it comes suddenly (as you come across a stressful condition) even though you might have eaten your last meal a short while ago. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on gradually.

  2. Actual physical hunger makes you feel eating anything-your choice is open. It is not so with ‘Emotional hunger’ which make you crave for so called ‘comfort foods’ like  fatty foods like pizza, cheesecake or sweetened beverages. 

  3. In case of physical hunger, you understand your body and stop eating when your stomach is properly filled whereas emotional eating is a mindless activity. You keep on eating until the tin or plate is empty or someone makes you get up or more often, when you become uncomfortably filled. 

  4. Emotional eating is usually followed by a feeling of shame or guilt as soon afterwards you realize your unhealthy behavior.   


Know yourself:  you are emotional eater?

  • Do you feel an automatic urge to eat fatty or sweet or drink a beverage when you are stressed?

  • Do you eat to allay your stress or anxiety?

  • Do you keep eating as long as you are entangled in a mental dilemma or tension?


If you feel you are indulged in emotional eating here are some of the ways to manage it:

  • One underlying causes of emotional eating is stress; adopt healthy ways to coop with stress. Remember one thing: stresses and tensions are part of life. You cannot run away from them. Learn healthy ways to manage stress. 

  • Many people do it when they are sad or bored. 

  • If you find difficult to completely avoid comfort foods, at least be moderate.    

  • Identify the triggers emotional eating in you.

B. Environmental Factors leading to over eating¹:

Apart from emotional eating, there are certain other things that unknowingly drag us into overeating.

Although people think that what they eat is mainly determined by how hungry they are, several studies indicate this is not exactly the case. 

  • Distractions such as reading or watching TV can increase consumption

  • Even if people are not hungry, simply thinking it is time to have a meal or snack is enough to cause some people to eat.

  • Many a times people overeat not because of hunger but because of friends, family  and brand names, 

  • Simply observing a role-model person such as parent, friend or stranger can provide a consumption norm that may influence how much the observer eats.


These environmental factors affect most of us. This and other such things had been rather a norm in our society increasing obesity, it is high time to give a thought to this issue. The fact is that many of us need to learn how to deal with feelings without food.  



1. Brian Wansink ”Environmental contributors to obesity” Textbook of Obesity’ Chapter 6, pages 108-119. 

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Biography: Elaine Murphy, BA, CNC


I'd like to introduce myself as part of the team with CMWM against the obesity epidemic to help everyone lose weight and be healthy. I'll be submitting future blogs for CMWM. I'm Elaine Murphy. My background includes a BA in Social Science and Standard Teaching credential at the California State University of Chico. My formal education in clinical nutrition training was from Bauman College as a certified Diet Counselor, Nutrition Educator and Nutrition Consultant.

As a nutritionist my past experience includes over 25 years directly in the health field, particularly with weight management: working in corporate weight loss centers, initiating a bariatric weight loss center as head nutritionist in Los Gatos, owning my own private nutrition consulting practice in Santa Cruz, Watsonville and the Los Gatos area. Currently I am working for CMWM as their Nutrition Consultant and Dr. Jeffrey Lester in Watsonville as his professional nutritionist.


Addicted to Carbs?

Do you ever feel like you are 'addicted' to carbs or sugar?

  There are numerous reasons why people feel so addicted to carbohydrates and sugar. Professionals in nutrition find that sugar and highly processed foods made from white flour cause this 'addiction' to them.


Physiologically this 'addiction' and craving can be 'cured'! People have to consider the way sugar and white flour act in the body. 'White foods,' sugar and highly refined carbohydrate based foods produce a quick insulin response compared to how whole, nutrient dense food items act in the body.  Empty calorie refined foods, set up an almost instant insulin spike, dropping back down quickly resulting in more hunger and frequently, fatigue. At that point the blood sugar is stimulating more cravings. This happens because these foods require only a small amount of digestion and are so quickly processed into the body.

Another 'addictive' quality about sugar and highly processed carbohydrate foods is that they change brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters like tryptophan are produced from carbohydrates which convert into serotonin in the brain which is why we feel better after their consumption. (Serotonin is the 'feel good' chemical.) After eating carbs most people feel relaxed and calmer for awhile, especially if they have been in stress mode.

The hormone leptin reacts with carbohydrates. Leptin typically tells the body when it is full but the insulin spike interferes with that message and sometimes that message just doesn't get to the brain or the brain just might become resistant to it.
People become addicted to cigarettes, alcohol and drugs why couldn't they become 'addicted' to white sugar, flour and overly processed foods? Many get the same withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, headaches, and irritability when they need their carb or sugar 'fix.' 

What foods are you 'addicted' to and are you willing to give them up?

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