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Emotional Eating: How to Recognise and Prevent It

Staff Post

Posted on July 26 2017

Obesity and malnutrition is one of the main problems of the world today, with childhood obesity increasing in trend. In developed countries, the percentage of adults who are morbidly obese have been due to poor food choices since childhood. Why is that? Studies show that emotional eating is a cause of unhealthy food habits worldwide.

What is emotional eating? It’s a term used to describe eating due to high-stress instances,  boredom, and extreme emotional issues that people try to avoid. It’s different from physical hunger in the sense that these people do not eat to feed their hunger, but to feel good about themselves or to pass the time and distract themselves from the real issues they’re dealing with. This problem won’t just cause obesity as it can progress to other co-morbidities such as hypertension, coronary vascular diseases, and diabetes. This habit stems early on from childhood so it’s best to prevent it while your kids are young so that they don’t carry it on their adult years. Start with easy and healthy recipes for your kids early so as to combat this potentially dangerous problem. Here are some telltale signs that you or your kids are having emotional eating issues and here are simple ways and easy meals you can prepare for you and your kids to combat them.


Do you eat more junk when you’re packed with work? Do your kids binge on all types of snacks when they have an upcoming exam, or when they’re about to do something stressful? If the answer is yes, then you and your kids are certified stress eaters. When you’re in a state of stress, your body recognises your distressed state and releases hormones called cortisol. This signals your body to eat more energy releasing food to combat the stress. Food such as simple sugars and fat quickly give you that energised feeling, that’s why you end up craving for junk food when you’re stressed.

When you’re feeling like you’re about to stress eat, wait for one minute and think of what you’re about to put in your body. Is it worth it? Most of the time it isn’t, so think of other alternative snacks to munch on when you feel like you need to consume something. A tip would be to reach for your natural produce such as fruits and vegetables. You can even whip up something healthy for you and your kids with easy recipes such as fruit salads or fruit smoothies. There are even some homemade snacks that you can prepare, like simple carrot sticks with sour cream dip, etc. Instead of filling your body with junk, fill it up with nutrients. This will help you deal with your stress better.

When you’re feeling like you’re about to stress eat, wait for one minute and think of what you’re…
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Unlike hunger, emotional eating is an extreme and instantaneous feeling. You just feel like you have to get that burger or fries or else you’ll end up dead. This is different from actual hunger where the process is slow and gradual. You’ll feel different levels of hungry before you actually end up reaching for something to eat. Like you, your kids experience it too. When your body craves for junk, it’s actually crying out for more nutrients. If you’re craving oily food, you’re probably lacking calcium. If you just have to have that chocolate bar, your body is asking for some magnesium. If you need to binge on those carbs, you most definitely need some nitrogen. Listen to your body and substitute these cravings with what you really need. Here’s a table that summarizes what your cravings actually mean, and the proper substitute for them. You can prepare some easy recipes for your kids with these simple ingredients.

Chocolate Magnesium Legumes, Fruits, Nuts, Seeds

Chromium, Carbon, Phosphorus,
Sulfur, Tryptophan

Broccoli, Fresh Fruits, Cheese,
Poultry, Beef, Fish, Eggs,
Kale, Cabbage, Horseradish,
Nuts, Legumes, Sweet Potato,
Spinach, Grains
Carbs Nitrogen Meat, Egg, Fish, Nuts,
Beans, Soy
Oily Food Calcium Mustard and Turnip greens,
Broccoli, Milk, Kale, Beans,
Cheese, Sesame
Salty Food Chloride Unrefined Sea Salt,
Fish, Raw Goat Milk

Think of dinner ideas for you and your kids that contain these foods so that all of you can stop craving the unhealthy stuff.


Have you ever felt the need to just reach for a tub of ice cream and watch sad movies when you feel depressed? Do you ever wonder where you learned that from? Think back to your early childhood when your parents would take you to eat your favorite snack when you’re feeling down. This is what happens when you start showering your kids with junk food every time they’re feeling sad. Instead of talking issues head-on, you end up distracting yourself and your kids with food. Stop this habit and instead, turn to other sources of comfort during your down days. Invite a friend to watch a movie with you. Exercise so you get your endorphins up (fun fact: endorphin is your body’s happy hormone). Do the same thing for your kids as well. Take them to the park and play with them. Lastly, tackle the issue that’s getting you anxious and upset. Talk to your kids about their feelings, don’t just provide them comfort food.


I’m very guilty of this. Sometimes I eat just to munch on something and that’s not good. It’s also not good to instill this habit in your kids. When you’re feeling bored, hit up a friend and do something fun! Or work out and get that hot summer body you’ve always wanted and never managed to work on. Grab a book and read. Increase your bank of knowledge instead of your weight in the scale. Also, if you see your kids having similar tendencies teach your kids to prepare their own meals through easy recipes for kids. This will get them moving and will teach them independence.

There you have it! Simple ways to distinguish and prevent emotional eating. Do you have other points you’d like to share? If you do, let’s start this conversation and comment on the comment section below! I’d love to hear about your ideas.