What causes emotional eating and how can you beat it?

How To Beat Emotional Eating
How to beat emotional eating

Arghhh, the boss made me work overtime today.
The kids won’t stop screaming.
Life is hard, I just need a treat or something to make me feel better…

Sound Familiar? Let’s talk about one of the biggest relationships of our life. It’s not your partner, its not your kid. It’s your relationship with food..


Let’s face it… most people like yourself know how to eat healthy.

The reason you can’t stick to a healthy diet is a psychological one.

Why do you always sabotage your long term goals for short term happiness?

This is known as emotional eating and affects all of us from time to time.

If this affects you, don’t worry. We are all human and if you read on you will start to recognise WHY you do this.


Do you suffer from emotional eating?

Ask yourself if you do any of the following:

  • Do you use junk food as a reward for even the smallest tasks?
  • Do you get a bit stressed and throw your diet out the window with junk food and avoid exercise?
  • Do you justify eating junk food all the time even though you know you should be trying to drop fat?
  • If you don’t get junk food does this affect your mood?
  • Can you have just ‘one piece’ of chocolate or does this turn into an entire block?

Chances are 99% of us do this from time to time. However for some of us, this is a daily miserable battle.. and this is when our weight can spiral out of control.

Is this you? Repeat after me. I am a good human.

Your choices and emotional state are not your fault.

There IS a way out of this vicious cycle. It starts in your mind.


What causes this vicious cycle?

There is actually some massive science behind WHY we suffer from emotional eating.

Studies have found that emotional eating is quite often a STRESS response state.

Your stress could be anything such as Work, Study, Kids and relationships.

These are all external stresses which can’t be controlled sometimes.

However we also have internal stress and anxiety.

I hate the way I look. I can’t do anything right. Will I pass my exams? Does my boss like me?

Internal self talk is everything. You can literally change your body with the way you think.

If you constantly talk badly about yourself. Your body is reacting. It’s releasing a stress hormone called CORTISOL.

I could write another whole article on Cortisol (Stress) so lets leave that for another day.

All you need to remember is that now that cortisol has been released and your body is in a ‘stressed’ state.


What happens when your body is in this highly stressed state?

Well now your body is all out of whack.

Your serotonin (happy hormone) levels are low which means you aren’t getting as much joy out of life.

So now your brain is looking for ways to feel good.

It gets worse… When stress levels are high, appetite related hormones are activated.

It gets even worse… Studies have found that dopamine release was much higher in response to junk food.

OK hold that thought. Lets talk about Dopamine.


Why does dopamine matter?

Dopamine is another chemical released whenever something good or exciting happens to us.

Every time you scroll on Facebook you activate the dopamine receptors. This is why Facebook is so addictive.

Sometimes you are rewarded with interesting content and the dopamine is released.

Drugs activate the dopamine receptors.

Love activates dopamine. Lust activates dopamine.

Getting your TO-DO list done activates dopamine.

Video games activate dopamine.

Our brain is ADDICTED to dopamine and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Think of it as a reward chemical for your brain. Without Dopamine we wouldn’t be motivated to do ANYTHING.


How food becomes our dopamine fix

So now we know that when you are stressed, the high calorie junk food actually gives you a bigger dopamine HIT.
Food has now become your drug.

You don’t need drugs, love, lust or any of that anymore because FOOD can give it to you.

Just like drugss, that seemingly innocent block of chocolate can affect your brain in many ways.

Unfortunately… once the ‘dopamine high’ wears off you are left more depressed than before.

Now you’ve got no more dopamine and you may have put on more fat than before which is affecting your self esteem, motivation levels and feeding into the negative self talk which got you here in the first place.

The vicious cycle continues.


Get me out! How do I stop emotional eating?

Well now you know the science behind it. Stress and anxiety got us here. Dopamine is our brains solution and we need an alternative.

This is your step by step guide. DO THIS IN ORDER.

  1. Identify your stresses.
  2. Identify any negative self talk loops.
  3. Write all the negative stress triggers down on paper. DO NOT TYPE  IT. PEN AND PAPER. You need to WAKE UP and become aware of your mind state.
  4. Find at least 5 dopamine releasing activities to do INSTEAD of emotionally eating.
  5. You must now be very SELF AWARE.
    If the negative stress occurs you need to refer to your dopamine list. (see below)
  6. If you have negative self talk you need to tell yourself to SHUT UP. Get angry at your anxious thoughts!
    Honestly this sounds crazy talking to yourself but it works.
    Don’t let your anxious thoughts run their course. Stop them in their tracks.

It’s as simple as that. You just need to replace your behaviours and negative self talk.

The bad news is that it is NOT simple as that. You are replacing years of hard wired behaviour in your brain.
Be kind to yourself. You will trip up. Get back on your feet and remind yourself that it may take you a few months to unwind years of bad brain programming.

You CAN do it.

Suggested Dopamine Release Activities:

  • Exercise (This also releases Serotonin – the best thing you can do)
  • Music
  • Write a to-do list that you can achieve today (even if its small)
  • Discover new things (our brain loves learning)
  • Meditate
  • Have a hot bath
  • Go for a walk somewhere new
  • Call a friend
  • Read a thrilling book
  • Draw or paint
  • Anything Creative
  • Play video games (massive dopamine triggers)

I’m not a psychologist but I do know about this stuff. I’ve spent years researching this topic as I love hacking the brain to become the best possible version of yourself that you can be.

If you need a supportive ear in your quest to break emotional eating, please contact me at info@flexidiet.co.nz and i’ll be happy to help. Your problems will be kept confidential as I believe in maintaining a professional trainer – client confidentiality agreement.


Until next time…



Study References:





Hi I’m Brad, the founder of FlexiDiet. I’m a ISSA & NZIHF Certified Nutritionist/PT specialising in getting people lean eating burgers. Here at FlexiDiet we don’t believe in clean eating or restrictive diets and we want to teach YOU how to make your favourite foods healthier. If you are enjoying your food, your results will be PERMANENT and you don’t actually need to use a temporary fix ‘diet’.

FlexiDiet is the result of hundreds of successful client transformations. Will you be next?

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