Search icon


17th May 2017

How To Control Emotional Eating: 10 Steps to Freedom


Ursula Walsh has shed over 56lbs since starting her Instagram account Mom Fitness Diary to document her weight loss. The Mexican mum-of-two, who lives in Co. Offaly, has amassed thousands of followers, all eager to keep up with her daily tips and recipes. 

“How many of us have reached for the biscuits when we’re sad, mad, angry, anxious or stressed? The belief is that there’s relief at the bottom of that packet, that we’ll feel better for a few minutes.

But then what happens? A week later we weigh ourselves and find we’ve piled on the pounds. Cue feelings of defeat and the beginning of another emotional cycle.

Then you get sick of it and find a miraculous diet online. But what happens next? You feel hungry, emotional and stressed and you abandon the diet. You decide not to care and give up.

The end result: You’re still overweight, you feel like a failure and you’re most likely most ashamed about other people thinking you are weak or have no willpower.

All of this is a very common cycle. The answer is not about just doing a diet and “sticking to it”. It’s about working on yourself everyday and taking steps towards better choices that make you happy.

The first step for combating emotional eating is to start feeling compassion and love for yourself.

I know it’s easier said than done (I’ve been there myself) but these days I love my body the way it is. Embrace the shape you have, the stretchmarks, the freckles and so on, and soon you’ll realise there was never any need to chase a false ideal body in your head.

Here’s what worked for me:

Record your insights in a journal: To heal your relationship with food you must examine the sources of your distress. Buddhists uses this method in mindfulness and it’s very effective in uncovering deep emotions, thoughts and feelings. This journal is a sacred space where you can begin to address the underlying issues that are the root of your problem. Record how you feel after you eat, what you eat, and so on. This will help you to look back and make changes accordingly.

Don’t eat on the run: When we’re on the go all the time we usually tend to grab foods that are high in sugar and fat. Planning your meals, and bringing snacks with you will reduce the chances of grabbing unhealthy foods during the day

Eat three main meals and three small snacks: This will help you to get your head around the fact there is a meal coming up and you’ll never feel hungry. When your meals are planned you don’t fall for unhealthy temptations.

Learn to separate emotions from hunger: When you feel any type of emotion, stop and consider what is causing it and why. Separate those feeling from hunger. Once you recognise the difference you can divert your attention ans take a bath, go for a walk or talk to a friend. Constantly remind yourself: NOTHING IS PERMANENT!

Live in the present! How many of us ‘live asleep’; just going through life on auto-pilot, either worrying about a past event or planning an event in the future? When you bring yourself into the present you make better decisions about what to eat and when. Pay attention to the content of your thoughts as you go about your day.

Find creative solutions: Instead of cutting out those foods you constantly crave; find healthy substitutes. For example, if you’re craving pizza, make your own with a wholemeal wrap, tomato sauce and your favourite toppings. Craving ice cream? Blend some yogurt and fruit and freeze them.

Fill up on veggies: Increasing your vegetable consumption helps maintain your overall health but the extra fibre will also help you to stay full so don’t be afraid to pile up with plate with vegetables.

Cut down on sugar: Don’t go cold turkey on this one but start by substituting white sugar with maple syrup or honey. Swap your sugary yogurt for a natural Greek yogurt and add some fruit instead. If you are addicted to fizzy drinks, make your own with soda water and fruit.

Stay hydrated: If you don’t drink enough water you might find yourself feeling hungry when in fact you are only thirsty. Avoid that by keeping a bottle of water near you at all times.

A photo posted by Ursula Walsh (@momfitnessdiary) on

Eat until you are full, not until the food is gone: How do you know when you are full? Eat slowly, savour your food, notice the flavours and breathe between bites. You will feel your stomach fill up and you will avoid overeating.

Cook enough for a few days: This will help for those days that you either are extremely busy or can’t be bothered cooking. This way you will have something healthy and ready to take out of the freezer the night before a busy day.

Declutter you kitchen: You know those “non-stick” frying pans you bought that everything sticks to? Throw them out! Those spices and out of date products? Bin them! Having your kitchen nice and tidy will make it a more inviting space to spend time in.