Diet & Nutrition

Identifying Emotional Eating Patterns (Part 2)

Identifying Emotional Eating Patterns

What we’ll cover:

  • Why the first step to managing emotional eating is to identify it 
  • How to identify our triggers 
  • How to identify the patterns which happen in certain situations
  • How to reflect on what happens when we emotionally eat

In part 1 of this series, we explored emotional eating and the ways in which it can impact on our day-to-day lives. The connections between our emotions and food choices can be complex, and often triggered by various factors such as places, memories, and even people. 

The good news is that there are a wide range of strategies that can help us manage these difficult emotions better. The first step in the process is to identify patterns in your emotions, behaviours and food choices and becoming more consciously aware of them.

Once we establish patterns, the next step is trying to pre-empt and manage the situations differently, which we’ll explore later in this series.

We recommend keeping a food & mood diary to help you build an understanding of the circumstances and emotions that accompany your choices. This will help you become more consciously aware and help you identify the factors impacting on your eating. Useful information to record and keep track of include:

  • What, when and where you ate:
    Maintain a detailed record of what you eat, e.g. breakfast when you ate it, e.g. time, and where you were, e.g. office. This information will help you to build a broader picture of your day-to-day eating patterns and how they may vary in different situations.
  • Hunger levels:
    It’s important to establish whether you are eating to satisfy physical hunger, or in response to other triggers such as emotions. You may find it helpful to use the hunger scale to grade your hunger levels before and after eating. This can help you identify how hungry you are before eating and how satisfied you are after. You can find the hunger scale article by searching in the Explore section of your app.
  • Emotions:
    It is also important that when you are eating you make note of how you feel at the time. Are you stressed, anxious, sad, or happy? We may start to see patterns between our emotions and the  foods we are drawn to. Noticing and understanding these patterns can help us to predict when we are most likely to engage in non-hunger related, or ‘emotional’ eating.  Once we are aware of these connections, we can then  put into place coping strategies to manage both the emotion and the desire to emotionally eat.
  • Identify Triggers:
    Take note of situations, people, places or events that trigger emotional eating. Again, identifying these triggers will empower you to develop coping techniques and help you make more conscious choices before the urge to eat overrides.

Understanding the ‘why’ behind our food choices is an important part of overcoming emotional eating. By recognising emotional eating behaviours and keeping a record of them, you can pave the way for a healthier relationship with food. In the next part of our series, we explore some of the strategies that can help you take control of your emotions and food choices.


  • The first step in overcoming emotional eating behaviours is to understand when and why it’s happening.
  • Keeping a detailed food & mood diary will help you identify patterns in your behaviours and food choices that we can begin to work on.
  • It’s important to pay attention to how you feel when eating, and the food cravings/choices that occur in response to different situations.
  • Once we identify patterns and triggers, we can then put into place different interventions that help overcome these behaviours.

August 31, 2023
Written by
Robbie Green
Reviewed by
Dr. Claudia Ashton

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