Diet & Nutrition

Managing Emotional Eating (Part 3)

Managing Emotional Eating

What we’ll cover: 

  • Being patient and kind with yourself when addressing emotional eating
  • Strategies for anticipating and managing emotions
  • The importance of your support network

Emotional eating can often develop into habitual and automatic behaviours, which means that overcoming them can be challenging. The potential solutions and strategies below may or may not resonate with you, and you may find them easier or more difficult to use depending on how you feel on a particular day. 

It's crucial to be compassionate with yourself and don’t expect that they will all come naturally when you first start. Allow yourself the time to practise, and space to explore different coping mechanisms and see which work best for you, remember we are all individuals. With practice, they can become powerful tools in managing non-hunger related eating.

In our article on identifying emotional eating, we provided tips on using journaling to help you recognise the patterns and circumstances leading to emotional eating. Now, let's delve into some strategies that can help you to manage emotional eating..

Anticipate the emotion

For each of us, different feelings or situations may trigger the urge to emotionally eat. Understanding your own personal triggers can be a valuable tool. For some people this may be a chocolate bar when you're feeling stressed, or snacks when you’re feeling bored. Once you’ve identified your own triggers, you can plan ahead for these situations and reflect on some alternative ways to manage them. For example:

  • Gaining support from someone close to you before the situation
  • Planning to do something nice for yourself in the aftermath
  • Avoiding the situation if that’s possible and doesn’t delay it or make it worse  - e.g., taking alternative routes to avoid triggering places, or preparing and reflecting on what you’d like to get from an upcoming situation
  • Pre-empting the urge to eat and preparing something healthy to have instead

Urge Surfing

Cravings, otherwise known as ‘urges’, will often rise and peak, before eventually settling back down and becoming easier to manage. Urge surfing is a technique that involves riding the wave of an urge without automatically succumbing to it. There are a few stages in the process as we highlight below:

  • First acknowledge the urge to eat or drink
  • Take a moment to stop and reflect on what’s going on with you at that time, your emotions, feelings, circumstances etc. Try and identify what it is that’s driving your urge. Make a note of this in your diary.
  • Urges can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but remember that they will ease and eventually resolve. Aim to wait for 15-20 minutes.
  • Whilst you ride the urge out, consider ways in which you could manage the urge or perhaps delay and distract yourself from it. For example, taking yourself from a triggering environment, or doing mindfulness exercises to manage emotions like stress and anger.

Healthy distractions:

Emotional eating can often feel like you're on ‘autopilot’, so before reaching for food, check-in with how you feel physically and emotionally; are you actually hungry or is there an emotion steering you towards food? If it’s the latter, can you think of an alternative and better way to manage that emotion, for example:

  • Phoning a friend or family member when lonely
  • Deep-breathing exercises or meditation when angry or stressed
  • Taking a walk and some fresh air when feeling down
  • Brain-training apps/ crosswords/ puzzles when bored

Choose healthy foods:

  • If you still feel the urge to eat, opt for nutrient-dense foods that nourish your body and mind. When emotions run high, we often turn towards high sugar, high fat, or ultra-processed foods for that short-lived ‘feel good feeling’ that they swiftly provide us. But these foods can also lead to a cycle of guilt followed by further emotional eating. Choosing healthier foods will help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and avoid subsequent crashes that these foods often cause.

Build a support system:

  • Surround yourself with people who understand and support your goals. Share your ambitions and lifestyle changes with friends and family. Your Roczen ‘Group’ is the perfect place to share your experiences and challenges with like-minded people on a similar journey to you. Having a support system not only provides encouragement but also offers accountability, making it easier to stay on track with your commitment and break free from emotional eating.

Optimise your holistic health:

  • Our emotions are heavily linked to the lifestyle we lead, so making healthy choices across the board will have a profound impact on our mental wellbeing. Research has shown us how sleep deprivation can lead to cravings(1), and how physical activity can improve our mood and emotions(2). Prioritise your needs where you can, i.e. aim for those 7+ hours of sleep a night, meal-prep healthy dinners for the freezer, protect time to exercise and take timeout of routine to unwind and relax. These will all have profound effects on your mental wellbeing and your ability to manage those difficult emotions.


When working on strategies to better manage your emotions and food choices, it’s important to be kind and patient with yourself. Celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small, and learn from the challenges. Every time that you take time to stop, reflect and work on your emotions and behaviours is a moment of progress, regardless of whether it goes to plan or not.

If you feel that emotional eating and the strategies above feel like too much to manage on your own, then remember your clinician and metabolic mentor are here to support you.

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


  1. Fenton S, Burrows TL, Skinner JA, Duncan MJ. The influence of sleep health on dietary intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2021;34(2):273–85.
  2. Hu, M.X., Turner, D., Generaal, E. et al. Exercise interventions for the prevention of depression: a systematic review of meta-analyses. BMC Public Health 20, 1255 (2020).

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