Find out what type of emotional eater you really are — and how you can learn to fight your urges

Food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson PhD says: “As we grow up, we can associate what we eat with how we feel.

“Tastes and smells can trigger strong memories.

“Certain foods can stimulate feel-good brain chemicals and affect our blood sugar levels, making us feel better or worse.”

She warns: “If we experience extreme emotions such as stress or heartbreak we can turn to extreme eating to fix it.”

Find out here which type of emotional eater you are… and how you can curb the habit.


THE moment you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, or are struggling after a late night, you turn to comfort food. Lacking energy to make worthwhile decisions means a quick fix is your go-to dinner.

Dr Christy says: “Very often when you are tired your body craves carbs as you are seriously lacking in energy. Instead of reaching for what you need, however, tired eaters find themselves reaching for chips, big bowls of pasta and cakes, because they link these foods with energy and feeling good.”

SOLUTION: Try to choose low GI-carbs – those with lower glucose levels – to keep your blood sugar steady and still get the good energy you need. Brown rice or wholemeal bread provide slow-release energy.


WHEN you’re in your normal routine, food is good and healthy, but throw in a moment of extreme happiness and you reward yourself with junk food. A promotion at work? Order a takeaway. Got ten matches on Tinder? Pick up a celebratory tub of ice cream on the way home.

Dr Christy says: “Growing up, we are taught that food is a part of happy celebrations. We have birthday cake, big meals at Christmas, and as kids we are even rewarded with sweets if we do well.

“When our brains experience a rush of happy chemicals in adult life, it instantly makes us crave these foods as it’s all linked in our memories.

SOLUTION: Don’t deprive yourself but be mindful of portion sizes. Enjoy one piece of cake, or one meal out, rather than celebrating for weeks. You could even try sweet fruits, such as berries and pineapple, instead of sweets and chocolate.


UNHAPPINESS in any form can make us rely on food for a tiny boost. Whether it’s disappointment at work, friendship fallouts, loneliness or grief, treats can become a crutch.

Dr Christy says: “When we feel down as children, even something like falling and scraping your knee, we are often offered a biscuit or chocolate as an emotional plaster, and we continue this into adulthood. We feel it helps to heal us.

“Food has a physiological impact too, in that it can give a burst of sugar, and therefore a temporary rush of happy hormone serotonin.”

SOLUTION: Find other ways to give yourself a release of feel-good hormones – for example by exercising or getting some vitamin D. Get outside in the sun and go for a walk, or find a sport or physical activity you enjoy.


WHEN you’re single and on the lookout, you feel better when you’re eating well, working out and are displaying a healthier figure. But the minute you meet someone, make it official, and live for nights in together in front of Netflix, you accompany those loved-up emotions with the foods you love.

Dr Christy says: “Women don’t tend to eat as much on their own, but once they are with someone, they give themselves a reason to have dinner and grant themselves a takeout.

“We also don’t feel we have the same pressures – like, ‘I want to fit into that dress for my date’ – that sit in our minds stopping us from overeating”

SOLUTION: The key is to incorporate food into your relationship in a healthier way. Cook together, bake from scratch together and make it about different types of foods so you aren’t always picking up the phone and ordering in.


HE doesn’t text you back for more than 24 hours so you eat four sharing bars of Dairy Milk. Sound reasonable? Then you’re a heartbreak eater. The minute your date goes badly, the guy you’re seeing goes cold or you go through a break-up, you turn to food before you turn to your friends.

Dr Christy says: “Foods we like are used to replace the loved-up feeling we have lost. To make us feel like we are not alone, we are experiencing a happy emotion with food, which is very intimate.

“There is also a cultural link to food with break-ups, Films and TV shows have for decades taught us that eating chocolate and ice cream is ‘natural’ when experience heartbreak.”

SOLUTION: Try dark chocolate. It has a higher cocoa content, which ups your antioxidant levels and contains less fat. It’s also stronger in flavour so you’re less likely to eat as much of it.


IT’S all plain sailing until a crisis hits. Maybe it’s that confrontational email at work that makes you bin the pre-made salad and head for a bucket-load of deep-fried chicken.

Or perhaps it’s the pressure of having to plan a friend’s hen do or organise a three-year-old’s ­birthday party.

Dr Christy says: “We get dehydrated when stressed and mistake it for hunger. We reach for caffeine and sugar, which only ups our heart rate and blood sugar level further, making us more stressed.

SOLUTION: Try eating smaller, regular meals every three hours to maintain a good blood sugar level and to reduce stress. Quality protein like nuts, seeds, meat and fish help to slow the release of glucose into the system, and the amino acids are good for stabilising brain ­chemicals to support your mood.

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