A-Z of health E- Emotional Eating

Whilst this may not constitute as a stand-alone medical condition, as you will see if you read my A-Z posts many issues with nutrition are not just to do with the foods you eat but the more the reasons why you eat them. 

Emotional eating can cover a multitude of reasons behind the eating – stress, habit, comfort, boredom, food memories.  The types of food consumed are usually the wrong ones, the highly addictive high sugar, high fat, highly processed foods which not only make them very addictive but trigger many unhealthy patterns.

As I discuss in my book, many patterns of eating behaviours actually start in childhood and this is often where emotional eating patterns are established.  This is why I strongly advise NOT rewarding, comforting or bribing a child with food.


Now, back to those unhealthy patterns; firstly, the metabolic response.  When you eat high sugar, high fat, highly processed foods these are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing risky spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.  Because they are highly addictive people consume much more than is ‘needed’ and triggers a repeat blood sugar and insulin spike.  Because they are nutrient devoid, they offer zero nutritional benefit so you quickly feel hungry again as you haven’t had any real energy or benefit from the food.  This fuelling a pattern of eating too much too often.

At the same time as this metabolic response there is a neurological one.  When you emotionally eat, for whatever reason you are generally looking for a bit of a ‘pick me up’, something to make you feel more alert, perkier, happier but with this type of food this NEVER happens.  You will experience a very short burst of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin but this will soon be followed by a crash leaving you feeling worse than before you started eating.

Over-eating carbohydrates and sugars can lead to decreased sensitivity to serotonin.  This reminds me of when I talk to clients about sugar addiction and how the more sugar you have the more you need; There are certain areas of your brain which are influenced by pleasure and reward, the more you feed these, the more you ‘dumb down’ the receptors meaning you need more to get the same hit.

In this way sugar reacts in EXACTLY the same way as a class A drug would, only sugar is considerably more socially acceptable!

When it comes to emotional eating have you ever eaten a whole packet of biscuits? Or a box of chocolates without really even tasting it? This shows you are needing to consume more and more to get a biological response of dopamine.  Dopamine makes you feel good it is linked to pleasure and reward but the more sugar you eat the less dopamine you produce. 

In a nutshell as far as biology is concerned the more sugar and trans fats you eat the unhappier you will be.

Emotional eating never cures emotional problems, not once.  It does however create a whole host of physical problems, many of which you will see in my A-Z health posts.

The body is amazing and surprisingly resilient to all that we throw at it for a while.  Lifestyle does eventually take its toll.  I work with people to explain how the body works at a physical and emotional level with food.  Once you understand this and create new habits with food your body and mood will feel much more stable and you will feel in control.  Believe me your health will improve greatly!

Here are just some of the health conditions I see associated with emotional eating: –

  • Obesity
  • Malnourishment (often in the same person see A-Z post M – Malnourishment)
  • Low self esteem
  • Poor sleep
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Poor memory
  • Cognitive decline (yes, sugar does this!)
  • Inflammation
  • Weakened immunity
  • Digestive issues
  • Poor gut health
  • Stress, anxiety and depression

Food manufacturers know that their products are unhealthy and addictive.  See my previous post on TRUST. https://www.louisemercieca.co.uk/nutrition-it-isnt-that-important-right/

If any of this sounds like you then it is never too late to start to make a change.  I look at the biology as this doesn’t lie and according to the biology the more sugar and trans fats you eat the unhappier you will be.  Of course, food manufacturers won’t tell you this and of course the diet industry will promise you all manner of weight loss cures whilst adding to your health problems by affecting your metabolism and potentially filling you with chemicals if you eat their products.

I have your best interests at heart and it is my mission to educate people on the reality of food. Check out my A-Z posts and get in touch to have a chat.

About the author of this blog

Louise Mercieca is a multi award-winning author on children’s nutrition with her book ‘How Food Shapes Your Child’ winning the Parenting award in Janey Lee Grace’s Platinum awards.

Louise has also won a SBS or Small Business Sunday award from Theo Paphitis and was recently crowned as Queen of Child Nutrition in the #Queenof Twitter awards.

Louise has worked as a Nutritional Therapist for 8 years supporting hundreds of clients and does take on a limited number of personal coaching clients each month – contact Louise to discuss this.

Louise has also created an accessible and affordable webinar schedule covering many topics discussed in this A-Z post series. https://www.louisemercieca.co.uk/webinar

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