Good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight play a key role in our health and wellbeing.

In Australia however, one of the leading health concerns are individuals who are overweight and obese. Australia is in fact, one of the most overweight developed nations in the world.1

So why are Australians putting on weight?

People gain weight for many reasons, including:

    • eating unhealthy foods and snacks, such as highly processed foods and sugary treats
    • not doing enough physical activity
    • having poor and entrenched eating habits, including skipping breakfast and other meals
    • confusing hunger with thirst
    • eating large portion sizes/over-indulging
    • drinking soft drinks, energy drinks or too much alcohol
    • using food as a reward
    • emotionally eating

The number one cause of weight gain…

Many health professionals and weight-loss experts believe that the number one cause of weight gain is emotional eating.

In fact, it is suggested that 75% of overeating is due to emotional eating. That is, eating to cope with and/or suppress emotions.

Such emotions often include anxiety and depression, sadness and loneliness, fear, anger, boredom and stress, including eating to cope with work-life pressures, as well as in our current climate – the pandemic and natural disasters…

Emotional eating is also often associated with mindless eating, eating quickly or in secret, and it often involves eating comfort foods. Such foods can be sweet like chocolate and ice-cream, or savoury, such as potato chips and pizza.

Are you an emotional eater? If yes, these 3 tips can help

If you feel that you might be an emotional eater, eating mindfully can help improve your eating behaviour, and the relationship you have with food. These tips can help:

1. Focus on what you’re feeling

Give your full attention to the present moment and become aware of what you’re feeling. Are you currently experiencing particular emotions such as sadness or loneliness? Are you stressed or bored? Are you eating to fill in time? Are you eating to suppress the emotions you’re currently feeling due to the pandemic and being socially isolated? Are you craving particular foods? Are these foods unhealthy?

If yes, acknowledge these feelings (without judgement), and put strategies in place to deal with these emotions constructively and positively, without food.

Instead of eating:

  • express your feelings with a loved one or colleague
  • keep a journal and write it down; write a letter to your more positive confident self
  • take a few deep breaths or do some meditation
  • go for a walk or do some physical activity
  • listen to some music and sing out loud, or dance!
  • read a book or magazine
  • distract yourself by doing something that you enjoy, a pleasurable activity

2. Focus on what you’re eating

Give your full attention to the present moment and become aware of what you’re eating. What exactly are you putting into your mouth? Is it nutritious? Or is it full of fat or sugar which can make you feel sluggish, guilty and disappointed?

Also check in with yourself on whether you are currently hungry. Do you want to eat for the sake of eating, or are you physically hungry?

Do you feel a strong need to satisfy your urge immediately with food, and with junk food? If yes, then you are emotionally eating – acknowledge your emotions and take some positive action.

3. Focus on the present moment and eat slowly

Give your full attention to the present moment and eat slowly. Take small and slow bites and savour every bite. Take the time to reflect on the benefits of eating good clean food and the costs of eating unhealthy food.

Recognise when you’re full and stop eating.

Are you eating more than you normally would? If you’re continuing to eat despite feeling full, acknowledge your emotions. Rather than suppressing them with food, express them or write them down in a journal. Other ideas have been included above.

Help is always available

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the moment and feel that emotional eating is part of your daily routine, there are a number of professional services that can help.

Speak to your doctor for further information and support. Speaking to a local counsellor and/or dietitian can also help.

We hope you enjoyed this post and until next time, wish you all great health and wellbeing!

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1. National Health and Medical Research Council (2013). Clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults, adolescents and children in Australia.