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How to Stop Emotional Eating (In 3 Steps)

This is a blog post by Ringwood Personal Trainer, Grant Lofthouse

A client of mine by the name of Gordana came to me with good intentions to change the way she looked and felt.

But no matter how good her intentions were, even if she was training like a beast in the gym.

She always kept shooting herself in the foot with her emotional eating and bad habits.

If you find that you put yourself in the same situation then keep on reading because this could be the most important blog post you will read today.

Today I’m going to give you the exact 3 step formula I gave Gordana which helped end her emotional eating patterns…

Step 1- Identify Your View About Food

There’s no denying that food is one of the many pleasures in life and we use it for many reasons other than energy and a tool to help transform our bodies.

Food is used for socialising, comfort, celebration, grieving and in some cases food can be the be all and end all in someone’s life.

I’m sure you would agree with me that food can be a double edged sword.

If used correctly we can use it to construct a well-tuned fat burning machine.

But if we abuse it, well… I’m sure you know what happens  😉

At the end of the day “the emotional relationship you have with food can be the difference between success or failure on your fitness journey”. – Tom Venuto.

Here’s The Top 10 Common Reasons For Emotional Eating:

1. To get a good feeling.

2. For comfort.

3. Boredom.

4. Out of habit.

5. For social reasons.

6. To cope with stressful.

7. To fill a void or missing need.

8. To recapture a feeling or memory associated with a food.

9. To cope with depression.

10. To cope with other feelings such as anger, loneliness, frustration, disappointment, grief, lack of control or anxiety.

The first step to conquer your bad habits and emotional eating patterns is to become aware of what your view is about food. 

And you can do this by asking yourself this question…

Food is ___________.

Some common answers right now may be:

– Food is a way to finish off a long, hard day.

– Food keeps me entertained when I’m bored.

– Food is my way of dealing with stress.

Once you are actually aware of your view the next two steps will be much more effective.

Step 2 – Understanding Your Habit Loop

This is the meat and potatoes of today’s post…

Charles Duhigg came up with something he calls the habit loop. The habit loop consists of 3 keys:

1. A cue.

2. A routine (physical, emotional, psychological).

3. A reward.

Here’s what the habit loop looks like in real life:


As you can see the cue (t.v.) causes a routine (chocolate) which gives you a reward (yummy).

But we all know that that particular reward is only temporary and leaves you wanting more.

But the brain doesn’t care, all the brain cares about is the reward.

So you can see how the brain unconsciously craves particular cues.

The Top Cues That Cause Emotional Eating

Here’s the top 14 cues that may cause a bad habit / routine….

1. Stress

2. Loneliness

3. Boredom

4. Anger

5. Frustration

6. Sadness

7. Depression

8. Feeling unappreciated or ignored

9. Parties

10. Buffets

11. Restaurants

12. Television

13. Your workplace

14. Specific people (who “push your buttons”)

And you may find each cue causes a different routine.

How to Fix the Habit Loop

The first thing you can do is rewire the routine when the cue is present. For example:


As you can see in the picture above, we still have the same cue and reward but just changed the routine.

By the way, the Berry Nice Protein Shake consist of…

– Vanilla whey protein.

– Mixed frozen berries.

– Flax meal.

– Cinnamon.

– Water.

– Ice.

– Throw in blender and mix until smooth.

Many will say, well why not just avoid the cue.

That’s fine and all but how long do you think you’ll be able to avoid sadness, depression, t.v. etc?

Not long.

That’s why its super important to work hard to understand and rewiring your cue and routine.

Step 3 – The #1 Question

The number 1 question I had Gordana ask herself every time she ate was…

“Will this food move me closer or further away from my goals?”

If it’s closer, go for it.

But if the answer was further I would then get her to think and find out what was her cue that caused the response to pick the particular food that would move her away from her goals.

Once Gordana was able to do this she started to get a hold of her emotional eating and bad habits and then the results started to come.

Quick Recap

1. Identify and change your view about food from ‘food is my getaway’ to ‘food is the tool to transforming my body.’

2. Identify which particular cues cause certain routines.

3. Rewired the ‘bad’ routines to ‘good’ routines.

4. Qualify your food decisions by using the #1 question.

Final Thoughts

There’s no quick fix for emotion eating. Getting your head around your view on food, your habit loop and the #1 question is going to take some time.

I can assure you that you will become stronger and build greater will power once you develop greater awareness of your 3 steps.

I hope this blog post has helped you take the first step to becoming aware of your emotion eating habits.

Now you may be thinking “ok, what next?”

Well, the ideal next step would be to start here.

In this blog post I will teach you the 5 ways to start to start a clean eating lifestyle.

Despite your good intentions, committing to a clean eating lifestyle can be very frustrating but with these 5 tips your expectations of results will be much more realistic.

About The Author

Cardio Haters Training

CHT is a personal training facility in Ferntree Gully that can help you kick-start your transformation and lose the first 5 kilos so you can get back the body you love. CLICK HERE to learn how we do it.