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The Cycle of an Emotional Eater and How to Break it

What is freedom to you?

WildFit’s core value is freedom. It was created to help people to achieve true food freedom.

What we have found is, when we help people get their food freedom, they tend to get more freedom in other areas of their lives too.

One thing that takes away freedom is emotional eating.

Feelings and emotions are a part of life. They may not always be pleasant or comfortable, but all of them have a purpose.

Your quality of life is largely dependent on how you respond and react to the emotions that come up.

This is where emotional eating comes in.

Emotional eating is eating food in response to feelings. You’re eating because you’re feeling something, not because you’re hungry.

It can feel like you’re hungry, but you’re not actually hungry.

Let’s face it, when emotional hunger strikes, you’re not reaching for celery. You’re craving comfort food or junk food, high in calories and low on nutrients.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Cycle of Emotional Eating…

The Cycle of an Emotional Eater

It’s a cycle of behavior that repeats itself. The more this cycle repeats, the harder it is to break.

It’s conditioned helplessness causing you to feel powerless over your emotions and behavior.

1. Trigger

Step 1 in the cycle is the trigger.

Something happens that triggers a specific emotion. This emotion triggers the need to eat.

It’s not the situation in itself that’s the trigger, but the emotional response to that situation.

Do you recognize some of these triggers?:

  • Feeling stressed → “I want sugar.”
  • Feeling stressed → “I want coffee.”
  • Feeling sad → “I want ice cream.”
  • “I’ve been so good”“I deserve chocolate.”
  • “We’re celebrating”“Let’s get a drink.”

Sometimes it’s a more sentimental feeling like: “my grandmother used to make these. I’m eating this in her memory.”

2. Binge

This is the part where you EAT. A more accurate statement is: where you stuff your face.

One piece of chocolate is never enough. It takes a bar or two to satisfy the emotional hunger.

I remember when I used sugar as a way to self medicate against stressful situations and anxiety. I wouldn’t have a couple bites of cake, I would eat 2 or 3 large pieces. WAY MORE than I needed! Then I would flush it down with an energy drink and a couple more sugar filled treats.

If I had the chance to look back and watch a tape of myself, it would be humiliating.

When emotional hunger kicks in, it’s feels impossible to stop.

3. Regret

This is the most devastating part of the cycle.

This is where you regret what you’ve done. It feels as if you have no willpower or self-control.

This fuels the next step of the cycle…

4. Deprive

You feel shame from binging and tell yourself, I’ll never do this again.

You restrict your intake, and this resets the cycle.

How To Break The Cycle

The good news is that it’s possible to break this destructive cycle.

Here are four things you can do to start the process:

1. Manage Your Stress

Stress is a huge trigger and is one of the most common triggers of emotional eating.

When you encounter an uncomfortable situation, focus on something else that is more positive.

Finding constructive ways to lower your stress is so important. Personalize what works for you!

Here are some suggestions:

  • Go for a walk outside
  • Meditate
  • Write in a journaling
  • Read a book
  • Put on your favorite music
  • Take a bath
  • Have phone-free evenings and spend time with your family

2. Don’t Get Hungry


Now you’re probably thinking “well that’s obvious, but I’m trying to avoid eating”.

What I mean is to eat real and nutritious foods.

Why do you get hungry?

It’s a way for your body to say that it needs nutrients and energy. Most processed foods are high in calories and low on nutrients.

If the body doesn’t get all the nutrients it needs, it will continue to signal to the brain to eat.

To be able to distinguish between emotional and genuine hunger, you must have a stable blood sugar level. We have all experienced low blood sugar, and how it causes us to get a bit cranky.

3. Be Kind To Yourself

Another essential step in breaking emotional hunger is to be kind to yourself. Recognize that this has nothing to do with low willpower or self-control.

It’s a sign to shift your response to emotions that trigger you to eat.

It can’t be done overnight. It’s all about baby steps.

The process is best done in a community. It’s why we created the 14 Day Food Reset program. Breaking the cycle is easier among with like-minded people.

4. Observe Your Thoughts and Behaviour

When you’re triggered for a binge, instead of feeling shame, focus on finding out what triggered it in the first place.

You’ll be in a better position in finding out what’s really causing it, and deal with it constructively.

Every interaction you have with food is a potential learning experience.

How does your inner salesperson convince you to eat the things you’re eating? How does the inner salesperson persuade you to eat it right now?

What’s Next?

The first step of any change is awareness. Without awareness, real change is impossible.

Try writing down your behaviors in a journal. It’s more powerful!

Seriously. Write it down. It’s worth it!Do you want help with breaking your cycle of emotional eating? Join our next 14 Day Reset program (see below).

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