Eating Disorders: Physical vs. Emotional Eating

Eating Disorders: Physical vs. Emotional Eating

As a Registered Dietitian, part of my role is to provide education about nutrition. I recently taught a class on emotional vs. physical eating. I started the class by asking who felt they were an emotional eater, at which point about half of the class identified they emotionally ate. How about you? Let’s identify what exactly physical vs. emotional eating means, and discover which category you fall into majority of the time.


After I spent some time explaining this chart, the whole class was able to identify that they all do indeed emotionally eat. The reality is, we all emotionally eat at times – but, we each have differences in the frequency that it happens and the quantity of food consumed. We all link food with certain memories and we’re either taught or have learned to use food for enjoyment, to comfort ourselves, or try to satisfy a particular emotion we’re feeling. There is actually nothing wrong with some emotional eating; I bet you didn’t think you’d hear that from a dietitian!

Emotional eating does become a problem, though, when it begins to affect someone’s weight negatively – with significant fluctuations, either up or down. Emotional eating is also a problem if it starts to control someone’s life to the point where food becomes their primary coping tool, leading to a complete loss of the ability to eat according to true physical hunger/fullness cues.

So, maybe it’s time to stop beating ourselves up if we have a little something because it just sounds comforting or good. What would happen if you actually acknowledged that some emotional eating is normal, and give yourself permission to have food at times for this purpose? The key is to make sure you have a balance of other coping tools you also incorporate as well so you have balance.

If you’re feeling off balance, noticing that emotional eating is causing negative outcomes and don’t know how to restore balance, Janelle Hunt, MS, RD and the other EDIT™ Certified Counselors at Positive Pathways are here to help!


Janelle Hunt, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and an EDIT™ Certified Counselor, and she can provide Nutrition Counseling and address Intuitive Eating to help you make peace with food. EMAIL JANELLE

Want to learn more about JANELLE and NUTRITION COUNSELING? View Janelle’s bio here

Looking for a RECOVERY SUPPORT GROUP? Try our Intuitive Eating Support Group which meets every Monday night from 6:30-8pm. Join us before the group at 6pm, to practice your Intuitive Eating skills while we enjoy a meal or snack together. Snacks are provided – or bring your own. MORE INFO:

Looking for a HEALTHY WAY TO A HEALTHY WEIGHT?  Try the 6-week DON’T DIET – EDIT™ and explore how the five principles of Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™ can help you love your body, reconnect with hunger & fullness cues, overcome emotional eating, and much more.  MORE INFO:

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