Why distractions are the wrong way to deal with emotional eating

behaviour change emotional eating mindset Jul 15, 2022

The majority of the people we work with are hindered from achieving their goals because of emotional eating. That is, eating for a reason other than hunger.

Whether it be tiredness, boredom, frustration or any number of other emotions.

Almost everyone can agree to the following statement:

"When I'm busy / engaged / happy" I think about food less and I find it easier to stay on track.

Therefore, we just need to be busier, more engaged and happier to stop emotional eating. Right?

Well. No.

Whilst building strong connections, being clear on your values and purpose and having adequate pleasure in your life is important (note - if you are missing some or all of these areas, your life will benefit by working on these) it is NOT a cure all solution.


If you're confused don't worry because most people are. The issue is that this solution is too black and white.

The idea of just do things that make you happy completely ignores the reality of life.

You will not be happy all the time. It is impossible. You have to deal with negativity and adversity. You have to accept this and get better at processing it.

Think of the person who after a death or loss of job paints on a happy face, refuses to grieve publicly or privately and locks it all away.

What happens? They don't tend to just move on effortlessly and live happily ever after.

We have to process the negatives and work THROUGH them. These things don't just disappear because you refuse to engage with them by putting your head in the sand / biscuit tin.

The missing skill here is the ability to process these feelings and sit with discomfort.

Most people do not effectively communicate or process their emotions. People settle for being busy or distracting themselves. And whilst this is part of the process it's a fine line between hiding away and moving on too quickly.

When it comes to sitting with discomfort, this comes after the processing and the sense of unease negative experiences or emotions give.

What do I mean by discomfort? Discomfort could be the boredom of being home alone, the tiredness of a long day, the frustration of rush hour traffic or any of the 101 other reasons people use food for comfort.

Read the 3 examples above, is there any legitimacy that food genuinely solves these problems? (Try not to be a smart arse and say food gives you energy. Try giving someone who has had a poor night's sleep or is run down a banana and say that'll sort it out and see what happens.) We all know food is an ineffective, unhealthy coping strategy

The reality is most people buckle and give in well before they get close to getting through it.

There are any number of tactics to make this more manageable. Journalling, deep breathing, discussing your problems, going for a walk. Doing things that make you happier can also work.

The lines blur here, is watching TV a distraction, a healthy coping mechanism or sitting with discomfort? It's certainly not processing your problems like journalling, actively sitting with them or deep breathing. It could then be a distraction or sitting with discomfort. It depends on the situation.

Sometimes I watch TV as a way to sit with discomfort. Others I do it to block out what I'm trying to ignore.

As always with life these things aren't cut and dry and it depends on how you feel. Give these things a try and see what happens.