After a hedonistic youth I arrived in my 30’s feeling tired, irritable, foggy headed with sleep issues and general unrest. Dissatisfied with the advice I was receiving from the doctor being unconvinced that a prescription for anti-depressants was the solution, I realised that I needed a complete lifestyle overhaul and decided to become fully accountable for my own health.

Recognising the mind-body connection, I slowly began to implement dietary changes and this naturally progressed into a more wholesome lifestyle. Better overall health and happiness quickly followed. Such was the difference I felt from the culinary changes made I decided to expand my knowledge further and retrain as a Nutritional Therapist.

In my nutritional practice I specialise in Recovery based Nutrition. Recovery from addiction is a topic very close to my heart as I am three years sober recovering from alcohol dependency.

In this article I would like to address the subject of addiction transference in the form of emotional eating. Emotional eating is something I feel will all can identify with. It describes eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions. Feelings such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness can all contribute. Major life events or, more commonly, the “hassles” of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to binge eating and disrupt our wellness efforts. Triggers may include ongoing life issues we may be experiencing such as relationship conflicts, work stress, fatigue, financial pressures or health problems.

If we are enduring emotional distress, we may find ourselves eating on impulse, consuming quickly whatever is within reach with no enjoyment for the food itself. Our emotions can become so entangled with our eating habits that we automatically reach for a “treat” whenever we feeling stressed, angry or triggered with no consideration at the time for our actions, which may later lead to regret and self-loathing and so the cycle begins – trigger, behaviour, reward!

Emotional eating is more than simply a lack of self-control it is far more complex than this. If it were that simple, we could easily find the discipline needed to end this cycle without torturing ourselves over meal plans, fade diets and the constant obsessing about what we are eating and when.

The following factors may be contributing:

Unawareness: Not being conscious of what or why we are eating. Therapists refer to this as unconscious eating. Unconscious eating is when we continue to pick at a meal after we are in fact already full, eating the remaining portion that we intended to leave behind. It can also be mindless snaking on junk food as a way of distracting ourselves from uncomfortable feelings.

Food as our only pleasure: When we feel food is pretty much the only thing to look forward to, at the end of a hard day’s work a box of chocolates can be especially effective in temporarily soothing our exhausted, hard-working selves. Eating sugars and fats releases opioids in our brains. Opioids are the active ingredients in cocaine, heroin, and many other narcotics. The calming effects are soothing to us and so we crave more.

Inability to Tolerate Difficult Feelings: In our culture, we learn from a young age to avoid bad things. Unfortunately, the ways we have found to distract ourselves from difficult feelings are not always in our best interests. Without the ability to tolerate experiencing life’s inevitable painful feelings, we leave ourselves susceptible to emotional eating and other negative behavioural patterns.

Body Hate: Body shame is one of the biggest factors in emotional eating. Negativity and hatred play into our sense of self and we begin to use food as a form of punishment and self-harm.

Physiology: Letting ourself get too hungry or too tired can leave us vulnerable to poor food choices. When we are fatigued, we are less equipped to fight off cravings or urges.

As a therapist I support my clients in identifying their triggers and providing realistic and achievable diet plans, supplement regimes and lifestyle modifications in order to get on track and truly flourish into their BEST-SELF.

Treat yourself

Following our recent workshop exploring addiction transference in the form of food I decided to share this recipe for a protein packed almond butter bar which satisfies a craving for something sweet whilst also containing nutritious goodness.

Almond Butter Protein Bars
So here is a recipe for a protein packed almond butter bar which satisfies a craving for something sweet whilst containing nutritious goodness.

Bottom layer
1 jar almond butter (we used Meridian)
1 tbsp honey (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
25g serving protein powder
generous sprinkling mixed seeds
3 tbsp melted coconut oil

Top layer
1 bar dark chocolate 85% +
1 tsp coconut oil
Sea salt

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In a bowl mix together the almond butter, honey, coconut oil and vanilla until smooth next add the protein powder and mixed seeds and combine well. Line a suitable tray with parchment paper, press dough evenly down in the tray and set aside. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan and pour this evenly over the top, sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerator for 45 minutes. Cut into slices and enjoy as a post workout indulgence.


If you have any questions for Emma please share on the comments section of this article.

Emma Rice
Nutritional Therapist


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