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How to Build a Self-Care Toolkit to Conquer Emotional Eating

August 2, 2017

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3 Valuable Lessons I Learned from My Hunger

November 21, 2018

Before entering the health and wellness industry, I spent almost two decades in the fashion world. 


But the stress of managing a thriving business and caring for a young family affected my mental health and my weight.I was a victim of a daily lifestyle pace that would leave me physically and emotionally drained.


My heightened sense of anxiety and relentless pace was causing me to use food to fill the empty spaces in my life, and my self-care came in the form of chocolate, as well as muffins and you get the gist.


I would reach for food whenever I felt emotional discomfort like overwhelm, sadness, anger and frustration. But most of all I didn’t understand what was driving my constant hunger or any other way to deal with these emotions.


In the last eight years I have learned some very valuable lessons about feeling hungry when your stomach is actually full, and I would love to share them with you to help you understand what you may be hungering for.


I believe that the secret to solving your constant hunger is discovering what you are really hungry for. It’s about dealing with the core issues cutting away at your quality of life and finding a new and more positive outlets to deal with your emotions.


Let’s dive in and explore…


Do you find yourself eating when you're not really hungry?


Lesson #1 -Hormonal Hunger


About 8 years ago my diet was high in carbohydrates and very low in protein, I consumed a lot of sugar, I was always exhausted with very little sleep. And I had no idea that my hormones were imbalanced and that was the reason why I was constantly hungry.


Allow me to explain…


Hormones are chemical messengers that send constant signals to nearly every cell in the body, regulating our appetite, weight, our sleep, and our ability to stay focused.


Your brain uses hormones to regulate every metabolic process in your body including 

hunger and fat storage. 


When vital hormones like insulin, leptin and cortisol aren’t regulated, your body tends to store fat, crave unhealthy foods and get stuck despite your efforts to lose weight.


Hormonal imbalance can be triggered by your food choices, alcohol intake, portion sizes, stress, toxins, lack of sleep and inactivity.


How do you know if your hormones are imbalanced?


  • You’re in a vicious cycle of hunger, tiredness, cravings and excess fat around the middle. 


Your Liver is sluggish:


  • A sluggish liver doesn’t metabolize waste hormones properly, which perpetuates hormonal imbalance. 


Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that have been recognized to have a major influence on appetite and energy balance. 


Leptin is a hormone that:

  •  Is made by fat cells

  •  Decreases your appetite 

  • Suppresses food intake and thereby inducing weight loss

  • Is a mediator of long-term regulation of energy balance


Ghrelin is a hormone that:

  • Is a fast-acting hormone,

  • Plays a role in meal initiation

  • Increases appetite and when out of balance drives hunger

  • Plays a role in body weight


Here are a few tips for improving the function of your leptin and ghrelin:


  • Avoid inflammatory foods: Limit foods that cause inflammation especially sugar and trans fat

  • Balanced diet: Follow a balanced, real food-based diet. Don't cut calories to extremely low levels.

  • Exercise regularly: Moderate activity can improve leptin sensitivity 

  • Get enough sleep:  Insufficient sleep leads to a drop-in leptin levels and increased hunger

  • Sugar: Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and sugar-sweetened drinks, which can impair ghrelin response after meals 

  • Protein: Eating protein at every meal, can help reduce ghrelin levels and promotes satiety 



Lesson #2- Heart Hunger 


No matter how much I ate I was always hungering for something else.


This is what I call your emotional hunger and isusually triggered by feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion. 


Emotional eating is best described as your attempt to feel better and access positive feelings through eating.It’s a coping strategy and an attempt to manage mood with food. 


  • Emotional hunger often results in mindless eating and overeating 

  • When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you tend to have awareness of how much you consume and can stop when full


If you are feeling guilty after you eat, it's likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.


The heart hunger strikes when you don’t have time for you. --When your spirit isn’t being fed, you eat more.


Have you ever wondered what you may be hungry for? 

If you eat emotionally and use food to fill up on your feelings- it’s likely a sign that you need some self -nourishing. 


When we constantly feel hungry and overeat, sometimes it’s not about the food. It’s about how you use food to self-soothe; numb yourself against the pain of living and how you use food to fill your feelings. After all, we are all hungering for something…



  • You may be feeling stressed and hungry for balance.

  • You may be hungry to do something other than work.

  • You may be hungry for “self-nourishment”


Perhaps you are hungering for more:


  • Time for yourself

  • Self Compassion

  • Confidence

  • Motivation


Tip: How to live a life that feeds you:

It takes time and practice to change your responses to stress, so going one step at a time is important – and support and a framework to support your changes are both vital pieces of the puzzle.


Here are some helpful tools to manage your emotions:


First try and acknowledge times that you are eating to soothe or silence emotions and try to find positive outlets instead like:


  • Slowing down and building awareness

  • Self-reflection

  • Prioritize your sleep and rest

  • Create time in your schedule for relaxation and some fun activities

  • Start a heart-hunger journal and write how you feel

  • Start a mediation practice

  • Get a massage on a regular basis

  • Learn HOW to slow down your breathing


Spend some quiet time daily in relaxation 


  • Whether you choose meditation, yoga or visualization it’s your choice

  • You can make visualization part of your meditation and relaxation sessions.

  • Spend some time each day visualizing yourself going about your day in a balanced and emotionally poised manner.


Lesson #3-Habit Hunger


So lets reflect on what happened 8 years ago, my Emotional eating had turned into a daily habit, but I had zero awareness and was too busy to recognise this.


Allow me to explain..


The key with building a habit is repeating the same behaviour over a period of time.


About 90% of what we do is habit, routine and ritual. In addition, our brains have limited decision-making capacity each day.


So, if you have made an unhealthy association of mindless eating, where you have paired food consumption with a experiencing a particular feeling, like reaching out for comfort food when you are feeling emotional, chances are you have formed this habit.


And hence It becomes less of a choice and more a repeated actionand strips away your reliance on your body’s own natural hunger cues.


Remember, habit formation takes time, so it stands to reason that breaking the habit will also require your commitment over the long haul.


Tips to break your habit:


Becoming aware of your hunger and changing your habits is challenging, it requires a change of mind set, awareness and persistence. 


1.When you feel hungry, ask yourself the following questions:


  • How do I feel emotionally? (Hunger should not be connected to emotions)

  • How long is it since I last ate? (Should be 3 – 4 hours on most days)

  • What do I feel like eating? (Is it sensible or is it comfort food?)

  • Have my meals been balanced lately?


2.Recognising Your Hunger


If you don't feel hungry or tired, but you want to eat something.


  • "Ask yourself, ‘what am I asking the food to do for me?


3.Maybe you want to take a break or you are procrastinating on a project?


  • Pause for 1 minute and then decide if you really do need to snack on something.


4.Sit with the hunger feeling for 1 minute


  • Allow yourself to experience the feeling

  • Try not to judge it


5. Keep a diary


To begin to understand "hunger" cues its helpful to record the times and places when hunger strikes


  • Writing down what and why you are eating forces you to face the real reasons behind your hunger

  • As you gather data you will notice that certain patterns emerge

  • Armed with this information, you can begin to break the hunger habit by trusting your body’s true signals and get back to your physiological need for food 


The good news is that habits can be deconstructed and reprogrammed. So, with some behavioral goals, a plan and some structure and accountability around your daily habits, you can create healthy habits much more easily.


I certainly learned my lesson and today I know that nourishing myself is the greatest gift I can give myself. Self-care is a major priority for me and I wouldn’t swap it for anything else!


I learned that the only way to get ahead in life is to attend to my needs and invest in myself, so that I can always show up at my best.


For optimal functioning you need to invest in your mind and emotions as well as your physical health.


When you start feeding your needs and giving to you –you will feel calmer and better about yourself and will no longer need to rely on food to feed your needs because they are being met.


Now let’s hear from you….


What are you hungry for?


Ultimately finding out the reason why you are filling up on your feelings and applying some ways to get OUT of that cycle will help you start eating with a sense of FREEDOM, self-confidence and empowerment.


It’s never too late to make a positive change. You can find healthier ways to deal with your emotions, learn to eat mindfully, regain control of your weight, and finally, put a stop to emotional eating.


If you would like help & support with finding healthier ways to nourish yourself and accountability to make sure you follow through, than contact me for a chat a 15-minute discussion.


It’s free. And it might change your life.


Irena Geller

Emotional Eating Coach

BSc (Biomed), Cert IV (PT), Wellness Coach (Level 3))

I coach 35+ women to put downtheir fork andpick uptheirlife.  If you want to end your struggles with excess weight, stress and self-belief, using your strengths and capabilities,book a free 15-minute mini-coaching session with me and I’ll show you how to transform your life.




1.The Relationship Between Basic Need Satisfaction And Emotional Eating

2. Leptin-ghrehlin-weightloss. Precision Nutrition


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