Emotional eating/drinking

Feeling full and getting all nutrients is one thing - but satisfying emotional needs something totally different. Many people like eating or drinking something they enjoy. Regardless of whether they are hungry or not, or whether they already got all nutrients they need.

I know several people who were enthusiastic when they started a diet of complete foods and then “got off track” - some even kept using Huel or an equivalent product from another brand and still gained weight or had cravings now and then. Of course not in the short term, but in the long term.

What is your experience? Do you have tricks against emotional cravings? Not only as a short term solution but in sustainable way for the long term - more creative things like “do something else”.

Do you have problems with emotional eating/drinking? Or did you have them and have you found a solution?

Thank you in advance!

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I did have that issue. My mom is an incredible cook, I used to be a pastry/dessert chef, and I love to cook for others! I’m also from a big family so it seems like every few weeks there’s a birthday cake and fatty Mexican food right in front of me, and what’s worse… People take offense if I don’t eat it. There were a lot of emotional factors into why I ate - mostly because it gave me something to bond over with my family.
When I was engaged I dropped 70lbs to fit into my mom’s wedding dress. My fiancée, unfortunately, never returned from service and I reached out to my family for support, and that included food. But when I was losing that weight, which I did without Huel and without a gym membership - I did it out of pure self-restraint. What do I want more? The plate of tacos and a big heaping serving of tres leche cake? Or to see my future wife smiling when she sees me walking down the aisle? What do I want more? To sit there on the couch watching TV, or surprise my fiancee with abs when I pick her up from the airport? Obviously the answer was clear. That’s what motivated me to lose weight and keep it off long term.
I’ve tried to lose weight after that - but a deep depression set in, and I just didn’t care.
I bought hundreds of dollars of Huel.
I paid for full access gym memberships and got trainers.
I bought at-home fitness equipment and put it where I’d see it every day.
I bought clothes I loved!.. but in a smaller size.
None of that motivated me half as much as seeing my future fiancée smile and wait for me at the end of the aisle. It wasn’t so much that I found comfort in food - but the things that brought me comfort (my family) wanted me to eat more because it was their method of showing love.

In those days before when I was losing weight for my wedding, whenever I got hungry or had a craving - I’d preoccupy my mind with “my fiancée is going to love my body!” and daydream of her.

Now, I’m taking the more direct route and saying, “I’m going to love my body!”

It’s been 2 months and it’s working so far, I’m down 20lbs and what’s best - I know I bought all of that new clothes in smaller sizes and I’m so excited that soon I’m going to be able to wear it! They’re milestones and I’m reaching them. :smile:


I like how @Maria shared their goals. I think if emotional eating and drinking is a speed bump towards your progress, sometimes remembering your goals–i.e. why you’re doing all of this–is a great way to get yourself back towards the right track.

I say it like that because there are times when ‘back towards the right track’ is gentler and easier, particularly when sudden or traumatic things happened, or even if it’s a habit that’s been a friend in your life for so long. And sometimes things just don’t work out. But that’s okay, so long as you have your goal and can take simple steps towards getting back to where you want to be or what you want to do.

Some small things that have helped me are:

  • Let yourself still partake in food and drink you love, but try for smaller portions of it and also see how it fits with your meal plan. As a recent T2 Diabetic, this has helped me feel like I can still treat myself instead of constantly cheating myself.
  • Ask yourself HALT: Are you Hungry, Angry/Agitated/Annoyed, Lonely, or Tired? If you’re hungry, maybe have a little snack of something you love that brings you comfort, or eat lunch if it’s lunchtime, or mix up a half-scoop of Huel. If you’re the other things, see if you can take some time for self-care or talk to a love one for support.
  • Have some ‘movement snacks’ in your back pocket. I like this if I don’t answer Hunger while I HALT. Exercise helps de-stress so sometimes in place of food I’ll help myself to refilling my water bottle and doing jump rope without the rope. Or maybe a favorite stretch or yoga pose with some deep breathing. It’s nice when I don’t feel like I have the time for the kind of conversation I want to have at that moment.
  • Tell yourself it’s okay if you’ve had a big emotional eating and drinking episode that you feel bad about. It will be okay, promise. My dietician told me that and said, as a qualifier, “Just try not to have two bad meals in a row.” If that happens maybe reconfigure how and what you’re eating. Sometimes, too, you have a good meal plan set but it’s still two ‘bad’ meals because, say, you don’t like it, so some reconfiguring is needed to find something that’s still part of your plan, but is something that you love to eat.

I apologize if none of these tips are quick fixes, but small changes to me are simpler and easier to stick to.


proactively I try to stick to my healthy meal plan in advance, I’m more likely to emotionally eat when I’m hungry. I try to eat at least 3 hours apart, but no more than 5 so I don’t find myself getting too hangry. Sometimes I have to cut that off and make a huel shake - I’m less likely to snack on chips if I’m bloated from huel.

but honestly I’m in OA mtgs twice a week learning how to comfort myself apart from food. my problem was that food was my constant companion to make good times better and bad times less bad. One of the ways HUEL helps is that food is just not as big a part of my life that it used to be. I get time to pursue other passions I never gave time to before - I started doing yoga, swimming, I read more books and watch less TV.

But two years in and I still want a big bowl of popcorn when I watch TV - to really immerse myself in the experience I guess, and I still want a snack from the convenience store every time I stop for gas or drive more than 30 minutes. Those connections are deep set in my brain and haven’t gone away yet.

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The problem is not weight or something like that - in my case I should even gain some weight to look better. And maybe to be healthier…

It is being mentally preoccupied with a topic that is unimportant - well, not as unimportant as it should be. The problem is just if there is no hobby or interest that I really enjoy. I often feel depressed and without any interest in anything. I downloaded lots of e-books that I don’t read, have a subscription for theoretically very “interesting” articles,or I could do some outdoor activities, or start a new hobby, There is just nothing that I can feel enthusiastic about.

So maybe one choses simple, obvious activities or topics. I don’t know.

Anyway…you would say that doing something against emotional eating/drinking is a constant battle that never stopps?

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I would say yes. Though that’s probably cold comfort.

It’s being mindful, in the sense of standing outside ourselves, just observing like a scientist might and gently asking questions:

  • Are we still hungry?
  • What emotions are we experiencing right now?
  • Is there something else that needs our attention right now? etc.

I say this as a person with depression, and a person who sometimes eats out of boredom and anxiety/stress. Be gentle with yourself, and keep looking for what makes you feel truly alive.


I think it is something that never stops for a lot of people, @sierra, though I can only speak for myself. Sure, Huel and working with my Certified Diabetes Education (CDE) has helped me curb emotional eating, but as @russenoire mentioned it takes a bit of mindfulness to ‘work with your friend’ and the friend here is ‘habit.’

I like saying it like that versus calling it a ‘battle’ because in one point in my life eating–along with other habits I’ve had–was a friend. In more stressful times earlier in my life, cigarettes and eating were my friends to help me through things and they were there to ‘help’ me through the stuff I managed. To call it a battle essentially denounces any help to your feelings that these friends provided.

However, like friends, relationships change and you need something different. It’s only healthy to acknowledge to a relationship when something isn’t working, even if the relationship is with food or with cigarettes or any other habit people may have. As said, be gentle with emotional eating just like I’d imagine you’d be gentle when something in a relationship isn’t working. It may take time to find a way to work with your friend-habit in a way that works for your goals.

It sounds like, though, that things in life don’t sound particularly interesting. Maybe even boring or a fog. It certainly makes it more difficult to manage emotional eating when feeling like that. Not even counting ‘really enjoy,’ are there things you just ‘enjoy’ or at least something that makes you feel a tad better? Adding time for yourself to take part in those things–no matter how small–may help everything else fall into place.

Paradoxically yielding to emotionally induced cravings - triggered by boredom, depression or frustration - does not make one feel better; quite the contrary, you feel worse. As if it was a way to “punish” oneself. Or isolate oneself. The result is the feeling ashamed and wanting to hide. Maybe one wanted to hide in the first place and now found a “reason” for it.

High stress levels - regardless of the reason or type of stress - and feeling insufficient, not capable of bearing or achieving that one is expected to, may also play a role. Food is not only comfort, but also an energy source. And if you feel you can’t achieve or accomplish something the result on a subconscious level may be that you try to “get more energy” - altough a completely different type of energy would be needed. But this type of energy may seem harder or even impossible to get compared to energy in the form of calories.

To solve the problem of emotional eating the first step would be to really understand one’s true emotional needs. I just find that extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Get a dog

Longest relationship I’ve been in by choice…

Emotional support on so many levels.

Might not fill the ‘consumption’ void, but with all the exercise and running around you’ll start doing you’ll be eating to replace energy and nutrients lost

Unfortunately I don’t have the time and the resources to appropriately care for a dog, so I think it would be unfair to get one.
There must be another solution…

@sierra Agreed. Giving in doesn’t help, or if it does, you feel better only temporarily.

THIS. This right here. Forgive me for my armchair psychology, but I have ADHD-predominantly inattentive and this is what my life has looked like for many years. The depression/anxiety/constant stress stems largely from all the ways it’s made life hell for myself and others AND feeling intense shame/fear around that. I’m in the process of seeking targeted treatment for it after a couple of years of therapy in different forms. You do not have to suffer alone.

It is extremely difficult and might take a long time, but it is definitely not impossible. A good therapist can help you start to sort this stuff out. Best of luck.


Thanks everyone for sharing, I learn so much reading your experiences. Here’s my experience with emotional eating. I spent about 2 years slowly working up to 4 - 6 huels per day based on activity levels. I allowed myself emotional eating in moderation during that time. My trick to using moderation was to have a huel first and then eat whatever else I was craving. Something about my biological relationship to food changed and I began craving huel emotionally. My body learned that huel would satisfy me better than a sugary coffee or energy drink, a bag of swedish fish and a brownie. Due to many chronic health conditions I used to have food anxiety, I would spin in circles worrying about what to eat and then just give up and eat whatever would calm my nerves. Now I don’t think about food unless I want to. I know that huel will make me feel good and I don’t have to think. It took a lot of patience and hard work, and I still have to do other things to maintain emotional health, huel is just one part of the puzzle for me. I’m getting complete nutrition consistently throughout the day that is balancing my hormones and my gut therefore improving my mood and reducing the need for emotional eating. The stuff is freaking miraculous for me. I also had SIBO with debilitating painful bloating and interstitial cystitis. All of which are 90% improved and I credit my huel regimen. A bunch of my friends use it and have had crazy changes too, in energy, mood, athletic performance,BMI. Oh and I’m saving 100s per week on groceries. I’m a hueligan for life, send me to mars.

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First of all, I want to thank everyone who opened up to share really personal experiences. It helps me feel like this is a community, and I’m not just struggling alone. @Maria, your story in particular impacted me. That sounds so impossibly difficult. I’m sending good vibes your way.

I’ve recently been having some success with comfort eating. For me it’s been key to realize that nothing I actually enjoy has to get cut out entirely; it’s more about budgeting and eating my favorite “bad” foods with intention. My process has been something like this:

  1. Have budgeted, measured “cheat days.” I think the easiest way to make sure cheat days don’t get out of control is to have some (heightened) calorie limit. At least maintenance, potentially slightly above. I know counting calories isn’t for everyone, but I find it’s really easy to go overboard if I can’t at least make a rough mental estimate of calories consumed. But obviously your mileage may vary. Jeff Nippard is a body builder/trainer who makes amazing evidence-based YouTube content, making sure to always cite the research. He just had a video recently about why only ever eating at a caloric deficit might not be the best (Diet Breaks & Cheat Days: The Most Misunderstood Fat Loss Tools - YouTube). For me personally, knowing that a cheat day is coming up on the weekend makes it so much easier to be strict during the week.

  2. Calculate a sort of cost:benefit ratio to junk foods. I don’t really like soda, and it’s all empty calories, so that’s an easy one for me to just cut out entirely. I do kind of enjoy random Little Debbie type snacks, but not enough. I can lose them without feeling like my diet is too terrible. Now a homemade cinnamon roll legitimately brings me joy, so that’s worth finding a way to budget into my diet occasionally. And something like quality pizza, which I also love and isn’t just empty calories, I find a little easier to work into a healthy diet (with moderation).

  3. If dieting is hard, remember that there’s an entire other half to losing weight: burning more calories. To me, the word “cardio” seems a little miserable, but I think most people, if they experiment a little, can find some kind of cardio that isn’t too terrible (maybe even enjoyable‽). It could just be listening to an audiobook while you go for a brisk half hour walk outside. Swimming, running, biking, some kinds of yoga. If you have a partner, it could be dancing. I think team sports might be an option again soon? Maybe active kayaking? As a bonus (and I can’t think of what the scientific explanation for this would be, but) on days when I do cardio, I find myself FAR less tempted to do any emotional eating.

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