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Emotional Eating: Just a Habit?

Emotional Eating: Just a Habit?
By Marnee Reiley, M.A.
Marriage and Family Therapist Intern

Do you consider yourself an “emotional eater?” If so, perhaps you cope with negative feelings by turning to that bar of chocolate stashed in the pantry. The concept of eating to soothe our emotions is not a new one. We see it in movies: the jilted lover, clad in sweatpants with tears streaming down, eating Ben & Jerry’s straight from the container. But what if your turning to food for comfort was not so much of a coping mechanism, but a habitual behavior?

In a study done in the Netherlands, researchers suggested that “people who are concerned about their eating behaviour attribute their (over)eating to the experience of negative emotions, although their eating behaviour may in fact be a reflection of the habit to consume unhealthy snacks” (Adiraanse, Ridder & Evers, 2011). Consider how this distinction holds power. Reframing emotional eating as a habit allows us to look at it from another perspective and to regain a sense of control.


Adriaanse, M.A., de Ridder, D.T.D., & Evers, C. (2011). Emotional eating: Eating when emotional or emotional about eating? Psychology and Health, 26(1), 23-29.

Marnee Reiley, M.A., is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern at Journey Coaching and Counseling Services in Irvine, CA. Marnee is honored to work collaboratively with individuals and couples in adapting to change, loss, grief, and life transitions. Learn more at http://www.YourOCTherapist.com.

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