How Do You Know You’re Working With an Emotional Eater?

When you work with a client, depending on where you live, you may customize an eating plan specifically for them, or offer general wellness recommendations. When determining whether you are working with someone who is an emotional eater you want to look at four things:


  1. Do they easily implement what you recommend?

When you have a client who is not caught up in emotional eating they are very easy to work with and implementation is not an issue. For instance, I have worked with athletes who have wanted specific information on how to enhance their athletic performance. Once they received this information it was easily implemented and I only worked with them once or twice.

You know you are not working with an emotional eater when implementation is easy. They self govern around food effectively and the emotional attachment to foods is minimal.


  1. Do they use food to meet their emotional needs?

You can spot an emotional eater by observing their language and implementation abilities. Individuals who use food for comfort, security, out of boredom, or to love and connect with themselves and others experience stress and inner conflict when change is suggested. They self govern around food ineffectively and the emotional attachment to foods is high.

Knowing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is essential in identifying how an individual may use food to meet their emotional needs and helping them find more fulfilling alternatives.


  1. Do they eat when they’re not hungry?

A tell tale sign of an emotional eater is someone who eats even if they are not hungry. If the idea of not eating until your client experiences their hunger signal creates stress and anxiety, chances are high that they eat emotionally.


  1. Does your client feel guilty or ashamed about eating?

When an individual doesn’t eat emotionally eating is very simple; the body gets hungry and the individual feeds it… until the satiation signal tells them the body is satisfied. This is also called intuitive eating or being in tune with the body and how it communicates to you what it needs.

When an individual eats emotionally eating is something they do when stressed, bored, anxious, or need comfort or love and connection. An emotional eater often looks at food as bad and after eating to meet their emotional needs may feel guilt or shame.

We have eaten emotionally at some point. You may find some clients are mild emotional eaters and others are so attached to food that the idea of going without food for even a short period of time brings great stress.

In my past, I used food to ease my boredom and soothe myself when I felt alone or sad. I also used it as a way to love and connect with others. The idea of not eating with others when I wasn't hungry made me feel very disconnected. It wasn't until I realized that I could still love and connect with others simply by asking more questions about what was going on in their lives. This is much more rewarding and enabled me to connect more authentically.

How have you used food to meet your emotional needs? What other more fulfilling alternatives could you reach for instead?



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