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Emotiona Eating is caused by “triggers” and “rewards”

Which Of These Eating “Triggers” And “Rewards” Make You Eat When Not Hungry?

by mortylefkoe on October 15, 2010

Emotional eating is caused by triggers and rewards.

The following is a list of all the triggers and rewards that I have heard from my emotional eating clients. No single client had all of them; most have from 15-20, and different clients have a different combination.


• Eating to reward myself when I feel no one else or nothing else will.
• Eating to feel good, comforted, happy, secure, centered, at home.
• Eating to give myself pleasure.
• Eating to experience being in control, to experience that no one can
stop me.
• Eating to celebrate.


• Eating when I’m nervous.
• Eating when I’m bored.
• Eating when I’m lonely.
• Eating when I want to take a break from work, as a diversion.
• Eating when I want to avoid doing something I don’t want to do.
• Eating when I think there won’t be enough food . (This is a response
to childhood deprivation. If there wasn’t enough food to eat—if you
didn’t eat the food right away it would be gone and you wouldn’t be
able to eat at all—you can get conditioned to eat whenever you see
food whether you are hungry or not.)
• Eating when I’m in social situations where everyone else is eating.
• Eating when I feel deprived of food.
• Eating when tired (to get energy).
• Eating when nauseas (to stop it).
• Eating when not doing anything specific (not necessarily bored).
• Eating when feeling sorry for myself.
• Eating when feeling unloved.
• Eating when emotionally charged.
• Eating when depressed.
• Eating when experiencing intense hurtful emotions.
• Eating when stressed.
• Eating when feeling guilty.
• Eating when feeling unlovable.
• Eating when anxious, angry, upset, sad, etc.
• Eating when feeling needy.
• Eating when feeling rejected.

Some of my clients have suggested to me that they are driven to eat just
because food is in front of them, just before they “start” a diet, when they
think they can eat without gaining weight, or that they just can’t stop eating
once they start. These are not examples of eating triggers. They are just
symptoms of other triggers and rewards.

You eat in these four situations because at least one or more of the
other triggers and rewards are almost always present, so if there is food in
front of you or you’ve already started eating, the other triggers or rewards
have you continue to eat even if you aren’t hungry. But when all the real
triggers and rewards have been de-conditioned, you will no longer eat in
these situations.

From my experience with my clients, I am convinced that most
emotional eating is the result of eating that has been conditioned to occur whenever there is a specific trigger or the desire for a reward present. Also from my experience, when you de-condition eating you’ll stop overeating … for good.

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