Nervous Eating: What is it and How to Fight it

22.06 health ireland
By Curves


Nervous eating is an attempt to soothe anxiety, food is used to help cope with our emotions, in essence, it is a form of emotional eating.

Eating is often the easiest and most immediate way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, but unfortunately, food has no real effect in solving our negative feelings. In fact, it can make us feel worse.

What Causes Nervous Eating

  • Feelings of disappointment, anger, guilt or helplessness, which have the power to turn food into a positive reward
  • Relationship problems
  • Stress at work
  • Boredom or feelings of emptiness
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling stuck in a situation
  • Low self-esteem

How to Recognise Nervous Eating

The following symptoms can help you recognise and manage nervous eating:

  • Emotional eating suddenly ignites and must be met instantly
  • Craving specific junk food and not healthier foods that can satisfy hunger
  • Rather than hunger coming from a pang in the stomach, it comes from the mind: it brings to mind specific tastes and smells
  • Not aware of the amount being eaten. You can empty a whole bag of crisps or a tub of ice cream, without even realising
  • Rarely feel satisfied when finished eating, even though your stomach is full

  • It often leads to regrets, guilt or shame which creates a vicious cycle

How to Manage Nervous Eating

The first step in addressing the issue is identifying what is causing or what triggers nervous eating. What situations, places, or feelings lead you to seek consolation in food? Most of the time, nervous eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, but it can also be triggered by positive emotions.

The most common causes are related to stress, memories or social influences. For example, have you ever eaten something just because you are bored or to fill a void? Or perhaps you find yourself eating more when you're in the company of other people?


  • Keep a food diary focusing on your nutrition as well as your emotions. Include: what you ate, what happened to make you want to eat, how you felt while eating, and how you felt afterwards. This will help highlight your emotional food stimuli and begin to create an understanding how your emotions relate to your eating
  • Find other ways to release your stress. Physical activity is a great help! Exercising releases endorphins, which will help you feel happier and more satisfied, as well as boost your energy levels
  • Take 5 minutes before you succumb into temptation. This allows you to understand how you are emotionally feeling
  • Learn to accept your feelings, both positive and negative
  • Drink water often. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water or any herbal tea. Not only will this help you keep your hunger at bay, it will also hydrate your body, skin and improve your overall wellness
  • Allow time to savour food. Slowing down and savouring each bite will allow you to enjoy your food and will make you less likely to overeat
  • Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help


If you want to discover all the benefits of the Curves programme and how these can help you physically and emotionally, contact your nearest Curves Club.


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