27 Sept 2022

Finding the motivation to stop emotional eating

Emotional eating

Motivation is essential for weight loss, but sustaining that motivation isn’t always easy!

How many of us regularly feel fat and unhappy, knowing we would look and feel a lot better if we could just lose that extra couple of stone?

Feeling that way is motivation to do something about a weight problem.  So too are special birthdays, a health problem related to weight, the desire to be confident enough to start a new relationship, or simply to play actively with our kids.

Motivation is essential for weight loss, but sustaining that motivation isn’t always easy!

The founder of Motivation Weight Management, Dr Maurice Larocque, discovered that 70% of overeating is emotional.  If emotional issues like low self-esteem or stress are not treated, weight loss cannot be maintained, Dr Larocque says.

“Treating obesity by means of a diet or exercise is merely treating the symptoms.  Healthy weight maintenance is only achieved by dealing with the behaviour and attitude behind the problem.”

Behaviour Modification

Motivation Clinics help people achieve and maintain their ideal weight by identifying and tackling the root cause of their eating habits, on a one-to-one basis.  Clients are given a behaviour modification programme to follow, so they learn to recognise their triggers and bad habits, and address them.

One of the most common ways we cope with stress is to eat.  We learn to associate eating with pleasure, with the result that we eat in response to stress, to compensate or comfort ourselves, and also to celebrate or reward ourselves when a stressful situation is negotiated.

When a diet fails, blaming yourself and feeling guilty often leads to bingeing, and the cycle of emotional over-eating continues.  Only when we are conscious of feelings like stress, guilt, boredom or fear can we acknowledge and deal with them.

Beating excessive eating relies on understanding WHY we eat.  Over-eating has both physical causes and psychological causes.

Many overweight people have low blood sugar due to a dietary imbalance, which creates cravings for sugary foods.  This can be addressed by eating regularly, at least every four hours. 

Plan healthy meals in advance, and eat three meals a day, at regular times, with healthy snack options in between.  Always eat a source of protein at each meal and snack.  Be organised and disciplined.  Make a list and stick to it.  Shop only for what you need, don’t shop on an empty stomach, and avoid unhealthy foods as much as possible.  Don’t make the kids or other family members an excuse!

Consuming large quantities of food irregularly, rushing meals, and eating on the run is a recipe for disaster when it comes to healthy weight management.  Unsurprisingly, excessive calories are expended on poor quality foods with little nutritional value.

Low Fat, Low Carb, High Protein

Food quality is much more important than quantity, clients of Motivation Clinics learn, as they adapt to low-fat, low-carb meal plans that are high in protein to satisfy cravings, and fill them for longer.

Food is fuel; no more, no less.  It must certainly be enjoyable, but it cannot be used excessively for comfort after a hard day, or reward on a good day.

So, if the vast majority of over-eating is due to emotional or psychological, rather than physical, needs, how do we change how we think and feel?  How do we break the bad habits that cause us to reach for food when we’re not actually hungry?

Motivation Weight Management Clinics equip clients with the tools to stop emotional eating and stay motivated.

Their approach to weight management does take discipline, being aware, writing things down, and supporting individuals in working through WHY they overeat and how to stop.

Triggers to Over-Eating

An important aspect is to uncover the triggers to overeating; are they physical triggers like hunger, tiredness, pain or hormones?   Each of these can be addressed and, apart from hunger, not by eating!

Eating small high-protein low-carb meals regularly will regulate blood sugars to address a hunger issue. 

Also, be aware that thirst is regularly mistaken for hunger, so a glass of water is all that’s required.  Drinking water fills you up, and it’s a fact that the more water you drink, the less the body retains.

So, if the eating trigger is not physical, were you affected by an emotion?  Look at where you were, and how you were feeling at the time.  Identify the trigger of the place, time and the feeling, and either avoid or address them.

Our response to an emotional trigger quickly becomes a habit.

You’re settling in to watch the soaps, so you reach for a glass of wine.  You arrive at reception in work, and collect something from the tuck box to kick-start your day.  You’ve done the school run, so you have a cup of tea and a handful of biscuits.  It’s Friday night, so you have a takeaway.

Once you understand WHY you overeat, you can equip yourself to deal with the triggers and break bad habits.

Track the food you eat in a diary, so you become conscious of the triggers, timing, and poor food choices.

Think Positive

Other tips and tricks Motivation Clinics use to support healthy weight management include thinking positively and being kind to yourself. 

Think of two things every day that you are grateful for.

Write down positive changes you’ve made recently, your success in sticking to your healthy eating plan, and how you’re feeling better.

Get your family onside and explain your desire to lose weight, so they won’t tempt you with the wrong foods.  They too probably associate food with love, pleasure, and comfort, so explain that over-eating the wrong foods is simply making you unhappy and causing you to miss out on who you want to be.

Avoid the weighing scales; it’s wrong more often than not, influenced by water levels, menstruation, clothing etc.  And, if the scale goes up, we can give up, or if it’s down and we’ve been over-eating, it can reinforce that bad behaviour.

To track success instead, rely on ticking off a healthy eating and exercise plan, body measurements, how you look, and how clothes feel.

Practice visualisation, thinking about how you will look and feel when you reach your target weight.  Think of the benefits, what you’re gaining, not what you’re losing.

Read inspiring passages from books on motivation and positive thinking, and listen to motivational talks that support positive self-image and emotions.

Meditate briefly each morning so you are better equipped for the challenges of the day.

Get Motivated

Motivation Clinics equip clients with the tools and the thinking to successfully lose weight for once and for all. 

Programmes are individually designed for men, women and adolescents, with any amount of weight to lose, and involve private one-to-one consultations with experienced advisers and doctors.

Clinical studies show the Motivation programme has an 82% weight maintenance rate, and the company has over 250,000 success stories since launching in Ireland over 22 years ago.

See for more information or to arrange a no obligation assessment consultation.

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