Emotional Eating Part TWO! – Why THOSE foods?



Emotional  Eating –Part 2

In Emotional Eating Part 1 I discussed various types of hunger and suggested various questions one could ask themselves to help determine the type of “hunger “ one may be reacting to.

I now want to explore the foods that are associated with emotional eating.  A Food Craving Inventory which was developed in  2002 by White, Whisenhunt, Williamson, Greenway and Netemeyer  identified four categories of foods associated with emotional eating. The FCI scale measured specific food cravings using  2 subscales : subjective cravings and consumption of  particular foods. The foods that were identified as being associated with emotional  eating were:

  1. High fats
  2.  Sweets
  3. Carbohydrates
  4. Fast Food

Isn’t it interesting that foods such as carrots or tomatoes were not foods that people turned to at emotional eating events.

So why do we turn to the foods that were included in the FCI scale? There may be several reasons worth exploring.

1.  First of all they work in the moment to ease emotions, but they only work for a short period of time. They provide a temporary escape

2. Research has shown that they do activate the brain’s reward center – they are reinforcing!

3. They associate us with our childhood memories which may include safety, love, comfort,etc.


In my work with many  clients over my many years in the field I have had clients tell me that they feel that food is an addiction.  Research has NOT identified an addictive quality of food as there is to certain drugs and alcohol. BUT, food can be a  REINFORCER  that produces a “reward”. This “reward” may reinforce a preference for foods that are most closely associated with specific feelings.

Our response to our emotions which may lead us to eat emotionally rather than for actual physical hunger may seem automatic at times.  Yet, there is room for making a different decision.

I will be exploring this in more depth in Emotional Eating part 3.

To your health,


Lucie A. Knapp MSW,LCSW, behavioral therapist and certified life coach. Her website Commit2self.com provides ongoing education, support and motivation for weight loss and total health. Lucie has over 20 years working in weight loss starting as a personal trainer, and then working as a counselor in a major weight loss chain and finally as the Program coordinator of the Lifestyle Coaching Program at the oldest residential weight loss center in the world. 

You can email questions or comments to: Lucie@commit2self.com.


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