Eating behaviors are associated with self-awareness of body sensations, associated emotions, mental preoccupations or distractions.1

There is an association between eating disorders and lack of emotional awareness, emotional acceptance, emotional clarity and problem solving.2

Being more aware of your thoughts and emotions can increase mindfulness, which in turn can help you become more intuitive with your eating. Intuitive eating will help you develop a healthier relationship with food.

When you are stressed or anxious, your body’s fight-or-flight survival system is activated, which results in a lack of blood flow to your digestive system and an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. An increase in cortisol can lead to lack of hunger cues, or restrictive eating.3 Stress can also be associated with binge eating disorder (BED).3

Mental health and nutrition go hand in hand and are two essential components needed during treatment.

Behavioral Therapy Sessions at Behavioral Nutrition are specifically designed to take both your mental health and nutrition into account. We specialize in the treatment of adolescents and adults and understand that each case we take is unique. Everyone has a special set of circumstances that can lead to a range of emotions that we cover and prepare for so you can make healthy eating choices.

The goal of our Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to help you gain control of emotional eating. One place to start is to try and recognize the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. This isn’t always easy to do, especially if you regularly use food to deal with your feelings.

Emotional hunger is a strong sensation and very easy to mistake for physical hunger. Here are some ways to help differentiate the two:

  • Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, whereas physical hunger comes on more gradually.
  • Emotional hunger will most likely make you crave junk food or sugary snacks. When you are physically hungry, any type of food sounds good, including healthy choices such as vegetables and fruit.
  • Emotional hunger leads to mindless eating such as eating a whole bag of chips. With physical hunger, you’re more aware of what you’re doing.
  • With emotional hunger you keep wanting more and more until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. With physical hunger you’re satisfied when your stomach is full.
  • With emotional hunger, you can’t get a craving out of your head. With physical hunger, you have a growling stomach or feel a pang.
  • Emotional hunger can lead to feelings of regret, guilt or shame. With physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel this way, mostly because you’re giving your body what it needs.

The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is to identify what situations or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food. Once you have a handle on what these triggers are, you can start to identify and practice alternatives that are healthier ways to feed your feelings. Contact us to learn more about different types of Behavioral Therapy offered at Behavioral Nutrition.


  1. Starkman H, Starkman H. An integrative group treatment model for women with binge eating disorder: Mind, body and self in connection. Clin Soc Work J. 2016;44(1):57-68. doi: 10.1007/s10615-015-0571-0.
  2. Prefit A, Cândea DM, Szentagotai-Tătar A. Emotion regulation across eating pathology: A meta-analysis. Appetite. 2019;143:104438. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2019.104438. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2019.104438.
  3. Luz Neto, Laércio Marques da, Vasconcelos, Flávia Maria Nassar de, Silva JEd, Pinto TCC, Sougey ÉB, Ximenes RCC. Differences in cortisol concentrations in adolescents with eating disorders: A systematic review. Jornal de Pediatria. 2019;95(1):18-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jped.2018.02.007.