Food Relationships: The 7 Types of Emotional Eaters (plus strategies for each!)

Food, at its most essential element, is fuel for our body. However, eating also does bring us physical and emotional pleasure. As humans, we are emotional beings. 

In fact, how we express our emotions is one of the things that make us unique as individuals. Your relationship with food is important. 

The problem is: we inject our emotions into our interactions with food. Once we make the jump from food being good-tasting fuel for our bodies to food being intertwined with our feelings and emotions, food starts to take a place in our lives; it was never meant to have. 

Food almost becomes a companion with whom we have an emotional history and relationship.

Most diets give directions without accounting for your unique relationship and history with food. Identifying your specific relationship with food can help you develop a strategy tailored to meet your personal needs. When we are young, our relationship with food begins to be hard-wired.Think about it: many of us were rewarded with candy, cupcakes, ice cream-or when we hurt ourselves, we were given sweet things to make us feel better or take away the pain.We use food as a celebration. Food is the language of love. We call kids or significant others honey sweetie, cookie, sweetie pie, and babycakes.

For many of us, food represents comfort and love. If we want to feel love, we feed ourselves; we feed ourselves if we want to feel comfort. You go home, and our mothers feed us as an expression of love. In addition, when we eat food we like, our body releases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, chemicals in the body that make us feel good, calm, and take away the pain.

Your body begins to be hard-wired psychologically and emotionally to associate food with positive emotions and comfort. Food becomes our companion, not just fuel. The trick is finding out your relationship with food and developing strategies to combat it. 

The 7 Types of Emotional Eaters

Below are seven types of food relationships and histories with strategies to help you on your way to successful weight loss. Which one are you?

1. The Romantic Eater

If you are a romantic eater, you don’t just love food – you are in love with food. The sight and smell of your favorite foods make you go weak at the knees! The texture, taste, and aroma are euphoric, overpowering experiences for you. Resisting temptation is futile. After daydreaming about what to eat, you indulge, savoring every last morsel as you lick the sauce off your fingers. You get incredible highs and deep satisfaction from a good meal. 

Strategy: Romantics usually desire rich, luxurious foods high in fats, calories, and sugars. Search for healthy, nutrient-dense foods, grill your food instead of putting everything in a rich source, bake instead of fry, find new recipes that get you excited. Fall in love all over again.

2. The Promiscuous Eater

Whatever, whenever, wherever, without discretion. You simply want to eat what you like and stop feeling hungry. Your diet consists of fast, fatty, fried, and sweet foods. Although you tend to enjoy what you eat, you usually end up feeling tired, bloated, and sluggish. As a result, you don’t know or care too much about healthy eating. You didn’t have to bother until recently, but now it’s catching up to you.


Strategy: Start to take an interest in essential nutrition. Try making one healthy meal per day. Find out what a healthy meal looks like. Then, begin to take a serious look at how your eating affects your health, your life, and the lives of your loved ones.

3. The Rushed Eater

You wake up to the sound of the starter’s gun. With no time to prepare breakfast, you rush to get ready, run to the car, bus, or train, and speed off to work. On the way, you grab a coffee and doughnuts. By mid-morning, your caffeine, sugar-induced high, wears off. You reach for the closest soda, energy drink, or candy to keep you going. And so it goes for lunch and dinner. You complain that there is no time to prepare or look for healthy meals.


Strategy: Preparation is critical for this group. Make a note of where you can get healthy meals in your neighborhood or near your office. Buy healthy snacks and leave them in places where you are likely to snack, like your car, office, or in your bag. Prepare meals on weekends. Don’t eat and multi-task.

4. The Cultural Eater

You find it hard to change if you are a cultural eater because most healthy food recipes are so foreign to your palate. Eating your native foods gives you comfort. Your diet is primarily meat-based or consists of starchy, rich, fried food and sauces. It has always been this way, making change more difficult.

Strategy: Cultural eaters must explore tasty substitutes and additions to their diets. Switch fried foods for baked. Instead of starchy foods, try fibrous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower.

5. The Sometimes Eater

You’d be perfectly fine with coffee and a bagel all day. But, sometimes you have breakfast, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you skip lunch and don’t eat until dinner. Sometimes you just forget to eat, leading to late-night binges. Your eating patterns are erratic, and even though you only eat twice a day, you are still putting on weight.

Strategy: Decide to eat five small meals every day 3-4 hours apart. Set your meal times and try to stick to them. Eating infrequently slows down your metabolism, causing you to burn fat less efficiently and potentially gain weight.

6. The Confused Eater

You swear that you eat healthily but can’t figure out why you keep putting on weight. You’ve tried every diet, but nothing seems to work. Finally, you are frustrated and genuinely confused about why you can’t lose weight. 

Strategy: Get educated. Read as much about nutrition as you can. You may want to book an appointment with a nutritionist and explore any thyroid issues.

7. The Emotional Eater

For the emotional eater, food is a refuge. You use food to deal with the emotional ups and downs of life. Food has been a friend and companion to you. It has been there during the highs and the lows. Sometimes breaking up is hard to do.

Strategy: Find new ways to deal with stress. Talk with friends; try an exercise class or weekly massage. If you feel like your emotions are too difficult to deal with without the dependency on food, it may be time to seek out a good counselor or professional therapist.

So these are your food relationships. Which one do you identify with? What strategies do you need to put in place? Get working, put processes in place and start breaking up those bad food relationships.