In my 17 years as a personal trainer I’ve seen my fair share of emotional eating. It crops up time and time again and is a huge and common obstacle to good health.

I’ve seen adults with a lifelong pattern of eating in response to all sorts of emotions; sadness, anger, stress, frustration, loneliness, boredom – and sometimes not just eating but bingeing. If you spend 40plus years doing this, it becomes hard-wired into your brain – your default setting is to respond to painful emotions by eating. How hard do you reckon it is to reverse this pattern? Hard, bloody hard! But, with persistence and by doing the hard yards, it can be achieved.

But what if we could prevent that pattern developing in the first place? And as parents we have that opportunity with the next generation. Imagine giving your toddler daughter of today a life of not being an emotional eater – what a precious gift towards her long term health. If you are an emotional eater yourself, you will fully understand how powerful that gift could be. Life changing! What if it saved her from having a life-long weight issue or a love-hate relationship with her body but instead provided the foundation for a healthy relationship with both food and her body.

Yesterday morning as I was packing my daughters lunch box I was sad; the whole family was sad because our beloved family pet bunny Louie had died the night before. A thought popped into my head to pack a square of my special Lindt dark chocolate in her lunchbox as a little treat to cheer her up during the day. Luckily my beliefs and understanding around emotions and food kicked in and I actually stopped myself because of the message it would send her. I would be telling her that when we’re sad we eat sweet fatty delicious chocolate to cheer ourselves up. Instead I gave her lots of cuddles, walked her into her classroom (instead of dropping her at the gate) and explained to her teacher what had happened. I showed her love, care and compassion with my words, affection and actions – NOT FOOD!

But how often in society is food (and alcohol – but don’t get me started on that!!) used as reward or a way of making us feel better. In my case, it might have even made me feel better to give my little girl, struggling with her first real experience of grief, something to ‘sweeten’ her day.

Emotional eating is learned behaviour. If you’re an emotional eater, think back to your childhood and take a minute to ponder on how you may have learnt to be an emotional eater. Generally, emotional eaters have a lowered ability to cope well with stress and to read the internal cues of hunger and satiety which often results in eating for all the wrong reasons.

My tips to prevent your child from becoming an emotional eater:

  1. Don’t give so-called “treats” or food in general to sad, crying kids to make them “feel better”
  2. Don’t give “treats” or food to unhappy kids to make YOU “feel better”
  3. Don’t use food as a reward or bribe.
  4. Don’t let bored kids raid the fridge or pantry. Encourage them to do something else.
  5. Train your kids to listen to their bodies when it’s telling them they’re hungry and full. Kids are excellent at this and we need them to carry this skill into adulthood. A lot of us adults have lost this!

As parents one of the best things we can do is model a healthy relationship with food. Try to not go on crazy deprivation diets in front of them or eat lettuce leaves while they eat a proper meal.

Use your parent-power to set your kids up for a lifetime of good eating habits. Emotional eating is much easier to prevent than cure!


Danielle Grant

Exercise Physiologist – Wellness Coach – Health & Wellbeing Speaker

Reach Your Peak Personal Training

2/15 Kenji St Mornington VIC 3931

m: 0409 133 825

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Why Do You Exercise?

The answer to this question may depend on your stage in life. For example, in my 20’s I exercised/trained to get faster. Competing in triathlons and cycling (road and mountain) with men, I was constantly trying to beat my last time, increase my distance or keep up with the boys! During both of my pregnancies I exercised and introduced Clinical Pilates to keep my body strong and physically able to cope with pregnancy, childbirth and raising a child. When my kids were babies I loved my prams so much (I only just parted with them a few months ago and my kids are now 6 and 7 years old!) because they gave me the freedom to exercise with my kids. It enabled me to get out of the house, into the fresh air and to run or walk as much as I liked and the kids were happy.

During another phase in my life, a challenging couple of years, exercise was my sanity saver. I honestly don’t know how I would have coped without exercise, I may have spiralled into depression, I may have given up on helping my son,  I may have lost my optimistic attitude – who knows? But when I felt completely overwhelmed, downtrodden, and literally beaten up by my son I would put on my running shoes as soon as my husband walked in the door of an evening and run as fast as I could for 5kms. At the end of that run my Wonder Woman super powers would return and I knew I could cope with anything life threw at me – and I did. Big problems became tiny problems and solutions were found.

Now in my late 30’s I exercise because I get grumpy and miss it if I don’t! I exercise for the social connection, the numerous health benefits, how it makes me feel and for the time it gives me just for “me”. It’s high on my list of values, I still love the challenge of entering and training for an event, it enables me to be a healthy role model for my kids and it delivers me a functional body that can do some pretty cool stuff. For example; a couple of weeks ago we camped at Pt Leo beach and I had a surf lesson. I spent 2 hours paddling around, catching waves, standing up, balancing and riding waves and I absolutely loved it! The next morning I went for an 8km run on the sand along the shoreline, it was the most magical morning and experience. The weekend before I’d spent both days (after having exercised in the mornings) picking up, carting and stacking about 6 cubic metres of fire wood. Not exactly fun, but a great example of how my body, because I exercise and keep it strong, allows me to do that sort of stuff!

I love seeing the work we all do in the gym being applied to the real word. I love the way my gym deadlifts & farmers carries enabled me to pick up my full wheel barrow load. I love the way mountain climbers & burpees allowed me to be able to quickly jump to my feet on the surfboard and my gym core work enabled me to balance on the board (even if it was only for a few seconds!). I love the way my gym cardio fitness allowed me to have a euphoric running experience along a pristine beach.

So getting back to the original question – why do YOU exercise?

It’s important to get clear on your “why”. I encourage you to think beyond weight loss and fitting into your skinny jeans and think about all the other amazing benefits exercise brings to your body and life. There are endless reasons to move your body and keep it strong. Some benefits are physical and some are mental, some are seen and some unseen.  Ultimately, exercise makes life better. Knowing why you exercise may be just what gets you out the door next time when you can’t be stuffed and are making a million excuses as to why you shouldn’t!

Danielle Grant

Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Wellness Coach