Emotional Eating and How to Decrease Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Do you often feel your heart racing? Is your breathing shallow? Do you just have moments when feelings of anxiousness wash over you? Anxiety is a normal response to stress that can help keep us safe, but when we feel anxious every day, it can turn into a real problem. This level of anxiety means that you are always “on guard” and expecting something bad to happen. This can make it hard for you to focus, make you irritable, make you tired, or even cause you to have panic attacks.

 How do I know if I have an anxiety disorder?

If you feel like this a lot of the time, you might have an anxiety disorder and it can become a debilitating part of daily life.

Having an anxiety disorder is very common and can be made more likely by a number of things. Anxiety affects twice as many women as men. Also, anxiety disorders are thought to have both a genetic and a environmental competent because they tend to run in families. There is also a higher risk after a traumatic event or when you have a certain medical condition.  It’s safe to say that there are many people who tick those boxes, so if you suffer from anxiety, just know you are not alone.

How to deal with an anxiety disorder?

A lot of people turn to food to help decrease these feelings of stress and anxiety. It’s often referred to as ’emotional eating’, but unfortunately it usually does little to bring relief. Instead it’s easy to get caught in a negative loop that starts to amplify those feelings and have our physical and mental health get compromised when we reach for unhealthy food choices.

I experienced this for many years until i found a way to change my diet and natural solutions in a way that would help me manage my anxiety levels and also get through anxious and stressful times without reaching for unhealthy processed food products and get back in charge of my emotions.

The Hormones and Anxiety Connection


I learned that experiencing anxiety can be caused by so many things. In particular with women this can  include imbalances in hormones (connected to menstruation cycles) and metabolism. I sought out some professional help to help me discover if there was a physical cause. I went to see a fantastic Naturopath who specialised in women’s health and was able to offer full functional and medicinal testing testing to get accurate reading on my hormone levels. This scientific level of testing is really important because it really can get to the specifics of what your individual body is lacking to help support normal hormone function and if necessary can work with doctors to help get the right hormone treatments, like bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, that diet alone can not solve.  I can’t recommend this highly enough, as science has discovered how important hormones are on our mental and physical state and left untreated can have devastating effects on our lives.

How to eat to decrease anxiety


An important point to stress here is when we talk about food, we mean ‘real food’ in its most natural unprocessed form. This is very different from ‘food products‘.

Most of the items you find on the shelves are not actually food these days, they are highly processed ‘products’.  The package may say it’s a food, but if it’s got more ingredients that you don’t recognise as simple foods such as a vegetable or fruit etc or it says strawberry ‘flavour’, then it’s important to realise this is not actually anything that your body recognises as food. your mouth may love the taste, but your bodies cells can not process this item as food.

This includes all the new trendy ‘vegan’ meats and products that are being marketed these days. While they say they are healthy because they aren’t harming animals (and we love that idea), but they aren’t actually food and are made up of very artificial ingredients.

1. Try Herbal Tea and Water Infusions

Not only is this a great way to increase your daily water intake if you don’t like drinking plain water. Also it doesn’t have to be a hot tea, try refreshing blends of water infusions with some frozen fruit like berries, limes, watermelon or oranges with mint or rosella. Or just try your favourite tea on ice for a summer refresher.  Several herbs have been shown to make people feel less anxious or calm down. You can get lemon balm, valerian, chamomile, ashwagandha, and rhodiola as teas, tinctures, or capsules. A study also found that taking chamomile supplements (220mg up to five times a day) may help with generalised anxiety disorder.

2. Cut back on the caffeine

If you are having trouble with anxiety, caffeine is another thing you should stay away from. Caffeine can make you more nervous and may even cause panic attacks, so it’s best to stay away from it. Don’t forget that isn’t just in tea and coffee. You also need to be careful with chocolate, some sodas, energy drinks, and some sports supplements.

3. Pass on Alcohol

When experiencing anxiety people unconsciously try to ‘self-sooth’ or ‘self-medicate’. Like, when you are nervous, you might want to reach for a glass of wine. But even though alcohol is a natural sedative and may calm you down at first, it can also mess up your blood sugar levels. This means that once the calming effects wear off, you are more likely to feel even worse anxiety symptoms.

3. Eat more protein rich foods

Neurotransmitters affect how we think and feel. They are made of amino acids, which come from protein-rich foods like eggs, meats, beans, pulses, soy, fish and shellfish. If you don’t eat enough of certain important amino acids, this could make your symptoms worse. For example, anxiety symptoms have been linked to not getting enough of the amino acids L-tryptophan, L-phenylalanine, or L-tyrosine. Theanine is an amino acid that is found in green tea. It has a calming effect on the brain, so even though green tea may have a small amount of caffeine, its effects seem to be lessened by theanine.

4. Up your Fats and Oil Intake

Research has finally shown that a low-fat diet is not the optimum diet for both weight low and overall health. Our bodies have needed fats for thousands of years to operate. Real food oils and fats are a must if you want to improve your mood and feel less anxious. Specifically omega-3 fats. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two omega-3 fatty acids that are important for brain health, but many of us don’t eat enough of them, mainly because most people are eating ‘products’ that have artificial seed oils (things like margarine and artifical butters are these), which are actually chemically made products, rather than oils our bodies can motabloise. Even more than that many of these ‘vegetable’ oils are actually toxic and reserach is showing they disrupt proper hormone function. Try to eat three servings a week, or you can take a supplement. You can eat avocados, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, tofu, natto, organic eggs, flaxseed, chia seeds, and hemp seeds, Sardines, anchovies, herring, kippers, prawns, and mackerel are all good places to get it.

5. Add more magnesium to your diet

Several clinical studies have found a link between not getting enough magnesium and anxiety disorders. It is called the “calming mineral” and can be found in spinach, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dried figs, and yogurt, among other foods. Magnesium is excellent to take before bed as some studies have shown to help reduce insomnia.

6.Try some selenium

Selenium is a very important mineral as well. In clinical trials, people who took 100 mg of selenium every day for 5 weeks said their mood got better and they felt less anxious. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pinto beans, halibut, sardines, and wild salmon are all good food sources.


7. Try Adding Fermented Food to help your gut health

New research is showing how important the connection between the gut and its billions of living organisms, which make up what is called the microbiome, and the brain is. Studies have shown that taking probiotic supplements or eating fermented foods like yogurt and kefir can help reduce anxiety. I loved the book The Clever Guts Diet which really revolutionised how I ate and in turn my overall health. I recommend you find a fermented food that appeals to you and add a bit of it into your daily life. Try to include fermented foods like sauerkraut, natto, miso, kombucha, and kimchi in your daily diet. The trick with this is not to feel like you have to sit down and eat a plate of fermented food. We create our own delicious Kombucha on the retreats, which our guests can drink on tap, plus our Chef Hendra is passionate about fermenting foods like balinese pickled vegetables that are a refreshing side dish to our traditional curries, or  our home made yoghurt we add to our freshly made granola. There are so many delicious ways to add fermented food to meals.

9. Small Changes will add up to Big Differences

In addition to these diet suggestions, there are many things you can do in your everyday life to help ease anxiety. Stress and anxiety can be relieved by calming the mind through meditation or prayer. Research suggests that 30 minutes of daily meditation or contemplation practices may relieve some anxiety symptoms and can also help with feelings of depression. If you are new to meditation you may want to start with a relaxing and uplifting playlist each morning as you are in the shower and getting ready or writing in your journal.

Some essential oils, like bergamot, lavender, clary sage, grapefruit, and ylang ylang, have also been shown to help with anxiety, boost mood, and calm the mind. An easy way to do this is to use candles or aromatherapy diffusers. If you want to really see the benefits of aromatherapy on a deep level, Our Aromatherapy session for our bliss day option is a wonderful way to create a truly customised blend that will address your specific needs

Yoga and Acupuncture have been shown to help reduce anxiety in a number of clinical trials. Yoga has also been shown to increase the neurotransmitter GABA, which is linked to calmness and a better mood. In one study, women with anxiety disorder who took yoga classes for two months had less stress symptoms. Anxiety can also make us breathe shallowly, which can make us feel even more anxious. If you notice this happening, try some deep breathing techniques, like taking 4 seconds to breathe in and 8 seconds to breathe out through your nose. The importance with this yoga pranayama technique is that the exhale is longer than the inhale and that it is of a 1:2 ratio – the breath is double the length of the inhale. The balance of this ratio also has a balancing effect on the mind, so focus on counting your inhale and exhale for maximum benefit.

We love supporting women’s health, and if you have any ideas or topics you would like to share with us or want us to write about please reach out, and if you found this post helpful, please pass it on to your friends and family.

In Divine Friendship






Awaken, Inspire and Celebrate the Goddess in You!

Goddess Retreats has been creating transformative wellness experiences for the body, mind, and spirit for women for 20 years


We look forward to welcoming our award-winning healing retreats for women. Spark your spirit as you fill your emotional well and reconnect with yourself on a deeper level as we exxplore the rich culture and wellness practices found in Bali.

Immerse yourself in transformative yoga and meditationcreative and cultural immersions and emotionally healing sessions.

We are happy to help customise your retreat program to suit your personal retreat goals.

Check out our wellness retreats in Ubud and our beautiful retreat accommodations with healthy daily meals.

We’d love to hear from you and help you organize a divine retreat in Bali’s paradise.



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