I’ve been talking to a lot of my clients recently about emotional eating, which in my opinion isn’t as bad as you think or are made to believe.
As someone who was a self confessed ‘pro’ at emotional eating, and now as a coach who mentors women who are battling with emotional eating, I want to clear up a few things about this topic.
Let me start with defining emotional eating:
“Emotional eating is an attempt to deal with a problem, feeling, or situation we don’t otherwise know how to deal with, and often don’t even know that we have without some kind of symptom to remind us” – Isabel Foxen Duke.
Contrary to popular belief, emotional eating is part of eating- just perhaps in a slightly different way to what you ‘know’ it to mean. What I mean by this is that eating to feel emotionally fulfilled and satisfied is part of ‘normal eating’. It’s my belief that women who don’t do this –eat to feel emotionally satisfied or feel it’s ‘bad’ to meet their emotional needs with food- are the people who end up feeling crazy around food in the first place.
In other words: Trying to avoid eating for ’emotional’ satisfaction and pleasure (e.g. through dieting) is what’s keeping you stuck in the diet/ binge cycle to begin with (which inevitably results in emotional eating).
** Important side note: Eating to feel emotionally satisfied is different to eating to escape a problem/ soothe a problem in your life (emotional eating). If this is a new concept for you and/or if you want more information on this, read this post.
Furthermore I believe and have experienced first hand that thinking of emotional eating as a ‘sin’ or something to feel shameful of and thinking I’m a ‘loser’ or a ‘hopeless’ or that if only I had more ‘self control ‘or ‘willpower’ I’d overcome this, is incredibly counter productive.
I’m not saying it’s not easy to resort to thinking this, especially if you find yourself sitting at the fridge or finding yourself at the bottom of a tub of ice cream. What I’m trying to make clear is that thinking in this way will never end emotional eating or curb your behaviour. What it will do is fuel the fire. I strongly believe that self criticism and shame is not a ‘healthful’ or a successful motivator for behavioural change in the long run.
Finally I want to discuss this idea that emotional eating is ‘bad’ or the ‘devil’. It goes without saying: There are more counter productive and effective ways to deal with a problem than resorting to food (and in a rebellious way at that).
However, if you can open your mind up to the idea that emotional eating is an alarm bell, alerting you to the reality that there’s something in your life that needs your attention, this ‘mess’ starts to become an important messenger. See here for more on this topic.
When I started to think about emotional eating in this way I stopped going to war with the urge to calm and soothe myself through food related coping mechanisms. Because truth be told you’re only every crazy about something if you choose to give it the power to begin with.
What I meant to say here is if you choose to see emotional eating as ‘bad’ or ‘shameful’ etc then you’re highly likely going to feel ‘bad’ and ‘shameful’ about yourself during and certainly after your ‘episode’. Which then inherently leads to the dieting urge kicking in to ‘counter act’ the ‘sinful act’…. ultimately leaving you winding up binge eating/ emotional eating again.
The best advice I can give you is that emotional eating will keep contuning as long as you play into the hands of the diet culture.
Food will lose it’s power over you- which is to say food related coping mechanisms will be replaced by other, more effective coping mechanisms- when you allow your food to be what it wants to be (in other words: When you stop trying to manipulate your body and accept your body for how it naturally and effortlessly wants to be).
Here’s something to think about: When we no longer care about our body weight we no longer diet. When we no longer diet we no longer inevitably ‘fall off a wagon’. When we haven’t a wagon to fall off we no longer end up feeling crazy about food….we no longer engage in emotional eating.
Like what you read? Sign up below to receive my weekly coaching emails sent straight to your inbox. Along with that you’ll get my free and popular Ebook ‘Be Free’ which you can download automatically. Click here to read what other’s are saying about my book.