Are you “emotionally eating” or just eating?

April 7th, 2021

Emotional eating comes up when we talk about weight loss. If we didn’t cover up our emotions with food, we wouldn’t have all those extra pounds to lose. So it makes sense to end it to lose weight. But also, to be more present to life.

You may think that you love yourself too much to stop it.  But how do I know it is not an act of self-love? Because we hate the consequences.  We regret doing it. We ask “why did I eat it?” And the problem the pizza is supposed to fix doesn’t go away. 

How do we know if we are eating emotionally or… just eating?

Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not so clear. The answer lies in awareness. (here I want to share a secret: it is so fun to stop eating emotionally and then one day do it! Consciously… and mischievously ) 

But first… 

There are three main reasons we eat:

  1. To nourish the body (and because of hunger)
  2. Out of habit (this includes celebrations and it’s time to eat)
  3. To change how we feel (emotional eating)

Emotional eating happens when:

…we use food to feel better. It doesn’t matter if you are relieving boredom, loneliness, creative anxiety or stress. You want to eat to relieve these uncomfortable emotions. Unconsciously you decide “I will eat so I don’t need to look at it. So I don’t need to address it, so I don’t need to set boundaries, so I don’t need to face uncomfortable thoughts.” 

You eat and eat but there is not end to the emptiness.

You eat and eat but the is no fulfillment.

The full situation in one sentence:  You eat to feel better, but the negative feelings are not really taken care of, and you end up with the negative consequences of overeating, and broken trust with yourself. 

You know you eat emotionally when the need to eat seems like an emergency. You don’t want to hear about tuning in to your emotions and checking where they come from… Buy If your child or a beloved pet cried, would you give them something to eat or would you try to find out what is the problem so you could resolve it? (assuming you are acting from love, not impatience) 

Emotional eating is not self-love. 

How do you know  you are not eating emotionally? You eat what you planned on your healthy food protocol. You eat because you are simply hungry. You don’t obsess about food. You don’t see it as your best friend and a savior.

What is most useful in breaking the habit of emotional eating?

  1. Stop before you reach for unplanned food: ask: am I hungry? If not why do I want to eat it? What am I hoping for? Why am I feeling the way I am feeling – what am I thinking. How can I stay present to myself and this emotion now?

At least be aware – this step will help you stop or eat less. Be more in control.

When you practice that – it may take weeks or months – it is ok – you are undoing a deep habit. Expect it will take time. It is still worth it.

2) Mind management (coaching or self-coaching) Resolving the problem underneath. At the minimum – create awareness about where the feelings come from. What were you thinking that created this feeling? And since the feelings lead you to choose the comfort food above the healthier option how will the food help solve the issue? 

When we learn to coach ourselves in any situation – it becomes an asset in our weight journey.