I’ve Googled this very same question. Most people see emotional eating as the problem, the enemy that needs controlling.
The key to stopping emotional eating is first to understand it.
Let’s view emotional eating from another perspective.
Take a moment to consider your relationship with food is a teacher to help you learn, transform, and heal. Are you willing to believe emotional eating is here to help you become the best version of yourself?
It can be tempting to believe shaming and punishment create change, which are two predominant emotions for many in the emotional eating journey.
In reality, curiosity, grace, and safety heal.
Your nervous system is looking to be soothed by eating. Emotional eating is the act of consuming food to soothe our emotional needs, not our biological.
This action often leads to temporary relief, an easeful moment of peace and pleasure. Then guilt, shame, and judgment come running in on the heels of comfort. Not to mention feeling overly full and heavy in our body.
Picturing this experience play out in your mind may be uncomfortable. The intention is for ease, and the result is unease. I have you play this out because understanding any unwanted habit is a powerful and sure way to get on top of it.
Get comfortable looking at emotional eating from different angles to find the hidden message and inevitable wisdom.
I offer a deep dive into your relationship with food in my coaching programs to uncover your individualized message and history.
First, let’s look at this from a universal experience. Food naturally regulates our emotions. And it works reliably. Some of our earliest experiences are receiving comfort from food as an infant. Ask any parent, and they’ll confirm the question, “are they hungry?” is part of their checklist to tend to a crying baby.
And we only built on that pattern from there.
Every human has used food to regulate emotions.
Let’s normalize it. Don’t give this unwanted habit more power or momentum by thinking there’s something wrong with you. There’s not.
Your primitive brain seeks comfort and ease, and the avoidance of pain. In using food to fulfill a biological need, we discovered it fills an emotional one as well. Your brain is excellent at repeating behaviors that serve this motivational triad- to the point that it’s like it’s on autopilot.
Don’t worry- you can rewrite this connection. Read on!
How is emotional eating helpful and sensical?
Emotional eating offers immediate gratification. It honors the part of you that wants what you want when you want it. The aspect of you that doesn’t want to consider reasoning or regard for long-term consequences. This part of you is your primitive brain- remember: seek pleasure and ease while avoiding pain.
The invitation is to embrace the dance between wanting immediate gratification of soothing with food and the part of us with long-term goals driven by a different brain center, the prefrontal cortex. This site is responsible for planning complex cognitive behavior and decision making, among many other functions. READ: not survival-based or emotionally over-responsive.
Let’s look deeper.
Are you willing to ask and listen to what the message is underneath your action of emotional eating?
Often, emotional eating asking us to tend to our emotions in a new way. Think of it as an invitation to address what is happening in our inner world.
- Where are you holding back from speaking the truth?
- Where you need to communicate better?
- Is there a life change trying to press to the surface?
- What are you avoiding, whether it be a to-do list item, an action toward a goal that feels challenging, or a feeling you’re trying to avoid?
This emotional eating approach asks us to focus on what’s good about us rather than wrong. Humans can be so quick to judge harshly. Consider instead how is the wisdom of life asking you to grow as a person.
Simply put, emotional eating is about growing, which is not always easy.
This work requires you to generate trust and faith in life. And tap into your connection with a higher power. You could consider your relationship to that which is beyond what’s in front of you. In doing so, believing in the fullness of your expression. And trusting in the beauty of possibility and potential. It’s a connection to the idea that the universe is working for you, not against you, to uplevel.
You’ll also need to create thoughts, feelings, and actions of humility, self-honesty, and commitment. I work with people on this process in my 1:1 and group coaching programs. It’s possible to think, feel, and act differently than you are now.
Rewriting and redefining our relationship with food is the place where so many people are asked to grow. This life lesson is a shared experience.
There is nothing wrong with you.
Better yet, let’s take a moment to celebrate your self-awareness in identifying this pattern and recognize the potential to learn more ways to self-nourish and tap into your power.
Hear me clearly: there will be trial and error. But in this process, can you redefine failure as the very element necessary for you to learn what works for you, rather than a reason to tell yourself it’s not working?
Here are a few tips to support you in getting started on healing your relationship with emotional eating:
Connect with what soothes.
Ask yourself what else can soothe my feelings and manage my emotions? Breathwork, journaling, inspirational reading, movement, music, cuddling your pet, a good call with a dear friend. Care for yourself by providing the good feelings you’re seeking at that moment.
Introduce consciousness and awareness.
Ask yourself, “what else is going on?” to get insights into the thoughts and feelings leading you to emotionally eat.
Emotional eating often takes place in a stress response when you are in sympathetic nervous system dominance. This experience prompts for instant relief. Emotional eating will naturally destress you in a moment, but it’s temporary. How can you shift out of SNS activation?
Well, your body is looking for relaxation. Get there in less than a minute by taking 5-10 slow and deep breaths, allowing for a shift into parasympathetic nervous system dominance. It’s the age-old practice of conscious breathing. You’ll automatically breathe, but inviting consciousness into the rate and rhythm with put you at ease.
Step out of the pattern of self-attack and judgment. Speak kindly to yourself in a way that soothes and heals. Punishment only makes an unwanted habit stronger. If this critical approach worked, you would’ve heard about it. No healing practice talks about self-attack or hate as the route to healing. Love brings healing, not hate.
I hope this read puts you at ease that the discovery of emotional eating is a doorway to growth, transformation, and healing. It’s a catalyst to your wellbeing, not a deterrent.
If you’re looking for more support and you’d like to explore if we are a good fit to work together, sign up for a consultation here, and we’ll make sure my services are in alignment with your goals.
To your health!
These posts may also be helpful for you as you explore your relationship with food more deeply: