I hear so many people identify themselves as emotional eaters, so if you do as well, you’re not alone!
Before I dive into the topic, let me first say that sometimes what we think is emotional eating is actually eating in response to restriction. If you’re not eating enough, you’re going to feel more of a pull to eat.
That’s totally, 100%, completely normal.
Our bodes have natural defenses against undereating, including changes in metabolism and hormones that lead to increased hunger and cravings. You might want to be in a calorie deficit, but is not what your body wants.
“I’m eating enough but I’m still struggling with emotional eating…”
Now, assuming you’re eating enough and you find yourself emotionally eating, here are some things to keep in mind…
One, emotional eating shouldn’t always be considered a bad thing. Eating is emotional. And really, that’s a great thing! Think about how tedious having to eat food would be if there were no joy or pleasure in it. However, if using food to cope with emotions is our primary go-to, then things are a bit out of balance and it would be good to add some more strategies to our coping skills tool box.
It’s also important to recognize that if there’s a real need our emotions are pointing to, it’s best to work on meeting that need instead of covering it up with food (or something else). For example, if you’re feeling lonely, then there’s a need for connection that’s not being met. Connecting with others would be better than trying to cope with the loneliness by eating, scrolling, shopping or anything else that really doesn’t have to do with that need for connection.
Next time you’re feeling drawn to eat because of an emotion, first have an honest check-in with yourself about whether you’ve eaten enough that day. Then, pause and tune into what you’re feeling. Is it boredom? Sadness? Anger? Stress? Anxiety?
Once you’re aware of what emotions you’re feeling, decide if eating is the best way to handle that emotion in the moment.
Some other ideas of coping skills you can try are:
- Do some yoga or gentle stretching
- Journal about what you’re feeling and why
- Practice a relaxation exercise
- Call or hang out with a friend
- Let yourself cry
- Take a walk
- Get out in nature
- Take a bath or shower
- Listen to music or a podcast
- Read a book
- Send someone a kind text or note
- Do something creative
- Pray or meditate
- Write some positive affirmations to yourself
- Play with a pet
- Engage in a hobby
- Hug someone (for at least 20 seconds)
I hope this is helpful! Not necessarily because emotional eating is so terrible, but because there are often other ways to handle our feelings with kindness. And because sometimes our feelings point to important things that we need to look at a bit deeper instead of avoiding them.
I’m Cherie Miller, MS, LPC-S, founder of Nourished Soul Center for Healing and @foodfreedomtherapist on Instagram. We offer therapy and nutrition counseling for chronic dieting as well eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, ARFID, and other food issues. As anti-diet professionals, we are passionate about intuitive eating and Health at Every Size philosophies. Contact us here to schedule a therapy or nutrition appointment.