There's no need to feel guilty for emotional eating, and here are a few reasons why. Plus how you can effectively cope with your emotions with or without food
About Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is eating when you feel a strong emotion, not when you are physically hungry. When you feel emotional hunger, you are reaching for food in reaction to your feelings as opposed to having physical sensations of hunger.
Oftentimes, emotional eating happens when you are trying to numb a negative emotion like boredom or sadness.
Emotional hunger is your body warning you that you have an unmet need. Having strong cravings or eating in the absence of hunger does not mean you are doing something wrong. It is simply a cue that you have emotions to tend to.
Emotional eating isn't bad
Despite what diet culture would have you believe, emotional eating is not the villain. Plus, many people find emotional hunger distressing because they fear that they are eating in excess of what their body wants and this could cause weight gain.
However, emotional eating is normal, and it’s ok to eat when you feel emotional, stressed, etc. Demonizing eating when emotional will only make you feel worse.
Why? Because if you emotionally eat while simultaneously feeling guilty, you will likely not benefit from the comfort of the food. Plus, you could feel shame after the experience. Not good!
Instead of beating yourself up for stress eating, try something more productive like coping with your emotions with kindness.
IMPORTANT: I’m not saying eating should be the only way you deal with emotions or that you should eat in the absence of hunger all day long. Not at all. ✨I am saying that eating can be an effective tool for coping and one option in your toolbox full of coping mechanisms.✨
Emotional eating can simply be a tool to help you cope. And we can allow ourselves to enjoy the comfort of food as well as explore other coping mechanisms.
You want to have other coping mechanisms, in addition to food, that you use when you are feeling strong emotions. Having options will help you effectively cope because you can select the most helpful tool depending on what you are feeling.
What's a better option to emotional eating?
Give yourself permission to enjoy food as comfort but knowing that it is not your ONLY comfort.
Things to consider:
- What are some things you can do to help cope with your emotions?
- What needs do you have that aren’t being met?
- How can you meet those needs in a way that serves you best?
List multiple ideas to turn to when you need them — because when you’re in the middle of feeling a strong emotion, it can be hard to think of ways to help feel relief at the moment.
- take 3 deep breaths
- talk to a friend
- go outside
- play cards
- listen to music
Normalizing emotional eating can help you feel less guilt and shame when you do turn to food to relieve unpleasant emotions. Because sometimes, the best way to meet your need is through food. For example, you miss your grandmother. Making a favorite recipe of hers could bring you together even if you cannot be together in real life.
Maybe when you were little, a parent gave you soup & crackers to help you feel better. Having it now can help you feel soothed just like when you were a child.
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- How Solo Travel Can Help You Be a More Mindful and Intuitive Eater
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- Diet is a Four Letter Word
- Food Only Has Power if You Let It