What You Need to Know about Emotional Eating


This is what emotional eating is:

Emotional eating: using food to manage emotional discomfort.

This is what you need to know about it:

Dieters — remember: a dieter, in essence, is one who moralizes how she eats — eat emotionally. Non-dieters don’t.

Dieters eat emotionally. Non-dieters don’t.

Why do those who moralize food eat emotionally? Because moralizing, judging, and criticizing your food and how you eat is a threat to which your body responds by sending you into starvation mode — hoarding mode — get it while you can — “Last Supper mentality” — I don’t have enough — I’ll never eat this againI am wrong — I am bad.

Here’s how that plays out:

  • The more you think emotional eating is bad, the more you’ll do it.

  • The extent to which you place rules around your eating is the extent to which your body works against those rules.

  • The more restrictive your eating and food rules, the more you resist them.

  • The extent to which you judge/criticize/shame yourself for eating emotionally is the extent to which it will be difficult for you to stop.

To free yourself from emotional eating, stop dieting. Stop moralizing. Stop judging. Stop criticizing. To free yourself from emotional eating, decriminalize it. Until you decriminalize it, stop dieting, and stop food-moralizing, emotional eating will ride you.

To free yourself from emotional eating, decriminalize it.

Here’s how:

Ceasefire. Stop shaming yourself. Criticism and judgement and shame and food-moralization don’t work. That’s what got you into this mess in the first place.

Action: recognize and halt self-hating, self-shaming, and self-critical self-talk.

Contextualize. Emotional eating is benign. Seriously. Put it in context; compare: emotional eating vs. gambling. Emotional eating vs. binge-drinking. Emotional eating vs. compulsive drug use. Emotional eating vs. self-violence. I mean, really. Emotional eating is not that bad.

Action: tell yourself it could be worse.

Concede. To decriminalize emotional eating, concede the point that emotional eating serves you. You wouldn’t do it if it didn’t. At minimum, it makes you feel marginally better for some period of time. Maybe it’s an easily-accessible coping mechanism. Maybe it’s the easiest way to deal with discomfort while you’re at work. Or driving. Or parenting.

Action: list the pros of emotional eating. Thank emotional eating for the ways it serves you.

Decriminalizing emotional eating is the only way you will free yourself from it. And this is true across the board with food and eating issues: the less of a big deal you can make it, the less of a big deal it will be.

Want MOre Information?

If you want to know more about why dieting causes out-of-control eating, watch Video 1 of my training series about how to stop binge-eating.

If you want to know more about how to eat without dieting, watch Video 2.

If you want to know more about decriminalizing food and neutrality toward how you eat, watch Video 3.

Sign up for the training series below.

Holland Hettinger