Why Can't I Stop Emotional Eating?


Emotional eating happens. 

You’re overwhelmed. Rather than organizing your to-do list and getting sh*t done, you grab some cookies from the break room and chow down while watching cat videos on YouTube. When the cookies are gone and the cat vids are over, you have just as much to do and less time to do it (and you feel guilty about the cookies). If only I could stop emotional eating, I’d procrastinate less when I’m overwhelmed.

You’re lonely. That guy you’re into just posted a picture from a party he’s at — and there are so many pretty, skinny girls there. He’ll never notice me, he’ll never be into me, and neither will anyone else. You sneak some ice cream from the fridge and go to town. When the pint is half-done, you feel guilty as hell and a little sick, but you finish the carton anyway. Why can’t I stop emotional eating? I am the worst.

You’re tired. It’s been a long day, you didn’t eat a great lunch, and now that you’re home, you can’t summon the energy to prepare a whole damn meal. When you end up eating cheese and crackers for dinner, you feel unsatisfied and guilty and can’t help but finish off the Girl Scout cookies in your pantry, too. You think to yourself, Why can’t I stop emotional eating? What is wrong with me?

Emotional eating might happen most when you’re feeling overwhelmed, lonely, tired, or otherwise emotionally drained or compromised, but negative emotions aren’t the actual source of the agitation emotional eating causes you. It’s your beliefs about emotional eating that makes it feel like you just can’t stop. 

Emotional eating holds so much power over you because you believe it’s wrong, you demonize it, and when you do it, it defines you. In fact, the extent to which you believe emotional eating is bad is the extent to which you’ll feel like you can’t stop. 

The more you demonize emotional eating, the more you’ll hate yourself for doing it.

By demonizing emotional eating, you give emotional eating power. How do you break free? Care less about emotional eating, put it in context, and diversify your coping mechanisms.

Care less. If you didn’t care so much about emotional eating, you wouldn’t mind so much when you did it and you’d do it less because it wouldn’t determine your value, your worth, your sense of self. Demonize emotional eating and it becomes a big deal. Neutralize your attitude toward and it just matters less.

Contextualize. Tap into whatever sense of self you have that’s not associated with how you eat and how you look. Maybe you use soul, Self, god-potential, or Love to refer to your innate worth and truest inner being, but whatever it is, please remember: You are more than what you eat. You are more than your body. 

Diversify. Another way to break free from emotional eating is to diversify your coping mechanisms. Try out other ways to take care of your emotional needs. Emotional eating works to a certain extent (you wouldn’t do it if it didn’t), but maybe taking a nap, calling a friend, or writing in your journal would help, too.

Emotional eating will happen, but don’t let it ruin you by believing it defines you. Care less, remember you’re more than what you eat, and help yourself by practicing other coping mechanisms.

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Hi, I’m Holland Hettinger, and unlike most health coaches, I believe emotional eating is not a big deal, and I love helping women check their attitudes toward it. I have three more tools for changing your beliefs about emotional eating here — BLOG POST: What You Need to Know about Emotional Eating.

If you prefer video content, I have a free, 3-part video training series on how to stop binge-eating. If you liked this blog post about emotional eating, Video 3 will blow your mind. Sign up below.


About Holland Hettinger

Hey girl. I’m Holland Hettinger, and I help women stop binge-eating. I believe your life doesn’t have to revolve around food. Your mind can think about something other than what you eat. You don’t have to shrink yourself and hide your body. There is an alternative to food guilt and body shame. And none of it includes dieting, meal prepping, weighing yourself, or forcing yourself not to binge-eat for just one—more—day. (Insert sigh of relief here.) Through training videos, coaching emails, and one-on-one work, I teach women to stop binge-eating for good.

Holland Hettinger