Navigating Emotional Eating and Stress Eating

by | May 8, 2023

If you keep losing progress due to emotional eating or stress eating, the solution is to stop trying to fix those very natural tendencies.

Think about it like this …

The background behind emotional eating and stress eating

When you’re stressed out, your body assumes there’s a threat and responds accordingly, regardless of whether the “threat” is real or perceived.

Basically, it goes into “all hands on deck” mode to send available resources to make sure that you survive.

It’s easy to see how that can land you into a resource or energy “debt” with a desire to eat. Over the years, you may have developed a pattern of subconsciously reaching for food when you’re stressed, which is a totally normal response.

Emotional eating is not too dissimilar. When we are very young, we associate food with emotions. It can be comfort, familial, safety, security, joy, pleasure, fun, exciting, etc.

People who say food is only fuel are delusional.

It makes sense that we develop subconscious patterns and responses to food in certain emotional states. Maybe you associate food with safety and comfort so when you’re feeling fearful or uncertain, you reach for a known thing. Something that has always been there for you and has never let you down.

Yesterday, I asked you to let go of a problem that isn’t necessarily a problem. I got so many amazing responses of things that you’re letting go of and just accepting as is.

Much to my surprise, no one said stress eating or emotional eating.

I was hoping someone would connect the dots.

Emotional eating and stress eating are not problems that need to be solved.

They are simply situations that need to be observed.

Understand the normalcy of eating when you’re stressed or in certain emotional states and then spend some time identifying the patterns that exist for you.

What is the feeling that you’re trying to soothe? What are the stressors that cause you to overindulge?

Simply be an observer without judgment.

Then, the next time that it happens, just pay attention and ask yourself some questions.

What is the emotion I’m feeling right now? What is this emotion trying to tell me? How will eating help me cope with this feeling? Is there anything else that would make me feel better? Can I sit with this feeling for a bit longer?

What is the source of my stress right now? Is this food helping me to regulate? Is there anything else that would help me decompress?

Make a conscious choice which can be … food or something else. There’s no right or wrong.

Whatever you choose, assess if it’s helping you. Am I enjoying this? Is it making me feel better?

Observe and make conscious choices.

When we view these things as problems that need to be solved or the reasons we can’t make progress, we often stay activated in the moment. Because we already are feeling uncomfortable feelings.

And then doing something that we deem as “bad” simply adds to the level of discomfort that we’re trying to escape.

It often creates a negative feedback loop where you feel bad and then feel worse for doing something that you deem as bad in response to feeling bad. And then feel guilt and shame over the way you coped with the situation which continues the cycle of feeling bad.

If you remove the notion that stress eating or emotional eating is somehow wrong or hurtful, then you can simply observe and come from a place of awareness and conscious choice.

Normalize it. Observe it. And assess if it’s actually helping and if it’s productive for what you’re feeling / experiencing.

You may find that it is. Which is great. You may find that’s it not. Which is great.

You’d be surprised at what happens when you take the power away from something with a simple mental reframe.

Hope this helps!

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