Hi. I’m Tessie! If you don’t know my story… in a nutshell, I used to be a major emotional eater. It was to the point that I felt very out of control when negative emotions arose and I turned to food, usually sweets, as a coping mechanism.
The worst part was fearing that I might never change. I thought I just had to accept that I was going to stress eat and binge eat out of emotion… for the rest of my life.
I’m so happy to say I’m here today writing this article because I DID FIND HEALING! And now emotional eating is one of many unwanted eating habits that I help others work through.
Below I’m going to share 3 key things that helped me overcome and start to manage my emotional eating. Remember, these are practices. Have patience with your journey. Seek professional support when you know you need it. And have confidence that you too can have an eating breakthrough!
1. Give Yourself Time Between the Emotional Trigger and Your Response
Give yourself time between the stimulus (emotion) and deciding to eat (response). Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself if you’re physically hungry, or are you more emotionally craving something?
This is a common technique used in emotional intelligence work. It allows us to pause, notice what we’re feeling, and be aware of what our triggers are for unwanted habits and behaviors.
2. DON’T Skip Meals
Try to eat 3 meals a day, and 1-2 snacks. Skipping meals can lead to eating out of irritability, stress, or moodiness.
If we skip lunch, by the end of the day we’re no only tired, but ravished. Add in some rush hour traffic and possible lack of preparation for dinner (been there) oh and not to mention the lack of willpower at the end of the day to make healthy decisions.
Before you know it you’re at the McDonald’s drive through ordering 2 #1s and an oreo McFlurry.
Is it “wrong” to eat fast food? Actually, that’s not what I’m saying. I believe in balance and if we’re generally healthy, a treat like fast food every once in a while is not horrible.
However, if we are someone who knows we’re making the decision to eat that out of negative emotion, and it’s happening more often than we’d like, and we feel the effect in our body like sluggishness, tummy aches, weight gain… then it’s time to look at our emotional eating response.
*Disclaimer* Before changing your food plan drastically, I do suggest consulting a medical and/or dietary professional. I am a certified eating psychology coach. I support with habit change and routines. I do not diagnose or treat eating disorders or prescribe medical diets.
3. Keep ALL Food on the Table (pun intended)
Give yourself permission to STILL choose to eat out of emotion vs. hunger.
We physiologically receive pleasure from food, which is why emotional eating is a normal tendency. If you choose to eat the donut/chips/cake/candy etc… sit down, eat it slow, serve yourself a portion size to start, and enjoy it!
One of the most important things we can do when trying to shift eating behaviors is to give ourselves permission. Remember, restrictive diets and focussing on cutting things out DOES NOT WORK long term.
When we think “I can’t have that cookie, I can’t have that cookie” the brain hears “COOKIE!” And we are wired as humans to want what we “can’t” have. It sounds scary to just give yourself permission to emotionally eat, I know.
But in practice alongside these other 2 steps, it’s going to help you emotionally eat LESS!
I want you to celebrate the moments you opted not to emotionally eat, and I want you to own and embrace the moments you choose TO eat out of emotion.
I used to feel such shame in myself as I bought cupcakes and went straight to my car to scarf down 2 or 3, not wanting anyone to see. Then I’d throw them away and felt like I couldn’t have control if I had them in the house. Now, I easily recognize my emotions.
I practice working through negative emotion in different ways, whether it’s going for a walk, listening to music, choosing a healthy snack first and then checking in with myself…
And, every now and again I ultimately come to the conclusion that “nope, 1-2 bowls of cereal with cream, or 2-3 pop tarts warmed up with butter are the thing that I want to help me ease this feeling right now”. I own it, I embrace it.
And by eating slow and enjoying the moment and the treat, my body recognizes it as a treat and it’s easier to not overdo it.
When we eat in a state of stress or guilt, our metabolism is not optimized. Our digestion isn’t good, and our appetite hormones could be off. So we’ll actually end up eating more, AND still being hungry afterwards.
I hope these tips give you a starting off point to manage unwanted emotional eating. Here’s a review of your action steps.
- Allow space and time between feeling emotionally triggered, and choosing to eat. Breathe. Practice choosing a healthy way to manage that emotion and stress. And then circle back to how you will respond.
- Don’t skip meals. Try to eat 3 meals a day. Prepare 1-2 snacks depending on your hunger level. This will help you stay emotionally balanced, and not overeat at the end of the day.
- Give yourself permission to still emotionally eat now and again. This must be a gentle process. It’s not about stopping cold turkey, or beating yourself up if your behavior doesn’t change overnight. Give these practices time.
Which Tip Stands Out to You the Most?
Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!
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