How to Stop Emotional Eating & Why You're Doing It

holding a bowl of oats

If there is one thing I know, it's that our relationship to food can often be defined as "it's complicated," and so many are searching for how to stop emotional eating. Women especially have a hard time with food, dieting and our relationship to ourselves and how we treat ourselves. It shouldn't be surprising though, we are bombarded by societal standards of what beauty is (and isn't) on a daily basis and we are constantly receiving messages on what/how to eat via diet culture. For all of these reasons and so many more, we can often times eat emotionally.

I recently hosted a workshop with my nutrition bestie all about how to stop emotional eating with some amazing women. What I discovered after hosting this, listening and learning from them it's that emotional eating can happen to anyone. There are lots of reasons emotional eating can happen, but today I am going to dive deeper into three reasons it happens and how to stop emotional eating.

How to Stop Emotional Eating: Three Reasons why it Happens:

1. You believe there are "good" and "bad" foods:

Diet culture is so pervasive in our society that most of the time, we don't even hear it anymore. There are so many trendy/wellness related cleanses and detoxes that we don't even see them as a diet anymore, they are simply a healthy lifestyle. When we subscribe to these types of beliefs, we tend to also start labeling foods as good or bad. We have a list of "bad" foods to stay away from (like sugar- especially white sugar- the devil, processed foods, white carbs/bread, gluten and dairy) just to name a few of the most popular. Then we have our good foods (such as superfoods, fruits- only low sugar ones, veggies, grains - only ones that don't contain gluten and organic anything). When we are following a plan of some kind (re: diet), we are "so good" but as soon as the plan is over, it is GAME OVER. Does this sound familiar? If it does, then you are familiar with emotional eating because chances are when we restrict these bad foods for so long, we in turn start craving them more and more.

Bottom Line: When we learn to separate morality from food and our subsequent judgment, we don't need to fear certain foods. They no longer have control over us and we are much less likely to eat emotionally because we fear we won't ever get to eat these foods again. I would encourage you to listen to that voice inside your head that tells you a food is good or bad. Then question that statement by asking does this really hold true? If not, then learn to let that food rule go.

2. You are currently dieting or following a diet:

Much like what I alluded to above, if you are following a diet or even a "healthy lifestyle" type diet, you are more prone to restriction. What often will happen with restriction after so long is subsequent bingeing on certain foods that aren't allowed on your program/diet/plan. Dieting is no fun, I don't care what type of plan you are following. Most of the time, these programs just don't allow for enough calories or food in their plans. Plus if you are also following an exercise plan and reducing your food intake, your energy will also plummet. When this happens, you are much more likely to become stressed out, anxious or moody and often times in states like that we tend to overeat or eat emotionally. That may be why after you have finished a plan or even if you haven't you binge afterwards as a reward for your "good work." Enter the subsequent feelings of guilt and shame and you have a recipe for emotional eating.

Bottom Line: When we learn to let go of dieting and diet culture and following rigid plans, we make room for a lot more in our lives. We don't need to gorge on foods to reward ourselves or restrict others to follow a plan. We can just be. Enter intuitive eating!

cookies and chips laid out

3. You don't allow yourself to enjoy food:

Why is that we associate rich, tasty food with words like sinful or deadly? Because for the most part, we associate pleasure from food as something that is best avoided (especially common in Western cultures). If it is too pleasurable, we won't be able to stop, have the willpower to say no or control ourselves. But why do we need to have control around food in the first place? Why can't we just enjoy food for what it is and not think anything else of it? Enter- DIET CULTURE! This is one of the reasons and that is something that we need to be aware of so that we can question and reject it.

Bottom Line: When we learn to look at food from both an aesthetic, pleasurable point of view, we learn to enjoy it as is, without needing to feel guilty for eating it. If you allow yourself to enjoy every bite of cake (or whatever else) without feeling shame or guilt, you will be much less likely to develop negative feelings about yourself and subsequently overeat or eat emotionally. The next time you find yourself feeling shameful or guilty from enjoying food, challenge that feeling. Question why you feel this way and dig a little bit deeper to find out what exactly is making you feel this way.

birthday cake

These three reasons for why you may be emotionally eating are just some of the reasons. I tend to think these are three of the biggest and also the hardest to overcome. None of these reasons are easily resolved or even identifiable some of the time because they require us to dig a little deeper and do the work. It's not easy, but it is so worth it. I hope that this has helped to explain how to stop emotional eating and provides a starting point to start questioning food rules, diet culture and encourages you to challenge these thoughts.

I also want to offer a bit of guidance about emotional eating. It is nothing to be ashamed of, it happens to everyone! Also, sometimes, it is the best thing we can do to cope with things at the time and that is ok too. Learning to let go of your own judgments and bias you hold about yourself is also important.

Let me know in the comments if you currently find yourself struggling with emotional eating and what strategy you think can be most beneficial for you.

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Gary And Debbie Houck
November 30, 2022
Great stuff!
Tyra
November 19, 2022
I replaced the chorizo with the impossible sausage, and it was still delicious! Thanks for the recipe!
Jaclyn
November 14, 2022
Thank you so much for sharing Jeanette! Aren't easy meals that look fancy the best ;)
Jaclyn
November 14, 2022
Thanks Alexandra! My husband loves it too and he loves his cheese lol.
Jaclyn
November 14, 2022
Thanks so much for sharing Josh! It's such a great weeknight meal. Enjoy it tonight :)
Josh
November 14, 2022
This recipe slays... since you've posted, I've made variations on it at least four times. Going to make it again for dinner tonight.
Alexandra bull
November 10, 2022
Made this recipe for my boyfriend and I on Halloween! It is the perfect fall dish. It is easy to make vegan, nut & gluten free if you use gluten free pasta and do the sunflower seed substitute. My non-vegan boyfriend loved it so much they have asked me to make it again! It is so creamy & has the perfect crunch with the sage and pumpkin seeds.
Bev
November 2, 2022
Very easy, directions are clear, like recommended product names. Making this for dinner. Pre-dinner tasting fantastic flavours♥️♥️
jaclyn
September 21, 2022
Hi Marnie! You could use about 3 to 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast instead of parmesan.
Marnie
September 21, 2022
Hi, how much nutritional yeast would you suggest instead of cheese?
Jeanette
September 21, 2022
Absolutely LOVE this recipe - it's delicious (especially for those that like a hint of spice)!! My finance and I are obsessed and it's become part of our weeknight recipe rotation. It has a limited number of ingredients, it's quick to make/cook, but despite all of that - looks and tastes like much more time was spent! Thanks for the great recipe Jaclyn!
Matt
September 3, 2022
Do these burgers taste at all like beef? Thank you.
Grant
September 1, 2022
Just tried your recipe. Holly Hanna..... was that good! I know how to cook but you must try this one. I'm new to the this way of cooking but now I'm a believer. Keep them coming and I'll be trying them. Thanks ! G
Shafia
August 2, 2022
This was delicious!!! It takes some prep time but each portion is packed with flavour! Will definitely make again ❤️
Cristina
July 31, 2022
I made this yesterday and HOLY MOLY it hit the spot!!! It’s been so hot and muggy out here, so I was craving something light, cool, and filling. This recipe did not disappoint. The flavor of the peanut sauce was delicious. It had been a while since I prepared something with such color and flavor, which made eating it that much better. I will definitely make this again and try your other recipes too!! 😍🙏🏻❤️
Jaclyn
July 25, 2022
Hi Henrik! Thanks for letting me know you made them. Depending on the size of your food processor, it can be a lot to pulse all at once, so maybe working in batches is better. I'm glad you liked them and they firmed up for you :) Enjoy the rest!
henrik bechmann
July 25, 2022
Yep, they firmed up nicely. I'm freezing four, and looking forward to having the other four, dressed with sauerkraut, pickles, mustard, vegan mayo, onions, banana chiles, and maybe even ketchup. Yum!
henrik bechmann
July 25, 2022
Well I ended up baking them for 23 minutes (@400F). They're delicious! A bit soft, but I'm hoping they'll firm up when they cool. Texture is good too. Thanks for this!
henrik bechmann
July 24, 2022
Seems like a good and tasty recipe. But I had to add a generous half cup of water to get any kind of movement in the food processor. I substituted flax seeds for hemp (what I had). The mixture was a bit loose because of the water, but still formed nicely into patties. Baking for 15 min at 400F. Looking forward to them!
Jaclyn
July 23, 2022
Hi Roxanne! So for the meatballs photos with feta, I just used regular olive oil. But for the one photo with the red looking oil, that was olive oil mixed with fried green onions and Aleppo pepper. I have that recipe in full on my Instagram account - if you head over there, you'll see it - https://www.instagram.com/p/CbQXM2IlH4L/.
Roxanne
July 21, 2022
Hi! The topping on your whipped feta looked delicious. It appeared to be more than olive oil. Or maybe an infused olive oil? Do you mind sharing that recipe? I can’t wait to make this recipe. Appreciate the tip on room temp feta.
ANYA
July 19, 2022
Make these now! Once you buy your ingredients, this is the easiest recipe to execute...it's so hands off! I started the beef in the instant pot an hour before we wanted to eat and prepped the toppings while all of that was cooking. I used stewing beef and a home-made taco seasoning. I didn't have any beef broth so I used half of a bouillon cube - worked just fine! The enchilada sauce was store bought (Frontera brand) and it was delicious. Highly recommend the Monteray jack cheese - I used some Violife mozzarella that I happened to have at home but I can see how the sharp taste would add to the overall flavour.
Jaclyn
July 18, 2022
Hi Carolyn! I'm so glad you are loving my recipes, thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. I don't provide nutritional information as it doesn't align with my brand or how I personally choose to live my life, having had a disordered relationship to food in the past. I hope you understand :)
Carolyn
July 13, 2022
I love your recipes and have tried them! What would be GREAT is if you could include the nutritional value with calories. It would be beneficial to those of us trying to lose weight. Thank you, Carolyn
Julia
July 11, 2022
Just made this for my family today. I can’t have gluten or dairy but they can and this got a RESOUNDING stamp of approval! Love the simple ingredients and it tasted fabulous! Thanks for such nourishing recipes ❤️ 😊
Chris
July 3, 2022
Thanks for this! I came across this recipe very late in life, at a family meal. I liked it better than my mother's potato salad of my childhood, and better than my sister's which came from her in-laws. DH likes it very much. Win, win, win! Tip: if you don't want to steam up your summer kitchen nor fight the mosquitoes for the grill, pressure cook the potatoes!
MATILDE PAGAN
May 12, 2022
I am on a short vacation and came across this recipe, looking forward in making this. It looks really good. Can’t wait.
Whitney Mullenax
April 22, 2022
I have these cookies in the oven right now (2nd time making them in a few weeks). They are perfection and will be a great gift for some coworkers tomorrow. I made the recipe as is, great texture! I saved some for me too, don't worry ;)
Olivia Garcia
April 15, 2022
I love the ingredients in these recipes… Can’t wait to start them all!!
Anya
April 14, 2022
Don’t sleep on this wing recipe. It is soooo good! I can see this being a staple for game days, casual dinners or honestly…any day. Such a crowd pleaser as well. Oh and please don’t skip the dip. It’s unreal stuff! I was grabbing random things in my kitchen to eat it with once the wings were done.
Christa Campbell
March 28, 2022
The simplest recipe to make a delicious desert! I left out the cacao and just made vanilla coconut flavor and it was heavenly. I plan to add different flavors in the future; cacao with Orange or raspberry essence, vanilla salted, caramel flour de sel- the options are endless. Glad to find a keto friendly treat that can be made easily at home.
Rich
March 24, 2022
When do you add the mushrooms back in the pot?
Heidi
February 13, 2022
These were good! I've been curious to try making a miso dessert for a little while now, but wanted it to be grain free. I've found that almond flour based chocolate chip cookies always have some kind of nut butter, and since I just use peanut butter, it's like a PB cookie. The miso did a great job replacing nut butter and achieved a great, chewy consistency! It's definitely strong, although I'm sure white miso would have been more mild. I used dashi miso, which in hindsight sounds pretty gross.. the cookies were not at all fishy tasting, but just bold and kind of salty/savory. I think next time I'll try a little less miso. I have a tendency to use less sugar than a recipe calls for, but I definitely needed it in this one to balance the miso flavor. I just used regular butter too, not ghee.
Susan Renee Hennings
January 12, 2022
Yes, I like it a lot. Lentils are nutritious and inexpensive.
Carole
January 2, 2022
I’m just learning about adaptogens and trying to incorporate them into my “healthy arsenal”. Thanks for the info!
MAdeleine
December 27, 2021
This is the first cinnamon roll recipe i've actually gotten to work! I let the dough rest in the fridge for 4-5 hours and then rolled and filled it, then let it rest in the fridge over night and it worked great for an early morning bake. I looked through the whole recipe and you never mention what temperature to bake at. It just says "place in your preheated oven to bake" I baked at 350. Also it would be really nice if the caramel sauce recipe was included here. All in all totally delicious, worth the effort, and I will be making this again.