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How To Overcome Emotional Eating?

Overcome Emotional Eating

What Is Emotional Eating and Why Is It Happening?

Let me answer this question with a practical example with a short story about Sarah (could be any other name!), a woman in her mid-30s who is actually quite content with her life if it weren’t for this one BIG thing that weighs on her every day.

Sarah works in an office. She likes her job and enjoys working overtime sometimes. She is very mindful of healthy, freshly prepared food and takes food to work every day, but every night when she gets home she finds herself snacking on sweets in front of the fridge. 

Every evening when she comes into the apartment she immediately heads for the kitchen as if remote controlled. She is not hungry, she knows that, but still she can’t help it. The desire is too great. 

She has often tried to trick herself, to change the habit by trying to hide the chocolate in another drawer, or to eat an apple instead, but none of her attempts have succeeded. Each time she gives in at the end and runs back to the fridge. Even the attempt to buy no chocolate at all failed. As she even took the effort to run to the store again.

The frustration of emotional eating in front of the fridge

When Guilt and Shame Kicks In, the Vicious Cycle Begins

Sarah does not understand what’s “wrong” with her. She feels weak and undisciplined. 
“Others can do it, can’t they?”
“I just don’t have enough control over myself.”

She begins to verbally beat up on herself more and more. As a failure, as a loser who can’t manage to simply do without. The feelings of guilt increase more and more and she feels incredibly ashamed of herself. 

Every night she goes to bed with the same good resolution:Tomorrow I’ll start all over again. Tomorrow night I’ll make it, it’s too late for today, but tomorrow I’ll start the new diet.” 

And every day the same game starts all over again. Sarah is caught in the vicious cycle. 

The reason why Sarah’s diets don’t work is because they don’t treat the cause of her problem, but only the symptoms. 

She tries to control her eating by forbidding herself to eat – that requires a lot of energy and always puts her in the same position of giving in and overeating on sweets. 

The root cause is not that she is too undisciplined, has no control over herself, or doesn’t have enough willpower…. The root cause lies in an emotion that is not given space. And this is it: 

Emotional eating is when we use eating to cope with feelings.

And this is where it is important to start. Sarah tries to satisfy an emotional hunger with chocolate every evening. To fill an emotional hole that hasn’t gotten enough attention. 

Only after Sarah starts to look more into herself, tries to find out with curiosity and compassion which feelings need more space and how she can take care of these emotions, she is able to not even think about the chocolate anymore. 

Sarah might feel lonely because she lives alone in the apartement, she might be overwhelmed at work, she might just need more self care in any way… 

Emotional eating is when we use eating to cope with feelings.

Practical Tips to Break Out of the Vicious Circle

  • Observe yourself: When do you eat emotionally?
    When do you eat remotely, without feeling that you can’t stop?
    When do you eat even though you are not hungry?
    When do you not eat at all?
    When do you feel guilty and ashamed after eating?

  • Stay curious and in compassion with yourself.
    As soon as you become aware of these moments, ask yourself the question:
    “Why did I reach for food? How do I feel right now? Is there a feeling that I didn’t want to allow?”

  • Ask yourself what you are really hungry for.
    If it’s not physical hunger, maybe you’re hungry for rest, hungry for connection, for sports, for nature, for love, for a warm bath,….

Make it a habit: every time you catch yourself eating emotionally. To pause briefly, breathe deeply, and ask yourself:

What am I REALLY hungry for?

Take care of yourself and the emotions that need space: 

  • Maybe you are stressed – then take some time out.
  • Maybe you feel alone – then call a friend
  • Maybe you feel sad – then cry
  • Maybe you are angry – then scream or do some exercise, or dance
  • Whats on your list? 
How to overcome emotional eating

Thank you so much for taking the time to read the article.

I hope I was able to give you a brief and practical overview of what emotional eating is all about.

I could write a book about it, because there is so much to say, and will do so. But until then – here are easy to digest blog posts on the topics.

And whenever you’d like some support along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

All the love!


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