September 18, 2014

Put Down The Fork: 2 Steps to Ending Emotional Eating. ~ Melissa Jo Clark

Albert Kurniawan at Pixoto

As a culture we’re all emotional eaters.

Yes, a bold and blanketed statement, but think about your last “celebration.”

Was there cake, a fancy meal or some kind of treat involved?

Chances are the answer is yes. Emotional eating is deeply ingrained into our everyday lives, so I’d be surprised if you said no!

Even I had cake to celebrate my last birthday; I treated myself to my favorite (vegan) carrot cake for a recent success at work and I find myself usually suggesting a dinner date to socialize with friends.

See? We’re all guilty.

While the emotional eating that includes celebrating and gathering around food can be done in a way that supports a healthy habit, reaching for that extra slice of pizza, cake or (insert your favorite go-to food here) can easily become a coping mechanism or a way to distract you from the uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings that arise in everyday life.

“Food is love, food is comfort, food is reward, food is a reliable friend. And, sometimes, food becomes your only friend in moments of pain and loneliness.” ~ Tribole + Resch, Intuitive Eating

Wow. Before you feel embarrassed, guilty or start throwing yourself a pity party, consider this:

Food is emotionally charged, but you have the power to control it.

There’s a way to create awareness (and possibly even change) your emotional eating pattern.

And here’s how to start:

1. Change the way you celebrate.

From the time we were kids, food has been used to celebrate wins and accomplishments.

I remember post soccer game pizza parties, and I remember my parents taking me out to a special dinner when I got straight A’s on my report card (yes, I was a nerd).

And that’s not to mention the many holiday meals, special cakes and dinner parties with friends and neighbors.

Even now that I make my own food choices, celebrations and social gatherings still tend to focus around food and drink.

But it doesn’t have to be like that!

Think outside the box for creative and enjoyable ways to hang out with friends or ways to celebrate that aren’t centered around food.

Just got a promotion? Treat yourself to a beach day, manicure or spa day instead of splurging on a savory meal.

Is your friend moving away? Try a new spin class together. Not only is it healthier for you, it’s also a great experience to share with someone.

My friend Leann recently moved out West, so as a going away get-together we tried a new spin class at a local studio, then we got a bite to eat.

The class was jam packed with energy, music and an awesome workout. Since our meal was post workout, we didn’t over indulge at dinner. Instead, we had bottomless glasses of water and a fraction of the amount of food we would have ordered had our meal been the main focus of our evening.

Some other activities you can enjoy with friends include:

Paddle boarding
Go karts
Drive-in movies
Cardio dance class
Foot reflexology session

If taking food out of the equation is too extreme of a first step (remember, baby steps are crucial to implementing lasting change), then pair the non-food activity with a traditional foodie celebration.

2. Question yourself.

Before you open the freezer door and reach for that pint of ice cream (even if it is vegan), ask yourself one question—Why am I eating?

Are you eating out of boredom?

Did you just get into a fight with your friend or partner?

Are you stressed or anxious from work?

Once you figure out why you’re eating, you’ve put the power back into your hands.

To eat, or not eat, it’s your choice. Just make sure you know why you want to eat.

If you’re eating because your body is hungry, then eat!

If you’re eating without actually feeling hungry, chances are your emotions are playing a major part in your need for food.

Reflect on your emotions, write them down, call a friend or talk them out loud to yourself. Ask yourself what, instead of food, you actually need.

It’s time to separate your emotions from your fork and create a healthier way to deal with life.

Once you’ve uncovered why you’re eating and figure out what your body actually needs, seek it out!

Prioritize y-o-u for health’s sake and honor your body by giving it what it truly needs.

With just these two steps, you are on your way to emotional eating recovery. If nothing more, you’re on your way to emotional eating awareness.

If you’re struggling with emotional eating on a serious level, I encourage you to seek help from a doctor, therapist or health coach to work through this process.


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Travis May

Photo: Albert Kurniawan/Pixoto

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Melissa Jo Clark