The Emotional Eating Conundrum: 5 Reasons Why You Struggle

Last Updated on: 14th October 2023, 11:33 pm

Emotional eating is a common experience, and it often gets a bad rap. It’s crucial to approach it without pathologizing, understanding that emotions and food are intrinsically linked in many cultures. In this blog, I’m discussing why you might find yourself reaching for comfort food during tough times.

1. Emotions and Pleasure: A Powerful Combo When you’re grappling with distressing emotions, your brain instinctively seeks relief, this is a natural response. It attempts to ease the pain by providing a distraction and a touch of pleasure. Enter emotional eating, offering a double whammy of distraction and the pleasure of indulging. We all know that food can be incredibly pleasurable, making it an attractive choice. Binge eating, in particular, can act as a form of dissociation.

2. The All-or-Nothing Approach: A Recipe for Struggle Those rigid rules about what’s “good” and “bad” when it comes to eating can and do backfire. Its easier to stick to a ‘healthy’ or ‘clean’ pristine diet when your willpower is at its peak. But on tough days, when emotions are running high, it’s not uncommon to veer off course. That one “bad” choice can lead to a sense of failure and the idea that you should start fresh tomorrow. So why not indulge in a sea of “bad” foods today?

3. The “Last Supper” Farewell: A Diet Culture Hangover This behavior, the infamous “last supper” before starting a new diet, is straight out of the diet culture playbook. Just before you embark on your latest diet journey, you give yourself permission to consume every morsel of forbidden food. You eat until you’re way past full. It’s almost a rite of passage. Yet, it can foster unhealthy relationships with food.

4. Unmet Needs: When Food Takes the Place of Validation Emotional or physical needs that go unmet can often lead to emotional eating. If your relationship leaves you feeling unseen or unheard, or your job doesn’t offer validation, and you’ve lost your identity to the roles of mother and spouse, it’s easy to turn to food to fill that void.

5. No Habituation: When “Treat” Foods Never Lose Their Luster Certain foods are placed on a pedestal as “treats” while everyday items don’t get the same recognition. This can lead to viewing specific foods as extra special. After all, you’re not going to binge on broccoli, are you? The constant perception of certain foods as “good” or “bad” keeps them in a category apart.

So, remember that emotional eating is a natural part of life. Food and emotions are intrinsically intertwined, and that’s perfectly okay. They’re used for cleansing ceremonies and for connecting with loved ones at celebrations. Think about the ceremonial cake at weddings or the ceremonial cocoa shared during spiritual gatherings.

So, don’t be too hard on yourself—emotional eating is just another facet of the beautiful tapestry of human experience. The only issue can be when emotional eating is a routine or something that causes you emotional distress.

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If you find yourself resonating with any of these scenarios, remember, you’re not alone. It’s important to approach emotional eating with compassion and understanding. If you feel that your relationship with food needs support, don’t hesitate to reach out. Seeking guidance and fostering a positive connection with food can pave the way toward a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle.

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About Me

I’m Sarah, a registered dietitian and eating disorder specialist. I am passionate about helping individuals and families overcome the challenges of eating disorders, disordered eating, and mental health conditions. My expertise lies in supporting families and individuals with a history of trauma, including domestic abuse, and guiding children and teenagers through the complexities of eating disorders, particularly those stemming from adverse childhood experiences.

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