Emotional Eating: A Different Perspective

Posted by Smita Kishore on

Consumption. It’s part of our every day. From the foods we eat to the things we buy and even the activities we participate in, consumption surrounds us. But how often do we pause to ask ourselves why we consume the way we do? Is it simply because we enjoy the things we’re taking in or are there underlying emotions that affect our daily choices?

Last month, I shared an interview with Certified Holistic Health Coach Laura B. Folkes. Laura is back this month to tell us more about emotional eating, and how it can apply to all aspects of our lives, even beyond our plates!

A Different Perspective

When you think of emotional eating, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? In the traditional sense, many people think it occurs when they’re bored, sad, happy, lonely, etc. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an emotional eater, I encourage you to keep reading as it can apply not only to how you show up around food but also how you shop, drink, exercise, and more.

I didn’t think of myself as an emotional eater but after exploring my relationship with food, I learned there is so much more to emotional eating than we think. For instance, we often think it occurs during a specific meal or snack in a day if we aren’t able to “control” ourselves and our willpower in the moment. But this is just one scenario and it can be more subconscious than we know. 

When I was going through my weight loss journey, for years I knew what I was supposed to be eating. I was able to stay disciplined around food most of the time, but other times I’d fall off track. I’d often beat myself up for not being consistent and would tell myself that I’d start again tomorrow. Sometimes I was able to get back on the wagon the next day but other times it would take me a week, a month or multiple months. The one thing that remained consistent throughout all of this was that I was consumed by the thought of food. 

What I finally discovered was that I wasn’t lacking willpower, but rather, all of this was happening because of small emotional triggers that kept popping up without my awareness. When these triggers showed up, there were a few common reactions I’d have when faced with a food that sounded good but wasn’t necessarily in alignment with my healthy eating goals. All of these seemed innocent at the moment but the aftermath wasn’t pleasant! At the time I would tell myself:

    • “Screw it! I’m just going to eat this [fill in the blank]”
    • “I deserve it!” (after a long, hard day or after being “good” for a while)
    • “Who cares? I’ll just eat this. It’s not a big deal.” 

The aftermath that ensued consisted of a lot of negative self-talk and beating myself up for not being able to stick with what I knew I “should” be eating. There was a lot of guilt and shame baked into my food choices. For me, the main themes that typically led to eating out of alignment with my goals were:

    • A new level of uncertainty in my life
    • Feeling vulnerable
    • Feeling misunderstood
    • Feeling emotionally or physically depleted

    At the time, because I was living on autopilot, I had no idea any of this was happening beneath the surface. But when you pause to really think about it, those were all emotional situations and triggers that led to food feeling more powerful and rewarding in the moment because it was used as a way to relieve the pressure that had been building.  

    Emotional Triggers

    The themes that affected me and my patterns with food are just a few that can pop up. Every person is unique and can be affected by a variety of emotional triggers. Some of the most common ones I have come across for many of my clients are when they feel:

      • Needy
      • Anxious
      • Isolated
      • Inadequate
      • Exposed 
      • Depleted

      When any of these triggers arise, it can be challenging to stick to what you know works and can feel like you’re lacking willpower or discipline as a result. 

      And, it’s not just around food! You might start mindlessly shopping on your phone, coming up with reasons why you can’t make it to the gym, consuming endless amounts of TV or social media, giving yourself permission to eat something out of alignment with your goals, or push off starting a healthy habit that will help you work towards reaching your overall wellness goals. 

      So the next time you feel like you’re struggling to stay on track or get back on track, take a moment to self-reflect and see if any of the below symptoms have popped up. If so, check in as to whether any of the above triggers are present. (Note: the trigger likely would have happened within 24-hours)

        • Consumed by the thought of food
        • Eating and it doesn’t make sense
        • Waiting to eat until it’s too late
        • Having a hard time getting back on track despite knowing what you “should” do
        • Trying to fill a void by what you are consuming
        • Mindlessly shopping on your phone
        • Procrastinating to get started with something on your to-do list

        The first step to help experience freedom and rewarding experiences is to identify your triggers and to make the connection between underlying emotions and behaviors that are out of alignment with your goals. When you start to become more aware and are able to recognize your emotions, you can be on your way to freedom from emotional eating and consuming. 

        If you find this challenging to do you on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to Laura with any questions you may have! She’s offering our readers a free 45-minute introductory session :)


        laura-folkes-holistic-health-coach-foodLaura B. Folkes is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach. She supports busy adults who know what they should be eating but have a hard time sticking to it by helping them identify the familiar patterns keeping them stuck so they can radically transform their relationship with food. She ensures her clients don’t feel deprived by guiding them to make small, incremental changes so the journey is more enjoyable. After successfully losing 60 pounds and working through her own emotional relationship with food, Laura recognizes there are many factors keeping individuals from sticking to what they know works but it’s her mission to help others overcome these factors to become healthier and happier. You can find Laura at: Email: laura@laurabfolkes.comWebsite: laurabfolkes.com; Instagram: @laurab.folkes; Facebook: @laurabfolkes.



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