How to use your emotional eating for self-care

Use your emotional eating for self-care

As an emotional eater, do you think food is:

a) Your best friend – food is there for you, no matter what.

b)  Your worst enemy – food is always leading you astray and sabotaging your goals.

c) The most confusing relationship you have – you don’t know what it wants from you.

d) All of the above.

… It’s ‘D’, right?

Your relationship with food is firmly in the 'it's complicated' category. Here's how to use your emotional eating for self-care instead of self-sabotage.

You’re an emotional eater, so of course, your relationship with food is firmly in the ‘it’s complicated’ category. It’s simultaneously your biggest comfort and your most painful struggle. Which makes taking action + moving forward confusing, to say the least.

My bold statement:

All your emotional eating is an attempt at self-care.

I know, you’re thinking “how can something so frustrating, painful, and out of control be called ‘self-care’?!” And you’re right – it’s not true self-care; it’s an attempt. There are parts of you calling out for care and recognition and you’ve learned (which is totally normal) that food is how you do that.

The problem is, it’s hurting you a whole lot more than it’s helping, and none of the inner causes are ever being addressed or healed.

Which is why you keep eating.

How to use your emotional eating for self-care

When I work with women to stop their overeating, we spend a lot of time creating self-care strategies that are way better and more effective than junk food – but it’s a very personalized and in-depth process that we work through together. I want to show you what you can do quickly and easily at home to start easing out of the emotional eating cycle.

So, you know how you’re using food as an attempt at self-care? Well, since you’re already doing that, let’s make things really easy and start seriously, for real, using your emotional eating for self-care.

The habits and patterns are already there for you, so let’s hijack them and use them to your advantage by tweaking these emotional eating self-care attempts into full-on functional self-care.

No, I’m not talking about crappy “swap your doughnut for carrot sticks” advice. Who are they kidding and does that trick work for? Not emotional eaters, that’s for sure.

So no, I’m not going to tell you to swap your comfort food for healthy (and totally non-comforting) alternatives.

Here’s what to do

Instead of swapping your comfort foods for something “healthy” but unexciting, try swapping them for the highest quality, best version of your comfort food that you can get your hands on. For example, if you usually head straight for

  • Chocolate – try looking for luxury brands, or those that are fair trade and rainforest alliance certified. 
  • Ice cream – don’t buy the cheap stuff, get yourself the smaller tubs of luxe ice cream. 
  • Pizza – don’t get cheap take-out, go gourmet and get something that’s a full on quality treat. 

You get the idea.

Why does this work?

Eating higher quality foods, even comfort foods, has some huge benefits. I mean, if you’re going to be comfort eating the food anyway, why not get the most out of it that you can? Such as:

  • More satisfaction – meaning you can actually eat less for the same amount of pleasure. 
  • You slow down because it’s more special (and expensive) – which means you’ll eat less and enjoy it more. 
  • It really does become a treat rather than just something you’re doing out of habit or desperation. 
  • Your comfort eating isn’t negatively tinged with a hint of punishment (thoughts like ‘you don’t deserve the nice chocolate’). 
  • Quality food is more expensive, which can naturally help limit how much you buy and eat. 
  • Generally, higher quality food has better nutrition. So, even if you’re comfort eating, you can at least get the most out of it that you can. 

I can hear you objecting

Isn’t this just more expensive emotional eating?
Yeah, it is. It’s a single step on a longer road of healing and recovery. You’re learning how to treat yourself better using something that’s familiar. Once that’s easy and automatic and you’ve learned what it has to teach you, you can move on to non-food techniques. But, that step will be easier because you’ve built a solid base of “I’m worth it”.

What about self-control and willpower? I’ll have even LESS if I get the good stuff.
I hear you. This is a big fear, and you’re not wrong. Sometimes, if you’re really starved for pleasure or comfort, you will struggle for control – but that’s already happening, right? Seriously, give this technique a try for a week – it’s not a miracle, it’s a practice. And willpower sucks as a long-term technique anyway – if you’re going to overeat it might as well be on quality foods. But when you start to consistently care for yourself with quality, things start to shift in your internal world, which changes your eating.

Your action step

Identify ONE food you’re going to upgrade to the max this week. Buy the best quality version of that food that you can find and then focus on eating it with conscious and mindful pleasure and the knowledge that you are worth this quality and this enjoyment.

You’re looking for:

  • Best flavor 
  • Natural ingredients 
  • Attractive packaging and product 
  • Organic ingredients 
  • Fair trade or rainforest alliance certified 
  • You’re excited by it 

At the end of the week, reflect on:

  • How did it feel to eat this quality food? 
  • What has changed for you in how you understand your emotional eating? 
  • How does this technique feel? Is it something you want to continue experimenting with? 

I know it can sound incredibly scary to embrace your long-term food frenemy like this, but killing it with love and kindness by learning to value yourself and take great care of your wellbeing is simply amazing. You can use your emotional eating for self-care.

Your relationship with food is firmly in the 'it's complicated' category. Here's how to use your emotional eating for self-care instead of self-sabotage.

About Samantha

Hello! I'm Sam and I'm an Eating Psychology Coach. I work with women who struggle with emotional eating and weight loss to develop new strategies and lifestyles so they can stop using food to cope, lose weight, and eat happy.

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2 thoughts on “How to use your emotional eating for self-care

  • Rizzy

    This was some great information! I am also on a budget and battling with emotional eating so I think this will serve as double treat to relax on my budget and to indulge in the best of my comfort food. We need to show value of our selves even in the small things. Thanks and I will try that challenge this week! 🙂

    • Samantha Post author

      Hey Rizzy! Thank you so much for sharing your comment – that sounds like a great idea. I love the feeling of being a little more relaxed with money (where possible) and using it for self-care. It’s totally the little things that count, you’re so right!