Why you struggle with emotional eating and how to stop

Why Emotional Eating?

At some point in your life as an emotional eater, you have definitely wondered “Why do I DO this?!”

You tell yourself tomorrow will be different and that you won’t keep chocolate in the house anymore. And you swear you’ll never eat Krispy Kream again because it gives you a headache. You promise that you’ve learned your lesson this time – feeling this full is no fun and you’ll be moderating your portion sizes from now on.

I told myself these things for years. So. Many. Years.

I’d get crazy frustrated at myself for causing my body and mind so much pain with my food choices… which weren’t choices so much as rationalizations and self-sabotage I called ‘choice’ to make it feel more empowering.

But I wasn’t empowered at all. And if you’re asking yourself “Why do I do this… why did I eat that… why didn’t I stop…?”, you’re not either.

But you can be.

I’m going to show you how (and introduce my new ebook!!)

Emotional eating: You can't figure it out. You swear to yourself that tomorrow will be different. Here's how to really do that.

My story

I’m certainly not perfect, and I still have the occasional “why” food moments, but these days I have answers. I know why and I can answer my own questions, and with those answers, comes solutions.

My food choices went from being one of the most confusing and powerless areas of my life, to something I don’t really have to pay much attention to (most days). And from speaking to lots of you lovely ladies, I know that one of the things you want most to feel free from the worry, obsession, and struggle of waiting to see where you’re going to lose control next and eat in a way that makes you feel so much less than you could be.

So, let’s look at why you’re using food for comfort and how you can stop.

Why do you use food?

There is always a reason you turn to food. A real reason – not that you’re weak, have no willpower, or are somehow just a broken human. You’re a very functional human doing a very normal, sensible thing.

Yes, your emotional eating makes total sense. You can stop calling yourself crazy right now.

As I said, there is always a very good reason you turn to food. It might be because of a chemical addiction to food substances (click to find out more about that and if it might be the case for you using my handy quiz PDF), or your unwanted eating may have an entirely emotional basis (or both, lucky you… not so much).

The emotional basis is what we’re covering today.

The bottom line is, your emotional eating is filling needs you have that are not being met. I’m sure you know, that need’s not hunger.

Guaranteed: If you’re eating in a way you don’t want to and can’t stop – you’re eating is filling at least one very strong need for you.

These needs can range from being simple and really obvious to you, to really complex, layered, and hidden. The key is being able to listen to what your eating is telling you

  • Listen to what your eating is telling you 
  • Identify the needs 
  • Find really effective ways to fill the needs without food 

When you look at it this way, emotional eating is really an attempt at self-care. It’s not some major personal failing or source of shame. Your subconscious is just trying to get you what you need.

Case study: Fiona’s emotional eating

This is a real-life story of one of my clients, Fiona (not her real name).

Fiona is a super high-achieving lady. She works in finance, has a job she’s really dedicated to, and tons of ambition. She came to me because she couldn’t control her eating and was at a total loss as to why she could be so successful at work and then fail so completely with something as simple as what she ate.

She’s a perfectionist, so I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was really sucking at her confidence and making her question herself at every turn. She saw herself as weak and believed that her eating made her (mostly male) colleagues also see her as powerless.

After a couple of sessions together, she shared that she had these really embarrassing fantasies.

So embarrassing that she blocked them out and wouldn’t let herself daydream. Sounds juicy, right?

Well, turns out these forbidden fantasies were about her success. She imagined herself solving complex problems at work or giving great talks and presentations that wowed her coworkers. She was so ashamed and so scared that her daydreams wouldn’t come true, that she totally walled off that part of her mind.

All it took was me (so really: her) giving permission to experience these dreams. We talked about ways that she could trust herself and stay emotionally safe while feeling all the feels from these epic dreams of awesomeness.

So, she came to our next session totally elated. She’d allowed herself to dream! At first, the fantasies came in a big rush and she was scared of them, but after a few days it slowed down and things normalized… and so did her eating.

When she gave herself permission to really feel, she met the needs she was filling with food, and some major pieces shifted for her.

She wasn’t afraid to dream of success anymore. Instead, her daydreams gave her confidence, pleasure, release, and a way to explore future plans.

Talk about a lot to bottle up – no wonder she was piling food on top to hold it all in. With this release, the multiple chocolate bars she was eating each day just fell away.

Fiona doesn’t need to use food anymore and now has as much success with her eating as she does in the rest of her life. She accepted that her eating was happening for a reason, uncovered that reason, and filled it in a different way.


What could your needs be?

You may have been taught that having needs is ‘needy’ or selfish. So, like Fiona, you turned them off and soldiered on. Or maybe you learned that you don’t deserve to have needs, or that you’ll fill them when you lose 15lbs, get a promotion, or are finally in a relationship.

Or maybe you just don’t know what you need.

If you’ve read my free ‘4 Steps to Stop your Emotional Eating, you know the most common causes of unwanted eating are:

  • Loneliness 
  • Anger 
  • Boredom 
  • Discomfort (physical and mental) 
  • Not feeling pleasure 
  • Sadness 
  • Tiredness 
  • Feeling judged 

It could be feeling too much, feeling too little, not knowing how to express these emotions, or not allowing yourself to have them.

You might strongly identify with one (or more) of these, or you might have other reasons. What’s important to know is that no matter what feelings lead to your eating, it’s trying to move you into a different, more desirable, emotional state.

For example, if you have a need for social connection that’s not being met you will feel lonely. This feeling of ‘lonely’ is telling you that you’re missing something in life, that you have a need: connection with another living thing.

You try to get that feeling of connection (meet you need) by eating – which makes total sense! But, it’s not actually helping you make real connections, fill your need, or meet your goals.

Use this worksheet (taken directly from my ebook Your 7-Day Emotional Eating Action Plan — free sample, anyone?) to journal and brainstorm your needs.


How to stop your emotional eating

If this all made sense to you and you’ve done the worksheets, you now have some ideas on what needs you’re filling with food. Your next step is to work out how you want to do that.

I’d love for you to check out the 7-Day Emotional Eating Action Plan – a 20+ page workbook to guide you through a 7-day step-by-step plan to end your emotional eating. You’ll use the needs you’ve uncovered here, and make a personalized plan to fill them with consistency and ease.The bundle includes a free 7-day meal plan – including recipes! – so you’ll know exactly what to do each step of the way.

The bundle includes a free 7-day meal plan – including recipes! – so you’ll know exactly what to do each step of the way. Click here to check it out now.

“I have always struggled with eating and eating habits. The 7-day Action Plan helped me see clearly, black on white, what my eating habits are like and what I should change. It also gave me the tools to do so.” – Hanna, Finland

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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