30 things I learned about emotional eating during my Whole 30

Have you ever felt a need to ‘reset’ your diet and eating habits?

Like, life has gone through some changes and you’re not feeling or eating like you want to – but the baby-step changes I talk about just aren’t cutting it?

I definitely have.

I recently moved to Europe after living in Asia for 5 years – and the pastries, pasta, and pizzas got a little out of hand. I started to gain weight, feel sluggish, and get cravings every single night (cue the 9pm runs to the corner store for a new “cultural experience” – aka: junk food).

Not cool.

So, taking all my own advice, I kicked my self-care into high gear and also decided to reset my eating with a Whole 30 (my second one – you can read about #1 here).

In case you’re not familiar with it, on a Whole 30 you eat three meals a day of (roughly) the right amounts of meats, vegetables, and fats – all whole and unprocessed – for 30 days. You can eat all kinds of meats, vegetables, fruit, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Some oils are in. You can’t have any grains, dairy, added sugar, soy, legumes, alcohol, and a couple of other chemicals. You can’t eat food that tastes better than sex, or food you can’t control yourself over.

30 things I learned about emotional eating during my Whole 30

Emotional eating during a whole 30?

Won’t restriction lead to binge eating?

Yes, it certainly can.

I don’t recommend trying a Whole 30 to ‘fix’ your emotional eating – unless you can truly approach it from a place of “I love myself and this is an act of self-care.”

If you’ve been yo-yo dieting and are used to restricting food types or calories, this’ll be a really tough mindset to honestly have.

But, if you’re a bit further along in your journey and are looking to explore your relationship with food, then a Whole 30 is an amazing experience. It shines a scarily bright light into all the nooks and crannies of your relationship with food.

Which is a bit much if you’re just starting out. But – you can learn from me.

Along with finding out that my boyfriend is lactose intolerant (and finally solving his ‘mystery’ tummy issues), I learned a lot about emotional eating + diet change. Here are 30 things I learned about emotional eating from the Whole 30.

30 things I learned about emotional eating from my Whole 30


  1. People are way more accepting and helpful than you think they’ll be.
    Most people are curious and very willing to help you make it work.
  2. Some people are a pain in the butt.
    You’ll always have that friend who gets a bit weird and asks, “how’s your little diet going?” Smile and know that you’re doing this for you
  3. It can be hard to tell the difference between cravings and hunger.
    I developed the “boiled egg test”: if you’re not sure if you’re hungry, or if you’re only hungry for a really specific food (usual carbs), ask yourself if a boiled egg will hit the spot. If not, you’re probably not really hungry. 
  4. Meal planning is my lifeline to joyful non-emotional eating.
    Without a plan and a shopping list, things get very messy almost instantly. 
  5. Keeping things novel and exciting is important.
    You can’t eat the same thing every day and expect to feel ok about it. It’s important both mentally and physically to get a range of tastes, macronutrients, and micronutrients. 
  6. Cravings can last days – but they only have as much power as you give them.
    Cravings can feel like they take over your whole world, but you can choose to put them in perspective. They’re just feelings and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. 
  7. Self-care is the key to relaxing, celebrating, and living without food based rewards. 
  8. Support makes everything so much easier.
    If someone you trust is there to cheer you on, and you’re there for them too, you’ll be much less likely to quit. You can’t let your buddy down.
  9. But doing it with friends also makes it scarier
    – what if your support person gives up? 
  10. Facing life without all your ‘happy foods’ is incredibly confronting.
    When you realize just how much of your daily pleasure was coming from food and not from anything actually nourishing or fulfilling, it’s a shock.
  11. The bleaker life seems without sugar, the more you need to take a break from it.
    Sugar that is, not life.
  12. I am so much more than my cravings – and my life has deeper joys than food.
  13. Sugar is in nearly every darn thing.
    No wonder it’s so hard to get off it.
  14. Hard food ‘rules’ definitely don’t work for everyone
    – and should only be used for specific issues (such as food addiction), but a short-term set of rules that work towards a purpose (eg: identifying food sensitivities, developing better coping skills, toning down your sugar intake) can be very helpful and motivating. Not to mention, rules take any negotiation or guesswork off the table.
  15. Cooking can be therapeutic. 
  16. A lot of snacking and cravings are habitual.
    You’re not actually hungry and you don’t need ‘6 small meals a day’. Once you’ve broken the habit, things get easier.
  17. Some foods you think you love are actually gross when you reintroduce them.
    And it’s kind of sad.
  18. You get better at everything with practice
    – ignoring cravings, self-care, meal planning… everything.
  19. Having a bloat-free tummy feels ah-may-zing, and is hugely motivating. 
  20. Eating a full-sized breakfast sets me up for more balanced moods later in the day. 
  21. Balanced, happy eating is not about deprivation or calorie counting. 
  22. Eating well when you get sick is hard – but not impossible. 
  23. You probably won’t go back to your old way of eating.
    Or at least not entirely. The things you learn and the energy you’ve gained will keep you eating more whole-foods than ever before.  
  24. You’ll finish your Whole 30 with a much clearer idea of what you want your perfect relationship with food to look like.  
  25. You’ll be forced to find non-food ways to deal with stress.
    Like meditation, walking, or breathing exercises 
  26. How to say ‘no’ – especially when it comes to off-plan foods.
    This is an essential skill for recovering from emotional eating. 
  27. How empowering it is to take charge and do something big and meaningful for yourself.
    Something that comes from a place of self-love
  28. After 30 days of nothing but whole food, you’ll have confronted so many of your food-fears. 
  29. You’ll have learned a bunch of ways to have fun and enjoy life without eating
  30. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have fallen in love with healthy eating

A handy summary of what I learned about emotional eating during my whole 30

Here’s an image to pin or save:

30 things I learned about emotional eating during my Whole 30


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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