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Intuitive Eating

Emotional eating does not have to be a big deal

Three rows of cartoon faces showing different emotions are covered by three rows of doughnuts.

A couple weeks ago, all my regular routines went entirely out the window. This happens every year in mid-to-late June: my anxious brain gets caught up in the transition moment between my kid’s school wrapping up and summer life coming into full effect. It’s even more pronounced this year, as my kid has headed off to work at her first job. It’s an exciting time, with A LOT OF FEELINGS ping-ponging around our house.

To handle those feelings, emotional eating surfaced for me as a coping strategy. Because I don’t attach any shame to emotional eating, I was fully aware of it, and fully ok with it. Since recovering from a lifetime of restrictive diets, I’ve learned that emotional eating is just something humans do sometimes.

As far as coping strategies go, this one is pretty benign.

But if I had gotten swept up in the discourse about “food noise,” and fears about [read this in a vawy scawy voice] obeeeeeesityyyyyyy, I would 100% have made a HUGE DEAL out of it. I would have pathologized the SHIT out of myself instead of understanding that yeah, food can be comforting, okee dokee! The specific noise occupying my brain would have been:

Why the fuck am I eating this? Why can’t I control my food better?

This is so shameful. I need to hide the evidence.

I just ate all that and now I feel disgusting. I am disgusting.

Then I would’ve ended up restricting my food, and then I would “break my diet,” and then I’d be caught right back in a disordered, diet-binge cycle.

(To be clear, I’m making a distinction between

  • emotional eating, which is something humans do sometimes in response to cope with negative emotions or enhance positive ones, and
  • binge eating, which is a rebound reaction to food restriction.)

I don’t emotionally eat very often because I have a solid toolkit of other ways to process my feelings that are simply more effective. Because of my secure, chill relationship with food, I’m generally not drawn to it as a source of emotional comfort.

Which is good, because emotionally grazing on whatever instead of having regular meals that week resulted in me having heartburn that lasted a couple of days. Heartburn! I hadn’t had that in bloody years!

Now, of course it’s important to feel your feelings and not just eat them.

But contrary to current cultural dictates, you can actually eat emotionally and not be a monster as a result. You just have to be aware that it won’t be a long-term solution to your problems.

Listen, I’m raw-dogging life out here. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t use drugs. I don’t use gambling, shopping, sex, overexercising, or other addictions to cope. I drink fucking decaf coffee, ferchrissake. So as an adult-ass woman, I am perfectly okay with using Cheez-Its and TikTok as an occasional zone-out strategy.

And guess what? My annual end-of-June-stress has passed, as it always does. And so has my moment of emotional eating, as it always does—precisely because I don’t use it as proof of my horrible-ness.

No hand wringing, no moralizing, no fears about “food noise.” No blowing it up into a problem that had to be solved.

Instead, this week was simply a return to calm. The school year has wrapped up and my kid is ensconced at her summer job. My heartburn has disappeared. Summer mode is in full effect: for me, this means enjoying crisp watermelon, frozen grapes and ice cream between outdoor swims and breezy bike rides.

No. Big. Deal.

Can you imagine knowing deep down that you are ok even when you emotionally eat?

Does the thought of feeling THAT safe in your body seem like an impossible dream?

If so, we should talk.

I offer coaching that gets you unstuck from years of guilt and shame around food, and helps you figure out how to come home to your body.

Book a call and let’s see how we can get your from here to there.