When asked to name their number one food-related challenge, many people will immediately say “emotional eating.” We’ve been taught that it’s bad to use food to help us process our emotions, but we find ourselves reaching for certain special snacks or meals to celebrate happy occasions and to console ourselves when we aren’t feeling so good. The contrast between what we do and what we think we SHOULD do can leave us feeling guilty, ashamed, or self-critical. But as Marc David suggests in this encouraging video from #IPEtv, there’s another way to look at emotional eating – one that opens possibilities for growth and healing. Tune in now and find out how to reframe emotional eating as an opportunity instead of a problem!
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Here is a transcript of this week’s video:
Greetings friends, this is Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.
Today’s Topic: What’s So Good About Emotional Eating?
Now please check this out – I’m going to take a slightly different approach to the very emotional topic of emotional eating. I’m going to reinvent and re-imagine what emotional eating is, and why it actually might be a good thing.
For starters, let’s be clear, and let’s get on the same page – I know how intense emotional eating can be. I spent much of my childhood and teenage years doing it. I spent a majority of my professional career noticing it, watching it, trying to treat it in my clients, seeing how powerful and poignant it can be, and seeing how it can take over our lives and create a lot of pain and confusion. I watched the intense challenges my mother faced, when she was alive, with emotional eating, and I’ve watched as so many of the people closest to me have battled this for far too long.
I’ve also seen so many people try so hard to overcome emotional eating, to fight it, to use their willpower to squash it, and to try everything under the sun to no avail. So, I’m invested in finding another way. I’m passionate about looking for answers and strategies in places where we haven’t looked before.
Here’s what I discovered:
We have to reinvent how we are seeing this challenge.
We need to approach it in a different way in order to get a different result.
That’s why we need to look at what’s good about emotional eating.
In other words, there is a place where it’s doing us a favor.
There’s a place where it serves us.
There’s a place where it has a message for us.
There’s a place where it has a wisdom.
There’s a place where it’s trying to talk to us and communicate to us in its own unique language.
There’s a place where it’s trying to get our attention.
And because each of us is a very unique and interesting human being – it stands to reason that there are indeed as many reasons why one would emotionally eat as there are people who are emotional eaters.
So we’re not going to solve emotional eating right now, we’re not going to fix it for you, and there won’t be any magic formula that’s going to take it away.
Emotional eating is way more interesting and complex than that.
We need to listen to emotional eating on its own terms.
If you can’t control it, then you need to start listening to it, respecting it, and being curious about why it’s here.
So what’s good about emotional eating?
What’s good is that it’s a teacher.
It’s trying to teach us some important life lessons.
Allow me to share some of these lessons – 3 of them to be exact.
See if any of these three common lessons apply to you:
Lesson #1 – Constant Dieting and Food Restriction Doesn’t Work
So many people are trying to lose weight, get in shape, fit into a certain dress size, shrink their body in specific ways – and the most common strategy to do this is eating less food. But because we live in a world where we are deeply conditioned to do certain eating habits that are scientifically outdated, a vast majority of people are calorie restricting, dieting, and limiting their nutrition – and the net result is that the body becomes nutritionally depleted and the brain screams for more food. Oftentimes, such intense hunger drives us to overeat, to binge eat – and the result is that it feels like I’m “emotionally eating.” But the problem is, our emotional eating had absolutely nothing to do with control, and nothing to do with the fact that we’re a moral or emotional weakling. The wisdom of millions of years of evolution is simply screaming through our nervous system, our digestive tract, and our appetite – I’m hungry! And so we eat.
So what’s so good about emotional eating in this case? Well, it’s doing its best to teach us that constant dieting, that being imbalanced in macronutrients and being deficient in nutrition, simply doesn’t work. The survival features of our brain will almost always overpower us and take front and center when it comes to making sure that we don’t starve. This is a good thing.
So, if you’re the kind of person who calls herself an emotional eater and you are a dieter, or you’re intensely trying to control your appetite – you may have found the reason for your out-of-control eating. It’s actually being driven by your physiology. It’s the wisdom of the body telling you that you need to make some course corrections.
Lesson #2 – You Don’t Have a Willpower Problem
I meet so many people who think they have a willpower problem – especially when it comes to food. “If I can only have more willpower, then I can control my appetite, my hunger, and I could be on top of the world, lose the weight that I want to lose, and then finally be happy.” But as we’ve just seen, when we are unnaturally food restricting, the brain will wisely scream “hungry.”
It would be easy for us at this point to think we have a willpower problem. But the problem has absolutely nothing to do with willpower, and everything to do with the natural inborn brilliant mechanisms that are the result of the wisdom of evolution.
You don’t have a willpower problem. And when we think we have a willpower problem, we’re only setting ourselves up for more guilt, shame, and self abuse, because when we constantly restrict our nutrition with the intention of losing weight – we’re setting ourselves up for failure. If having more willpower was the right strategy for managing emotional eating, it would have worked already.
So once again, emotional eating is teaching us. It’s teaching us that we don’t have a willpower problem. It’s asking us to look elsewhere.
Lesson #3 – Fighting Food Never Works
Chances are, if you’ve labeled yourself an emotional eater, then you’ve likely decided that food is the enemy, and if we somehow figure out a way to fight food, which also means fighting our appetite, then we can somehow win. After all, when I emotionally eat, it’s the food that seems to have all this power over me. It’s my appetite that seems to drive me. If I can only get stronger, if I can only put up a better fight, if I can only be more powerful and more in control, then I will be victorious in this war.
If this describes you, or your client, then let me offer this piece of advice:
We can never find true happiness if we fight food and see it as the enemy.
Eating is natural, appetite is natural, the desire for food is natural, it’s absolutely 1000% essential for survival, nonnegotiable, and to fight it is actually a hidden form of insanity. And I say that with some love and understanding. But I want you to hear that it’s crazy.
You need food. If you fight food, then it’s time to change your strategy. I’m willing to bet every dollar I have that if you call yourself an emotional eater and you try to overcome it by fighting food, then you’ve failed in this unwinnable war.
And oddly enough, that’s why emotional eating is so good in this particular case. It’s teaching us something. It’s teaching us that we need to step into a more nourishing relationship with food. It’s teaching us that we need to look in the mirror and re-examine how we are approaching the nourishment process.
It’s teaching us that we have to let go of the fight, because the fight doesn’t work. Nourishment does. Eating does.
So again my friends, this conversation we’ve started about emotional eating is just the beginning. It’s not meant to take away your problem. It’s meant to shine a light on it. It’s meant to help you see the beautiful territory of your relationship with food in a whole new way so that you can have the tools to begin to get where you truly want to go.
I hope this was helpful my friends.
To learn more about us please go to psychologyofeating.com.
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Again that is psychologyofeating.com.
This is Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.
Thanks so much for your time and interest.
To learn more about the breakthrough body of work we teach here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, please sign up for our free video training series at ipe.tips. You’ll learn about the cutting-edge principles of Dynamic Eating Psychology and Mind Body Nutrition that have helped millions forever transform their relationship with food, body, and health. Lastly, we want to make sure you’re aware of our two premier offerings. Our Eating Psychology Coach Certification Training is an 8 month distance learning program that you can take from anywhere in the world to launch a new career or to augment an already existing health practice. And Transform Your Relationship with Food is our 8 week online program for anyone looking to take a big leap forward with food and body.