Emotional eating doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sitting on the couch, watching Netflix, eating an entire tub of ice cream. In fact, most of us who struggle with emotional eating tend to experience it in more subtle ways.
Which means, most of your emotional eating is likely unconscious to you now. It will feel difficult to separate which eating decisions are emotionally-driven and which one’s aren’t.
To eat healthy and lose weight permanently, you will need to build complete and total awareness of your emotions and how you’re eating in response to them now.
In this episode, I’m helping you redefine emotional eating in a way that allows you to build awareness of it now, so you can create the control with food that you want. I’m also addressing the resistance many of you will experience to building awareness of your emotions and how you eat now.
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Hello my friends. Welcome back to the podcast this week. As always, I am so happy that you are here. Today I want to talk about the concept of emotional eating reality and emotional eating is something I talk about a lot. It is my specialty. I have helped hundreds and hundreds of women overcome their emotional eating. So I know a thing or two about emotional eating and something I tend to see a lot is that a lot of people and a lot of you are mis defining what emotional eating actually is, and it’s being defined in a way I see that doesn’t serve you in terms of you solving for your emotional eating patterns.
So today I want to use this episode as a pallet cleanser for you to really have clarity in terms of how emotional eating is showing up for you now. And then I really want to go deeper into the topic of emotions in this episode today.
So once again, you can have clarity around how emotional eating is showing up for you now and how to even see your emotions as a human in a clear way. So let’s start, I think here today with how I see emotional eating being misdefined in the public or even sometimes in the health industry. And what I find is that most of you are defining emotional eating as very dramatic and very heightened.
So oftentimes if I meet a new client or if I’m speaking with one of you, you will see emotional eating as you or someone else sitting in front of the TV watching Netflix and finishing an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting, right? We’ve all watched movies and we’ve seen emotional eating depicted as being in this really heightened dramatic state while we’re eating and we’re emotional. And the problem with this is, is that we’ll see emotional eating as something that isn’t where we are now.
So sometimes what can happen is I will speak to a new client and they’ll be struggling to have control with food. They really don’t know where their work is or what’s going wrong. And when we come across the topic of emotional eating, they’ll tell me that they don’t really think that that’s something they have a problem with because they’ll tell me that they don’t really find themselves in front of the TV watching Netflix eating an entire pint of ice cream. Now, I have found myself doing that in the past when I struggled with food, and you may be as well, but there is a way to define emotional eating that feels more clear and isn’t so dramatic and heightened because here is all emotional eating is it’s very, very simple.
I don’t want you to define it based on the level of emotional eating that’s happening because all emotional eating is is eating in response to an uncomfortable emotion so you can seek comfort from it.
It is the most basic primal thing in the entire world in my opinion. And I’ll say it again, emotional eating is just eating in response to an uncomfortable emotion so we can seek comfort from it. Now, here’s what is massively important for all of us to understand. All of the humans have 50 50 positive emotion and negative emotion. It is the human experience. And so that means all of us will experience these micro urges to seek comfort from negative emotion throughout our day.
This is very primal and the most readily available source of comfort for us as humans is food without question, right? Because we have to eat to survive. There will always be opportunities throughout your day to seek comfort from your emotions cuz we gotta eat and you don’t have to watch Netflix to distract from your emotions. You don’t have to overspend your money to distract from your emotions, but you’re going to have to eat in your life.
So it’s very available for us as humans to seek comfort from our emotions in food. And what I want you to know is this doesn’t mean this looks like you sitting on the couch eating an entire tub of ice cream. This is natural emotional eating is natural for the humans and every human on this planet has felt a micro urge or a large urge to experience comfort in food. And in my program and in my coaching practice, that’s not actually what you solve for is being a human who has urges to seek comfort.
You learn how to manage that fully so it just doesn’t become a problem anymore. And this is what separates what I like to call the naturally healthy eaters from those of us who have struggled to have control with food. There are just the humans who have learned and have conditioned themselves to handle those micro urges, to comfort from emotions in a different way.
So hopefully that makes sense to start with. That’s how I want you to see emotional eating. It’s not this dramatic concept that is defined based on our dramatic overeating episodes. It’s just eating in response to a negative emotion to seek comfort. The other thing I want you to know that will make this clear for you is that uncomfortable emotion that we want to seek comfort from doesn’t just have to be a negative emotion.
So we can think about emotions that we want to seek comfort from are just vibrations in our body that we don’t want to sit with that feel uncomfortable for us to be in the presence of not doing anything else. So this is when a lot of you will think that you just overeat because you are bored. Why that’s happening is you’re having an intolerance to sitting with an emotional vibration that feels uncomfortable on its own.
It’s like having an itch that you wanna scratch. And so you can think of course negative emotions like frustration, inadequacy, shame, those are emotions in your body that will feel uncomfortable. And as a society we understand that, that these emotions are negative. But then I want you to consider emotions in your body like excitement, exhilaration, anticipation. And so these are emotions that aren’t necessarily negative.
They could be when we’re excited about something in our future or anticipation of an exciting event. But picture what that experience is like. If you are sitting alone in a room with no distractions, with that vibration in your body, it likely will feel a bit uncomfortable. So another way to look at emotional eating first where we started is that it doesn’t need to mean these dramatic eating episodes. It can be at the base level and then also it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always in response to negative emotion.
It can be in response to positive emotion. What we want to understand about emotional eating is that simple definition. It is in response to an uncomfortable emotion. So don’t get yourself in the weeds of emotional eating is only available to you when things in your life aren’t going well or things are hard, things could be going great and you can emotionally eat in response to vibrations that feel uncomfortable. This is always fun when I get the clients who their lives are going amazing, they’re having success at work, their family life is feeling very balanced and loving, and then they tell me they’re still struggling.
And it doesn’t matter what your experience now is of being a human. If you are finding yourself emotionally eating, then there’s just vibrations there that are feeling uncomfortable. And as a coach, my job if you work with me or you join my program, is to give you ultimate awareness of that so it’s no longer feeling confusing and you can solve for that root cause.
Now along with what I’m saying here is you really want to understand that emotional eating and the level of it can occur on a spectrum, and we all exist on this spectrum. So something I always like to offer new clients who think it means something terrible if they’re emotionally eating, we all are emotional eaters. Once again, this is very primal and very normal. We really want to normalize emotional eating.
And if there’s anything you take away from this episode that is what I would love for you to take away is that emotional eating doesn’t mean anything’s gone wrong with you as a human, that anything’s broken or that there’s anything to be fixed. It is completely normal and natural and we want to approach it as such. So you don’t work against yourself from the energy that something is wrong with you, but so you work with yourself to see what needs you are having emotionally.
And what I’m getting to is that emotional eating does occur on a spectrum and where it starts is when we just feel the micro urges to emotional eat, to seek base level comfort. And this is something you can experience throughout the day, and unless you are having active awareness of it, it won’t be obvious to you. So this can mean that something occurs at work that you disagree with, that created an uncomfortable vibration in your body and you end up eating snacks throughout the day that you didn’t even realize were coming from that vibration.
So you can picture that this is at that base level that we all have and in my practice you learn how to manage this. So that’s not happening, but it is perfectly natural. Next on that spectrum, you can consider emotional eating to suppress an emotion. So this is when you may be a little more aware of the emotion.
So maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed throughout your day, you are feeling frustrated at your partner or your spouse or you’re feeling exhaustion from maybe being a parent. So the emotions are obvious to you, but what’s not obvious to you is that you are eating to suppress those emotions. You are not actually feeling those emotions. So for example, if you come home from work and you feel what you think is overwhelm and then you go go on the couch and you eat , what’s actually happening is you are having an intolerance to overwhelm and you’re actually not feeling it.
You’re feeling the resistance of that and it’s becoming more heightened. So then you’re eating food to suppress that experience, which means the overwhelm will come back stronger each day and more regularly because emotions need to be processed. This is when I very lovingly like to call this emotional constipation to my clients because emotions like food need to be digested intentionally.
So this is eating to suppress. And then on the very far end of the spectrum is the most extreme which I call eating to punish. So this is when we can find ourselves in a place where we’re having a lot of negative self-talk happening in our mind that we are indulging and then we’re eating from that place. And these can be thoughts like it won’t matter anyway. I don’t deserve this. I’m not capable. Just really negative things that we are opting into in terms of how we see ourselves.
So you can think about eating to suppress as having an intolerance, foreign emotion, eating too punish is almost indulging in the emotion in such a way where we’re doing it from a place of self-loathing or a lack of care for ourselves. Something I really want to offer at this point is this can all sound very heavy and a little unsettling to see our emotional eating patterns in this way.
And I want to normalize this so heavily here that first, I’ll start with that. I have been in all of these places and I was never broken for being in these places. I just needed to have awareness that they were happening, that they were solvable, and that I could move myself out of each of those places in the spectrum in order to heal myself. But regardless of whether you find yourself in emotional eating for comfort to suppress or to punish, help is available to you and a solution is available to you, this is so normal to struggle with these things.
So just know that we really don’t want to get in the space where we believe that our eating struggles are not solvable because a lot of us will get in this unicorn state of mind where we think our problems are worse and they aren’t.
These are all very normal places to be in when it comes to emotional eating. So how you start addressing emotional eating is you just start by being the observer of your emotional eating patterns. So you just start noticing how you eat in response to uncomfortable emotion. And how you be a good observer of your eating habits is you do so without adding suffering to what you see. So you observe your eating habits without adding judgment, without indulging in the negative self-talk your brain gives you.
Because what will happen is after observing your eating patterns and what’s happening for you, then you can graduate from being the observer to being the decider of your eating decisions, which means you need to be willing to observe those eating patterns in the first place and have that awareness. So where all of you will need to start is you will need to have awareness of how you are eating and how you are feeling throughout your day.
Now, a couple of ways you can do this. First off, you need to take the focus off of what you are eating. I know so many of us have been really conditioned in diet culture to hyper focus on the foods as the problem. So we’ll want to create different meal plans, diet protocols, put them in our calendar and then have that solve the problem. I’m telling you to not focus on that here. What I want you to focus on instead is how you are eating. So that can mean are you overeating?
Are you eating when you’re hungry or not? When you’re hungry, are you eating past your fullness? In this case, I want you to have awareness of when you’re eating in response to an uncomfortable emotion, and I want you to have an awareness of what those emotions are. Even if that means each day you just determine what was the one main emotion you were feeling throughout your day.
Even doing this can be life changing because so many of us have been conditioned to not have any awareness of our emotions at all. So just start having awareness of them and just determine what is the one emotion I felt throughout my day that was the main emotion I felt today. Or you can just ask yourself the simple question at any time, how am I feeling? That one’s a game changer, guys, , you can just ask yourself, how am I feeling?
So here’s what I want to bring you to. The mis definition of emotional eating as I shared is this really heightened dramatic version of emotional eating where we’re eating that cup of ice cream. But the reason why you believe that emotional eating looks like this is because you don’t have awareness of your emotions or your eating patterns. So what I mean is that you are emotionally eating now and you just have no awareness of it.
So you are unconscious to your eating habits as a whole. And this will happen for any of us who have not practiced having awareness. So what that means is that your definitions of certain things with food and your body are going to be more extreme because you lack awareness and consciousness at the base level. So for example, right, you don’t notice emotional eating unless it’s at that extreme level where we’re eating that tub of ice cream. It’s the same thing with fullness.
For a lot of you, you will not notice base level fullness until you’re stuffed or you won’t notice base level hunger until your ravenous, right? Notice this how your definitions of different things with food and body may be at the more extreme level because you don’t have base level awareness of those things. This is why in my practice, my clients know this.
Awareness is everything. It is key. This is the power of having someone coach you to help you bring awareness to your patterns. And I always want to offer if this is the missing link for you and it really feels like that awareness would be the solution to your eating struggles, I really want to offer that you join own your eating habits because being in that program will solve this problem for you. And I like to always offer that you just won’t be confused ever again.
You will learn how to have that awareness moving forward. So there’s never a question mark on why you are eating the way you’re eating. Because here’s why having a lack of awareness will be a big struggle for you. You will try to solve for your eating habits and maybe wait without any awareness of what’s actually keeping you stuck.
I always say it’s like trying to find a cat in a dark corridor with a blindfold on , right? It’s so much harder than it needs to be. And if you are trying to change the way you eat in this way, my gosh, it’s going to be so discouraging. It’s going to be frustrating. And you’re going to be left with a lack of belief in yourself that you can find the cat right, or that you can solve for your eating struggles and your weight.
It’s going to put you in this place of low morale with this work. And none of this is true. You can solve for your eating habits and lose the weight. You can do all of it. Eating healthy, losing the weight and finding the cat is simple for anyone. We just need to help you turn the lights on and remove the blindfold.
So that is what’s happening for so many of you. You are trying to solve for these struggles from a place of total lack of awareness, and that is what I really want to help you solve so you can remove the blindfold and have complete awareness and clarity. Now with that, what I want you to be aware of, this is the biggest thing I see with newer clients and newer people who enter my community is a lot of you will keep yourself from having this awareness willingly because you’re having an unwillingness to observe the truth of where you are with your eating habits and how you are responsible for them.
And why we do this, I’ve done this too. Why we do this is because there is an emotion, a vibration, right, that we’re unwilling to feel. So, so many of us in the beginning, for example, will think I’m not capable of eating healthy long term.
I’m not capable of losing weight long term. All of the past evidence shows that that’s just not for me, maybe for other people, it’s just not for me. And we really think we’re a special case. And what happens here, it’s because we’ve spent so long chasing the cat in the dark with the blindfold on. And because we haven’t seen ourselves with the blindfold on and in the dark, we think that we must be the problem, that we’re not capable, that something is wrong with us. So we’re unconscious to our eating habits and we don’t uncover why we’re emotionally eating and when we’re emotionally eating.
So we’re looking for the cat with that blindfold on. But then what happens is when we can turn the lights on, remove the blindfold, and observe the truth of where we are and see things clearly, you will resist it.
You’ll resist removing that blindfold and seeing the truth. Why does that happen? For the same reason that you are emotionally eating, you’re resisting an emotional, natural human experience that is present when you take action in a way that is useful for you. You resist an emotion that is necessary to feel for you to show up in the way you want to in the world. This is to say that you have to begin building awareness of your emotions and how you eat, of course.
But the first step is for you to decide to accept and embrace that awareness into your life, to decide to be responsible for all of it, which means the first emotion to be aware of is what you’re going to feel and what you may want to resist when you decide to be aware of all of it and take the blindfold off and turn the lights on, you decide to see it all.
Think about what emotion you would need to feel and allow when you turn those lights on. Because what will happen is you may have to sit with the experience of I am responsible for these results. My eating habits are in my control. I’m not entitled to the results I want. I must create them. I have the power and I have the ability to make this work. Because think about the discomfort that’s available to you if you are willing to give up the story that you are not capable because that feels really uncomfortable to think we’re not capable.
But imagine the different flavor of discomfort when we take the blindfold off and we see the solution in front of us and we think, think, oh, I am capable technically, I technically can do these things and solve this problem. Now, what may come up for you is the lack of trust that you’re going to take action and do it.
There’s gonna be something there available to you, a different objection your brain has as to why that result isn’t guaranteed for you. It’s just going to be a different flavor. And for most of us, we’re actually really comfortable indulging in the I’m not capable story. It’s not possible for me. So really this sad story of why we struggle with food. But if you give up that sad story and you step into responsibility and possibility, there’s going to be a different flavor of discomfort.
And I want you all to expect that, that there may be this micro urge, this resistance to taking that blindfold off and creating this result for yourself. It’s not going to be this sunshiney experience of I have the solution and I’m capable and I can make this happen for myself. Because now your brain’s gonna have objections of, okay, I know the way I have the solution, but what about me?
Do I believe that will prevent me still from creating that result? Do you see what I mean here? I want you to expect that you have to be aware of what creates your emotional eating patterns. But in order to take that blindfold off and be aware, there will even be an emotion then that you will need to begin processing and be aware of. This is very common with my program. So the women who join, the reason why they are so successful is because in order to sign up for my program and make an investment in themselves, they have to in that moment, process whatever emotion is there when they decide to join.
And for some of them it’s the first time in a long time that they’re processing any emotion effectively. And this is huge because in signing up for my program and making an investment to sign up, they just did the same work that will be necessary for them to stop emotionally eating and lose the weight permanently because they allowed an emotion rather than resisted it or reacted to it.
Because what’s happening is they show up to a consult and every single human who shows up to solve this problem will have self-doubt or will have thoughts that create an emotion that feels uncomfortable. And what happens is these women will have these thoughts playing in their mind even though they’ve taken the blindfold off in that consult and they see the solution and the women who join end up being so successful because they don’t react to that feeling. They take action in a way they want despite that feeling being present.
Think about this, right? Because if we’re reacting to that fear or that self-doubt, that can show up for some of us when we want to create a change and we’re not going to create a change or in this case make an investment in ourselves and sign up for a program, we’re going to go back to our old ways of doing things and we’re going to resist that feeling.
Women who join my program, it is amazing to see how in that moment they have done the work to actually process an emotion in signing up for my program. They did the same work that will be necessary for them to stop emotionally eating and lose the weight permanently. And it’s why I of course believe that investing in yourself with this, this work is the most inspiring part of the journey. Because if you can take action on something you want move forward and decide to build awareness despite a negative emotion that you’re feeling, you are already halfway there because you’ve proven to yourself that you have the ability to feel an emotion that is highly uncomfortable and take action on something you genuinely want.
There is power in that and that is the work. So I wanted to give you a clearer lens on how you can define emotional eating.
Emotional eating was not meant to be defined at the state of heightened emotion and heightened overeating. It was meant to be defined and acknowledged at the most basic level where you’re having a normal human emotion and you are experiencing a normal urge to seek comfort in food. That is it. You are not broken. If you emotionally eat, you are not flawed, you are not to be fixed. You just need to learn to work with your natural humanness so you can create the results you want in your life with food and body.
It is manageable and accessible for anyone. And that added lesson to this is you beginning to acknowledge emotional eating at the basic level will mean that you have to decide to see that awareness and build that awareness. So you take action on a process like this, which of course means that you will have to process a basic emotion to begin with.
When you decide to solve for your eating habits and your weight permanently. You will need to be willing to have a more intimate relationship with yourself than you did before. You will need to be willing to observe yourself, your eating habits, how you operate from a lens of total acceptance and compassion. And if this is feeling hard to access, you are a human. I have been here and this is completely normal. If you want more support with this awareness aspect, that is exactly what coaching is for.
Coaching gives you the support to move through this awareness in a way that is productive so you’re not bowing out of the experience of growth. So you are maintaining your progress and you’re able to show yourself over time that you can be trusted to create these results with food and body and maintain them for the rest of your life. All right, so I hope that this was helpful today. There were a few rants in today’s episode. I know it was a lot, but if you can take anything away from this episode, just know that emotional eating is a simple struggle that is solvable.
And what that will require is for you to have awareness of your emotions and to have awareness of how your eating now. All right, I hope this was helpful today. Have a great rest of your week and I’ll talk to you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified life and health coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.