Help For the Emotional Eater!

by Dana Snook on January 16, 2014

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Emotions are linked to food no matter how you look at it. I love M&M’s because my grandparents always kept a glass candy dish above their television stocked every time we visited. M&M’s = Love! I love lobster because on my 13th birthday, I got to pick where I wanted to eat and I chose Red Lobster. Lobster = Happy Family Times! I hate venison because someone from my past tricked me into eating it,  it tasted bad, and I didn’t like being tricked. Venison = Bad Memories 

These are just a few of my examples (believe me I could go on) of how food is linked to my emotions. In all honesty, these are silly examples in comparison to some things I have heard in my office. I have seen clients, who have had food withheld because they were considered overweight as a young children. I have had clients that were told they needed to lose weight constantly. I have had clients whom were rewarded with food for every tear, celebration and failure in their life. These issues can bring up serious negative emotions with foods. In my experience, if you have been on a diet and binge cycle for many years, it’s likely you are an emotional eater.

Have you ever…

  • started a diet and initially loved it, felt motivated and even lost weight and then something happened? You became even more obsessed with food then ever. You thought about dinner at breakfast. You planned out what restaurant you would try next while dining at another restaurant. The dieting was driving you crazy and at the same time making you feel like a failure!
  • been obsessed with losing the last 10-20 pounds that is ruining your life? You believe you will be happier if you just lost the weight. 
  • sat down to a meal and have a rush of anxiety flood over your body?
  • been a compulsive eater and feel a constant need to eat despite not being hungry?

As you glanced as these statements, did one of these resinate with you? After working with thousands of clients in my career and most of them emotional eaters in one severity or another, I have found these statements are consistent with almost every emotional eater. 

Emotional Eating is deep rooted and stems typical from our experience with food as a child. As children we internalize the voices from our parents, grandparents and those who have taken care of us. After years of internalizing these voices they become what is known to us, what is our norm. If those internal voices came with ridicule, shame or restrictions in regards to food, it is effecting your eating today.

When trying to fix emotional eating it’s not about another diet, it’s not about someone telling you what to eat, or even having a list of foods that are bad for you. It comes down to building yourself up and strengthening that inner voice to naturally stop the critic inside you. It’s not easy and quite frankly it isn’t even as easy and the bullet points that I am listing, but it’s a start. It’s a place to begin. Why, because as a family dietitian, it comes back to healing yourself so you can support not only yourself in positive eating, but also your family. You need to strength your inner voice so you can give your children that strong voice. You want them to learn to live a life free of emotional eating.

Here are a few suggestions to develop your STRONG inner voice for you and your children:

1. No DIETING!! Dieting comes with failure and negative self talk. Years of dieting have beat you up enough, one more diet isn’t going to change anything.

2. Repeat a positive food affirmation at least 70 times per day. Example: I forgive myself for eating the wrong foods and I transcend all feelings of unworthiness. (For children, this would mean constant positive feedback) You need to change the inner voice and it starts with positive self talk.

3. Respect yourself. Respect yourself and teach self respect enough to stop talking negative. As children, we were taught to respect our elders, teachers, etc, so why haven’t you learned to respect yourself?

4. Take Care of Yourself. Allow everyone to feed themselves and move their body the way it feels good to them.

5. Trust Yourself and Your Body. The body hasn’t failed, the body adapts to the way it’s fed. Trust that the body can get back to where it is designed to be with a little hard work and positive self talk!

One of the biggest problems with emotional eating is how deep rooted it is. We live in a society where we want instant gratification. We want to immediately see the results of our “hard” work, but when dealing with emotional eating requires patience. It takes time. It took time for you to learn your negative inner self voice and it will take time to develop your positive inner voice. I have seen some clients change in matter of a few months and have seen some clients take literally years. So be patient, take care of yourself and trust that you can overcome this!

Did any of this resinate with you?

Much Love,

Dana Snook

Dana Snook is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and Certified Intrinsic coach who has helped thousands of clients overcome eating issues from newborn to older adult.

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