One of the most common complaints I hear from women over 45 struggling with making healthy eating choices is that they never realized they were emotional eaters. These women never saw emotional eating examples that helped them recognize their own behavior.
They spend decades dieting trying to solve overeating and feeling out of control around food only to gain more than they ever lost and end up frustrated by their self-sabotage, losing confidence with each attempt at change.
However, once they realized the problem wasn’t food and the solution wasn’t restriction (because that actually makes emotional eating worse in the long run!), they could finally stop feeling anxious about food and the impact it’s having on their health and self-esteem.
Two emotional eating examples – which one are you?
There are 2 main types of emotional eaters:
Emotional eating example 1: “Food is better than Xanax”.
Eating makes you feel good.
You eat when you feel bad to feel better. You might feel like emotional eating is a friend who has always been there, and you may fear healing emotional eating because you have no idea what will take its place.
If you’re in this category, you may be aware of events or emotions that tend to trigger eating episodes.
One woman I know gets strong cravings for fast food tacos when life gets stressful. She knows if she goes through the drive-thru she will feel better for a moment. And yet, the guilt and shame of feeling out of control often has her stopping at trash cans before she gets home to destroy the evidence of eating.
Emotional eating example 2: “Food lets me zone out”.
Food effectively numbs you, so you aren’t aware of its connections to your feelings.
You are aware that you are eating more than you want, and the extra eating is giving you anxiety and impacting your quality of life, but you may not understand why you do it. You recognize you have a very stressful or emotional life, maybe a history of trauma, and yet you feel like you are coping well (and thanks to food that could be true).
This emotional eating example doesn’t realize they are emotionally eating because they are able to turn off their emotions with food.
One woman shared her confusion about whether she was an emotional eater because eating struggles manifested as binges and she didn’t feel anything while she was eating. The good news is, after working together she rarely binges and now when she feels a binge starting she can interrupt the pattern by connecting with her body and feelings.
Bonus emotional eating example… It’s complicated.
Because life is never black and white, you might experience your emotional eating as a blend of the two. For the taco lover I mentioned earlier, she has had the experience of zoning out, or dissociating, so that she “comes to” in line at the drive-thru without having clear thought patterns that got her there.
Emotional eating examples highlight the definition of emotional eating
To understand what emotional eating is, we can see some similarities between the emotional eating examples.
What is emotional eating?
Whether you are aware of the effect of food on your body and mind, emotional eaters use food to move away from discomfort and towards pleasure.
Eating sends a cascade of feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones throughout your body, allowing you to feel good or get a break from feeling bad. In fact, researchers hypothesize that emotional eating is the link between depression and obesity.
Finding self-compassion from the emotional eating examples
If you struggle with emotional eating, it’s for a good reason: IT WORKS! Sometimes much better than other coping or self-care strategies.
My hope is by identifying which emotional eating example you have struggled with, and understanding what is happening to make you struggle, you can extend self-compassion and grace to yourself.
Self-compassion allows you to step away from the self-criticism that usually accompanies emotional eating so you can begin constructively problem solving and addressing the root of your emotional eating issues which is…
Using food as a way to numb your feelings.
Because when you non-judgmentally problem solve the root issue you’ll stop going on restrictive diets that take away your best coping mechanism and you’ll learn to care for your emotions (and your whole self) without out of control eating.
If you want help to get started on your journey to heal emotional eating, download my Emotional Eating Roadmap: You’re Done With Dieting But Still Want to Heal Emotional Eating.
You’ll get the exact steps to follow whether you are a “Food is better than Xanax” or “Food lets me zone out” eater (or a combo of both!).