If you’re struggling with emotional eating – using food to numb discomfort and as a primary source of pleasure in your life – then you likely have struggled to make sustainable eating changes.
Maybe you are able to stick to a plan for a while, and then something happens and you backslide into old patterns. Or perhaps you are at a place in life where you can’t even get yourself to stick to a plan.
How to stop emotional eating forever: is it even possible?
Having been in this place personally, I know that you start to feel so frustrated and wonder if it’s even possible to change.
The good news is that yes, you can heal your emotional eating, and yet healing may look different from what you imagined.
A real example of success for when you’re wondering how to stop emotional eating forever
In order to illustrate how to stop emotional eating forever and what that really looks like, I want to share a tale of two recent days where I felt the urge to emotionally eat, actually ended up emotionally eating (which is very rare for me), and what I learned from that experience.
My desire is that sharing this story will give you an accurate picture of healing, an understanding of what is possible for you and hope!
Friday November 19th:
I left a meeting with my mentor feeling weird. You know the feeling, where something is wrong but you’re not sure what, I call it being in a funk.
Here’s what’s complicated:
- I love my mentor. I didn’t want to feel in a funk because of her or be upset with her. I didn’t really even want to know how I was feeling, I preferred to sweep it under the rug. (Granted this bit of insight came in retrospect, hindsight is 20/20 and all)
So, I pressed onward with my day. Getting more exhausted as the day wore on. The emotional toll of ignoring strong emotion had me sitting in front of the TV in a stupor by 8pm.
Then the cravings started. That wild-animal, finger-in-a-light-socket kind of crazy you feel throughout your whole body.
Usually, when I feel these cravings I know something is off, and it’s a cue to check-in and do self-care… but on Friday? I was exhausted. I didn’t care. I made myself a cup of microwave rice-krispie treats and mindlessly munched in front of the TV.
Then, something I haven’t felt in a long time kicked in… guilt. I was embarrassed by how comforted I felt by my ooey-gooey snack and for my emotional eating.
(Hindsight speaking again: I didn’t realize at the time just how strong my emotions were, how they were triggered by a previous traumatic event where I was hurt by a mentor and how that impacted my eating, if I had it would have been easier to be self-compassionate, but in the moment if felt like random weakness and a lack of willpower)
Sunday November 21st:
Saturday was so busy I didn’t even notice my funk. But by Sunday it had returned. Feeling the discomfort, I asked my husband to keep our daughter out of our room so I could process.
Journal in hand, I started to free-write about what I was feeling. I kept circling back to Friday’s meeting, so I wrote about what happened and how that made me feel.
What unfolded was hurt over comments made by my mentor, and a need to accept my hurt (in other words allow myself to feel that way, rather than making excuses for why I shouldn’t be offended).
With new clarity on the problem I still felt funky.
So I layed on my bed and practiced a technique I teach my clients created by self-compassion researcher, Dr. Kristin Neff. This guided meditation teaches you how to pinpoint where you physically feel your emotions, soften it in your mind’s eye, soothe yourself with kindness and allow yourself to be present to the discomfort without trying to solve it.
After 15 minutes my sweet toddler was banging on my door, and even though my time was cut short and I didn’t feel 100% “better”, I didn’t emotionally eat that evening (or have to exercise willpower not to eat).
Uncovering how I was feeling and allowing myself to feel it in a safe way meant I didn’t need to numb the feelings with food.
How to stop emotional eating forever
The truth is: healing emotional eating doesn’t mean you will never overeat again.
Healing means eating urges (and occasional emotional eating) are check-engine lights that cue you to turn inward, to learn more about yourself and what you need to feel good in your body and make supportive choices out of a sense of peace and ease.
As you do the work to connect to your body and emotions, you end up having more days that look like Sunday rather than Friday.
You get to a place where you very rarely actually emotionally eat because you’re in tune with your body and feelings and know how to care for yourself without indulgent food.
If you’d like to understand the steps you need to take to heal emotional eating, download my roadmap to healing: You’re Done Dieting, But Still Want to Heal Emotional Eating.