Stop Emotional Eating: Powerful Tips for Women in Midlife

Jun 26, 2024

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How to Stop Eating Your Emotions

Understanding Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is when we use food to make ourselves feel better rather than to satisfy hunger. It’s something I've experienced personally and helped my clients overcome. Conquering emotional eating takes time and daily practice. It’s not about using a simple tool for a little bit and then you're cured; it’s about consistently reminding yourself of the truth.


My journey with emotional eating began when I noticed that sometimes I’d eat out of boredom or when it wasn’t meal time. I wasn’t even hungry! I'd catch myself mid-bite, thinking, "Wait, why am I eating these tortilla chips?" That’s when I began to become aware of my habits.


The Emotional Eating Cycle

The Temporary Relief of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating gives us temporary comfort. It’s that quick dopamine hit that feels great in the moment but doesn’t last. You might eat to feel better, but once the euphoria fades after about 20 minutes, you’re left with regret. This regret can lead to a negative cycle where you feel discouraged and might think, "Well, I’ve already messed up, so why not keep eating?" This only makes you feel worse in the long run.


Steps to Overcome Emotional Eating

Step One: Become Aware

Recognizing Emotional Eating Triggers

Start by becoming aware of when and why you eat. Are you eating because you're bored or stressed? Notice these patterns. Emotional eating might make you feel better temporarily, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. It's essential to slow down and identify your feelings without judgment. Recognize that your brain is seeking a dopamine hit and that the food you’re reaching for won’t fix the issue.


Understanding Your Feelings

Awareness is key. When you notice yourself eating to feel better, ask yourself, "What am I feeling right now?" It’s not about judging yourself but about understanding your emotions. Avoid punishing yourself or feeling shame, as this only perpetuates the negative cycle. Instead, be curious about your thoughts and where they come from.


Step Two: Self-Coaching Techniques

The Power of Curiosity

Being curious about your thoughts without judgment is powerful. Investigate why you're thinking a certain way and understand that your thoughts don’t define you. This practice helps slow down the emotional eating cycle and gives you control over your actions.


Choosing Helpful Thoughts

Not all thoughts need to be acted upon. Let unhelpful thoughts float by and choose more helpful or neutral thoughts instead. One mantra I find effective is: "Food will not fix this." This realization helped me see that eating wouldn’t solve my problems and might create new ones.


Step Three: Setting Guidelines

Creating a Meal Plan

Establish regular meal and snack times and stick to them. This structure helps you avoid eating out of emotion. If you feel the urge to eat, ask yourself if it’s time to eat according to your plan. If it’s not, remind yourself that "Food will not fix this" and find other ways to address your emotions.


Dealing with Urges

Acknowledge the urge without acting on it. Practice allowing the emotion to be there without using food to numb it. Understand that emotions, like waves, come and go. Resisting food by simply saying "no" doesn’t work well because it can increase your focus on the urge. Instead, tell yourself that you can have the food, but recognize it won’t fix your emotions.


Emotional Management

Embracing Emotions

Allowing Emotions to Be

Allow your emotions to exist without trying to change them immediately. Understand that urges will pass and that you don’t need to act on them. This practice helps in managing emotional eating more effectively.


The Impact of Emotional Eating on Physical Health

Emotional eating, especially during menopause, can increase inflammation and stress on your body. Processed foods and sugars exacerbate this issue, leading to long-term health consequences. Addressing and processing your emotions can prevent these negative health impacts.


Moving Forward

Practical Tips for Reducing Emotional Eating

Awareness and Mindfulness

Be present with your thoughts and emotions. Play it forward and think about the impact emotional eating will have on you. Reflect on your thoughts regularly and practice self-compassion and patience.


Self-Coaching Practices

Develop a habit of self-coaching by regularly reflecting on your thoughts and choosing helpful ones. Practice patience with yourself as you navigate this journey.



Encouragement and Next Steps

Overcoming emotional eating takes time and persistence. Start with awareness and build from there. In the next podcast, we’ll dive deeper into experiencing negative emotions and how to manage them effectively. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and each small step you take is progress. Stay committed, and you'll see the change you desire.


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