how to: overcome emotional eating

My boyfriend recently
said, “Well, what’s wrong with emotional eating? If it works to calm
the stress, then isn’t it just basically a solution?” And it took me a
moment to rustle up a reasonable response to that, because for a
minute, he sounded so perfectly reasonable. What is wrong with
emotional eating? I like to eat! I like how food tastes! If food calms
me down, well then, good for food, and good for me because I have
discovered the way to keep myself from doing something like throwing my
body off a bridge or taking an assault rifle on the express bus. It’s not
a self-destructive behavior like shopping yourself into debt or cutting
or making prank phone calls until they shut off your line and arrest
you, right?

Except, of course, when you emotionally eat yourself
into a nutritional black hole–when you’re eating nothing but candy and
cheeseburgers and putting your face into a cake because you think if
you try hard enough you could possibly learn to breathe frosting and a
ham–how is that healthy? I don’t care what the intuitive eating
movement says: If you are under a big black cloud of sadness, which
leads you to intuitively eat a box of Krispy Kremes for every meal from
now until your next birthday, then your intuition could use an tune-up.
Therefore, emotional eating, unless it involves sobbing while you bite
into a crown of broccoli, is not healthy. That is my sorrowful

It is also the easiest and most unstoppable of my
automatic behaviors. It doesn’t even matter what the emotion is,
frankly. I eat when I’m terribly sad, terribly stressed, terribly
tired, terribly happy, wonderfully excited about the world and every
little thing in it. My response is a fork, or my head in a pie if I am
feeling especially in need of soothing, neutralizing, redirecting my
energy in some way, sedating myself. I’ve realized that food, for me,
is a distraction. I think about food, I work to procure food, I sit and
concentrate on funneling food into my body and then I don’t have to
think about anything else or worry about anything at all. I’ve already
got so much going on, here, with my face and the shoveling. It’s like
the hunter-gatherer survivalist laser-focus kicked into high gear. Eat
or die! There’s no room for anything else.

I want there to be
room for more things. I want to not be vibrating from the sugar high,
feeling sick from the grease, groaning because I have stuffed myself to
my pain threshold. But I also want to figure out a way to deal with my
emotions, to not be overwhelmed by the necessity of them, to not find
it difficult to function and experience uncomfortableness or sorrow all
at the same time. Is there a cure? The Internet says that there are
lots of cures. The internet wants to reach out its cyberhands and fold
me into its warm digital bosoms and whisper soothing 0101010s into my

There are lots of reasonable, rational-sounding ways to overcome emotional eating (the Mayo Clinic’s steps seem particularly reasonable, and I believe everything I read on WikiHow), but I want a magic cure with little to no effort. I want a
poof and a bang. I want to be healed and whole immediately and forever
right this second, please. I want The Sweet Ayurveda Treatment to Stop Emotional Eating. The Sweet Ayurveda Treatment to Stop Emotional Eating
consists of the following:

  1. Lie on your back with arms straight out to the sides (like you are on a cross).
  2. Now close your eyes, gently raise your left arm and bring your left palm toward your face. Then gently kiss the center of your left palm and whisper “I Love You” to yourself.
  3. Now lower your left arm and bring your right arm up and kiss the center of your right palm, again whispering “I Love You” to yourself.
  4. Continue for about 5 minutes.
  5. To end, inhale deeply, hold your breath and visualize your body exactly as you want it to be, slim and trim, then get up with a smile feeling good about yourself.

No word on whether you need to drop to the ground and kiss yourself every time you visit a buffet.

I wanted to try it. I did. I even laid down with arm straight out, like I am on a cross. I stared up at the ceiling. I realized that if I actually lifted my hand up, pressed my lips against my palm and gently whispered “I Love You,” I would never, ever be able to look at myself in the mirror, ever again. Even if it cured cancer, stuttering and foot-in-mouth disease, I would not be able to bring myself to do it. Because, just, no. No. I got up and made myself a sandwich. I’ll try that Mayo Clinic thing tomorrow.

7 Replies to “how to: overcome emotional eating”

  1. Oh Anne, I can so relate. I love food. I hate food. I think about food constantly. I think about what I am eating, what I could be eating, what I wish I were eating and what I haven’t eaten in 5 yrs on WW. (by choice — some things just aren’t worth the pts).
    Now in my smaller body (even with these extra 10 lbs I didn’t want to see again!) I still have a food fixation. It’s comfort in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. But the only marriage I WANT is the one with my husband!!!
    Overcoming emotional eating (for any reason) is something I’ve been struggling with for years. Sometimes I know I’m doing it and still do it. Even therapy hasn’t helped me stop it entirely though I DO think a lot more before acting.
    Anyway, just offering a hug.

  2. Thank you! I was planning a big end-of-semester binge as in two hours, and now I think I can contain myself.

  3. Have you ever contemplated hypnotism, for food and/or cigarettes? I have no experience with it myself, and I don’t know anyone directly who’s done it. But now and again I hear things about how it works really well for various behaviors people want to alter.

  4. as I read this, I was stuffing my face with cookies and popcorn. I guess I should wire my mouth shut, but I can’t right now. I’m just stuffing it all in.

  5. I can totally relate to this and it is something I really strive to stop. However, I think in the end it is hopeless. I just pray that it doesn’t get too out of control… for now I’m still ok. I mean it just goes through phases…
    Btw, that last paragraph was making me lol. Too damn funny, so damn true.

  6. There’s hope! For me the emotionally eating feeling has gradually faded over seven years of therapy, overeaters anonymous, prayer, sharing with friends and reading everysingle book I can get my hands on about “normal” eating. I just don’t think I’d be where I am right now without Christ though, and His leading me to what will help me next. I know it sounds like religious plug, but it seriously helped me.

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