Updated: Mar 5, 2022
Are you an emotional eater or are you emotional about eating? This distinction is often overlooked but it is crucial in how you move forward to heal this aspect of your food relationship.
What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is when you eat in response to your emotions, both positive and negative emotions. This can be subtle because typically we’ve made our way to food before we’ve even had the chance to notice, let alone realize, that there is something we are unwilling to sit with.
You may turn to food to cope with emotions of boredom sadness, anxiousness, for comfort, or to enhance and prolong positive emotions such a happiness or excitement. You may also use food as an reward, like celebrating a hard days work or reaching a goal.
We all emotionally eat from time to time and that’s okay.
Emotional eating is not bad in and of itself. Perhaps you use food as a coping tool when you didn’t have any other coping tools, it's reliable and a way to manage when things were overwhelming. However when food becomes our primary coping tool, is frequent and intense, or becomes out of our control that is when we need to examine this relationship and the underpinning dynamics.
What about being emotional about eating?
Being emotional about eating means your emotions are related to the food itself and how you feel about your food choices. This could look like guilt or regret after eating a particular food or even anger. For instance you’ve been on diet and eat a food that you have forbidden yourself from eating and as a response you get regretful and remorseful. These emotions can be reinforced by diet culture which is always tying morality to food. This can spiral into emotional eating as you may sooth or numb these emotions with food, it can become a vicious cycle.