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Are My Emotional Eating Habits Bad for Me?

You might have heard that you should only eat when you are feeling physiologically hungry. But what about emotional hunger?

Whether it's stress, boredom, or loneliness, food is often used to cope with emotions. Is this a bad thing? 


Emotional eating is very normal and a natural part of life. 

Maybe you have had a stressful day at work and are feeling overwhelmed, and what appeals most at the end of the day is a nice comfort meal. Or you are sitting in front of the TV and grabbing snacks because you are bored and want to nibble on something even though you are not hungry. 

We are humans - and humans soothe emotions with food. 

So, while emotional eating is a very normal and valid coping mechanism, you may want to consider if it is helping comfort your emotions or causing more distress.

Often, after emotional eating, thoughts of guilt, judgment, or shame come flooding in. And the "should" statements come along with them—"I shouldn't have eaten that," "I should only eat when I'm hungry," "I should avoid (insert food) because I can't stop myself from eating it when I'm stressed."

Let's be clear—these "should" statements and food guilt have no place in your decisions about food (unless you stole that food, which I imagine likely did not occur). 

Guilt only tends to perpetuate a negative and unhealthy relationship with food. Food guilt has also not been shown to elicit positive long-term health outcomes. 

Additionally, emotional eating can sometimes be more impulsive and reactive rather than intentional. Are you mindful of your decisions when you use food to cope with your emotions? Are you savoring and enjoying whatever is on your plate? 

If food is the first thing you think about when experiencing a negative emotion, it may not be a helpful coping mechanism, and you may want to explore other options for soothing your emotions. 

Remember, while food may help soothe your emotions, it will not help you process them. That is where other tools come into play - such as journaling, therapy, meditation, etc. 

If you are concerned with your emotional eating, here are some questions to consider:

Do you feel like you are staying present while eating?

  • Are you eating enough during the day?

  • Are you feeling satisfied between meals and snacks? 

  • How has using food as an emotional support helped or harmed you?

  • How often are you using food to cope with your emotions? 

  • What other coping mechanisms do you have? (e.g., rest, spending time outside, reading a book, doing a puzzle, talking with a friend, loved one, or therapist)

Final Thoughts

Emotional eating is a common way to deal with certain emotions and can be a helpful tool in your toolbox. However, if it becomes your primary coping mechanism, it may be worth exploring your relationship with food and how it could be affecting your mental, emotional, or physical health. 

Consider scheduling a nutrition session if you need more support or guidance navigating emotional eating.


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