Ep #62: The Truth About Emotional Eating

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | The Truth About Emotional Eating
Follow on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Do you consider yourself an emotional eater? Well, you might be surprised to know that we are all emotional eaters. You might think of an emotional eater as someone who cries into a bowl of ice cream after a bad day or raids the pantry for chips after an argument. While both of these are definitely forms of emotional eating, it shows up in more subtle ways too.

In order to lose weight and have peace around food, using your physical hunger as a guiding principle for your eating is the only way to achieve success. When we eat for any reason other than hunger, we are emotionally eating. This may sound like a stretch, but this is a truth that needs to be acknowledged if we want to create real habit changes around the way we eat.

Tune in this week to discover the truth about emotional eating. I’m sharing what emotional eating is and the typical characteristics versus eating out of true physical hunger. I’m showing you how to start using your true physical hunger to guide your eating, and a simple method to stop emotionally overeating.

Are you ready to eat, move, and think in a way that gets you strong both physically and mentally? You deserve to have both no matter how busy you are, and I can help. I’m opening up my one-on-one coaching program for new clients, and I would love to work with you. Click here to learn more about working with me.

Be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can follow along and engage with you!

What You Will Discover:

  • What emotional eating is at its most basic level.
  • Why processed and ultra-processed foods bring us a genuine burst of happiness.
  • How, once we start emotionally eating, our brains are always looking for more.
  • Why, when you’re truly physically hungry, any food will do.
  • A question you can ask to identify whether your hunger is real or emotional.
  • How to allow your physical hunger to guide your eating.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Follow on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #62. Are you an emotional eater? You might be surprised to know we all are. Let’s talk about what that means.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high-achieving, busy, working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer, and Certified Life Coach, Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good? So, what’s going here, is we are going to dive in and talk about emotional eating today. I’m admittedly shaking my head at myself just a little bit, because I can’t believe I’ve gotten 62 episodes in before talking about emotional eating.

But we’re going to dive in and pick this apart today, because I’ve got some ideas and concepts that I want to share with you about this. At first go, you might hear the term “emotional eating” and have an image of someone crying into her bowl of ice cream after a bad day. Or maybe someone raiding the pantry for chips after an argument.

And yes, those are most definitely forms of emotional eating. But what I’m going to try to help you understand today, is that emotional eating goes far, far beyond that. When we eat for any reason other than hunger, we are emotionally eating. I know that may sound like a little stretch at first, but when we get into this more, I think you’ll see what I mean.

So, here’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about what emotional eating is, and we’ll go over some of the typical characteristics of emotional eating compared to eating out of true physical hunger. But beyond that, we’re going to talk about what it means to use your hunger to guide your eating.

Because really, in order to lose weight, and to have peace around food, that is one of the key components. If you want to be successful at changing your lifestyle, losing weight, and getting away from emotional eating, it’s going to be super important that you learn to use your hunger as the guiding principle for your eating. And really, that makes sense, right?

Think about it. We eat as a basic human need to prevent ourselves from starving. But most of us don’t think of eating in that way because food is abundant food is everywhere. For so many of us, the threat of hunger isn’t an issue, and we’re really lucky for that.

It’s because of this, and many other factors, I’m going to get into that food and eating and hunger have largely become disconnected. But if we can start to reconnect eating with hunger, then you may find yourself overeating less. So, let’s dive in and talk about this.

I hope this opens you up to some new ideas about emotional eating, and maybe it will help you see some of your own behaviors just a little differently. My point is, no one is immune to this. I have yet to meet a single person who isn’t some sort of emotional eater, myself included.

All right, so let’s go. First, let’s talk about what emotional eating actually is. If you look it up, you’ll most likely find comparisons between emotional hunger versus true physical hunger. So, let’s go there first, okay? At its most basic level, emotional eating is eating in response to an emotion.

The most common way most of us think of emotional eating is when we use food as a buffer. Meaning, you eat food to buffer your emotions instead of processing them. That’s drowning your day and your tears in a bowl of ice cream. That’s the typical image of an emotional eater painted by TV and pop culture. It’s eating your emotions instead of feeling them. That is how we most commonly think of emotional eating.

So, let’s talk about that for a minute. It makes sense that eating has become a way to deal with our emotions. Eating releases dopamine. When you eat a meal, or you do other activities that are good for you, your brain releases dopamine to say, “Hey, I like that. Let’s do that again.” This is true for a meal like a salad and chicken breast, or a meal consisting of an enormous piece of chocolate cake.

The difference here is the amount of dopamine. When you eat the salad and the chicken, you get a moderate level of dopamine that essentially tells your brain, “Hey, I’m good. Thank you for eating. Thank you for taking care of my needs. Let’s do that again in a few hours.” All right?

Now, when you have that huge piece of chocolate cake, that is a different story. Eating foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat, like most processed and ultra-processed food, and a piece of chocolate cake, that is going to cause a much larger dopamine response than the chicken breast.

The message to your brain is going to be something like, “Hey, that was really good. I need more of that. Let’s do that again. Let’s do it as soon as possible, and as often as possible.”

Do you see that? Here’s an easy way of looking at this. Most ultra-processed foods contain refined flour and sugar; flour and sugar. They’re concentrated substances. They’ve been processed and bleached and ground and concentrated.

When you eat a concentrated food, you will have a concentrated response from your brain. It’s an unnatural artificially increased response. You concentrate the food, like you do with sugar and flour, and you get a concentrated response in return.

When you eat those foods that trigger a large dopamine surge, often enough, your brain will make more dopamine receptors. It gets more complicated than this, but the takeaway here is that the more concentrated, hyper-palatable foods you eat, the more your brain responds to it, and the more your brain wants it.

This is why people crave hyper-palatable foods like chips, and cookies, and chocolate, and ice cream. Those foods are all loaded with sugar and flour to give you a dopamine surge that tells your brain, “This is good. I like this. I need this. Give me more.”

But your brain doesn’t do this in response to a salad. Most people I know don’t crave salad. Most people don’t crave eggs. My clients don’t tell me, “Gee, you know, I just really can’t control myself around salmon,” right? No. It’s the hyper-palatable, ultra-processed stuff that you crave, because it causes an unnatural, heightened reward response in your brain.

That’s just it, that’s where emotional eating thrives on, those hyper-palatable foods. When you’ve had an argument with your partner, or when your kids are being out of control and you feel like you can’t take it anymore, or when work is absolutely crushing you, you don’t crave a carrot.

You don’t go into the kitchen looking for a banana when you’re in a state of heightened negative emotion. You’re not looking for just a little boost of dopamine that you would get from an apple, right? Your brain is looking for a legit, dopamine surge to get you feeling good ASAP.

So, you go looking for the cookies, or the Ben and Jerry’s, or the Tostitos and salsa, because those foods are full of sugar, flour, salt, and fat. They hit the reward centers in your brain much harder than an apple would. They provide you with a flood of dopamine to make you feel better when you’re having a horrible day.

That’s just it, emotional eating, as we most commonly think about it, it’s specific. Generally, when we’re eating to buffer negative emotions, it’s usually hunger for something specific, like chips, or ice cream, or especially chocolate.

Or if you’ve ever watched The Golden Girls, which I did religiously pretty much every Saturday night for years, whenever any one of them had a problem, what did they do? They pulled out a cheesecake; it’s specific. So, contrast that to true physical hunger. When you’re truly physically hungry, like really hungry, most any food will do, even if it’s a food that you don’t absolutely love. Even if it’s not your favorite, if you are physically hungry enough, though, that won’t matter.

One of my clients actually came up with this really great question that she used in order to catch herself when she was working through her own emotional eating. I love this. Before she reached for foods like Airheads or Skittles or candy, because she had a sweet tooth, she would ask herself: If this was broccoli, would I be eating this right now?

I love that because there was a stop-catch for herself. If she answered no, if it was broccoli, then she wouldn’t be eating it. She used that as a tool to recognize that she was eating for emotional reasons and not true physical hunger. So good. I want to offer that to you, because she came up with it on our own, and I thought it was just so great.

All right. So, let’s talk some more about the differences between emotional hunger versus physical hunger so you can be really clear on this. Emotional hunger tends to be fast and furious. It tends to come on suddenly, like after an argument or a meeting or bad news. Emotional hunger, as it sounds, is generally tied to a strong emotion. And it’s usually not subtle. Once it comes on, it’s there. It’s obvious, and it’s not going anywhere.

Emotional hunger will send all kinds of messages to your brain that says, “Hey, this is urgent. I feel sad or angry or rejected or humiliated. We need chocolate, and we needed it five minutes ago. Because it will make me feel better.”

There it I, emotional hunger is based on your brain getting false pleasure from food. It’s creating an over desire for food as a panacea. When you’re facing emotional hunger, your brain will play all kinds of games with you to make you believe that your desire for chocolate is an urgent need that must be satisfied. Or else, you may spontaneously combust if you don’t have the cookie; not really.

But if you’ve been there, you know what it feels like. Your brain makes you think that the world is going to end and you’re going to crumble if you don’t have the cake or the cookie or the chocolate. And then, when you do get your hands on the chocolate, you tend to overdo it. Because when you’re eating to buffer an emotion, it’s usually a negative emotion, right?

I’ll get to more on eating for positive emotions in just a few minutes. But often, when you’re eating to buffer, you’re eating to buffer a negative feeling. Taking into consideration what we just talked about with dopamine, if a little bit of dopamine is good, then a lot of dopamine is even better, right? At least that’s what your brain will tell you when you get your hands on the bag of cookies. If one cookie makes you feel a little bit better, then a whole bunch of cookies is going to make you feel a whole lot better.

And that’s another hallmark of emotional eating, you tend to overdo it and overeat. So, often, you may not even be hungry when you start. Remember, emotional hunger is not the same as physical hunger. But then you have these hyper-palatable foods in your hand that will artificially make you feel better, and it’s really easy to overdo it and eat way past the point of fullness.

One of the hardest parts about it is that often, you don’t realize you’re doing it. That’s another hallmark of emotional hunger. Often, it feels like you’re doing it against your will. It can feel as if there’s an outside force compelling you to pull that bag of Oreos out after a horrible day. It becomes automatic, like you’re on autopilot.

And the more you do it, the more you’ll eat to buffer your emotions, the more it becomes habit, and you’ll create a pathway in your brain that says, “When I’ve got a stressful day at work, I make myself feel better with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.” And the more you activate that pathway, and eat the Ben and Jerry’s after a bad day, the more you reinforce it.

Eventually, you won’t have to think hard about it at all. It’ll just be what you do on a bad day. Because remember, your brain is lazy, and habits are your brain’s way of conserving energy, and emotional eating is a habit.

The last piece of this is the aftermath. When you answer emotional hunger, you have the temporary instant gratification of buffering your negative emotions with food. That’s then followed by guilt, shame, frustration, and disappointment related to overeating. And if you’ve been there, you know what it feels like, and it’s a vicious cycle.

We overeat to deal with negative emotions. And then that makes us feel bad for overeating. So, how do we cope with it? By overeating. And this cycle continues. The longer that cycle persists, the more deeply ingrained of a habit it becomes. All right? So, that’s emotional hunger.

Now, for completeness sake, let’s contrast that to physical hunger, which is generally the opposite of all the things I just described. Physical hunger starts in your gut or your stomach, and not in your brain like emotional hunger. Physical hunger, it comes and goes. You get a pang of hunger from your stomach, and then it goes away for a little bit. Then, maybe 20 or 30 minutes later, it comes back. Unlike emotional hunger, which is constant and urgent. Physical hunger is more slow, steady, and patient and gradual than emotional hunger.

What’s key here is that physical hunger does not come attached to an emotion. Physical hunger is biologic, we need food to live, and it doesn’t come paired to a strong emotion the way that emotional hunger does. Physical hunger is generally not specific. If you let yourself get hungry enough, you will eat whatever is put in front of you, and you won’t be picky. It’s not specific for chocolate or cheesecake in the way that emotional hunger is.

And when you answer physical hunger in a healthy way, you don’t go on autopilot and stuff yourself. You make conscious choices and have a different level of awareness than when you’re eating for emotional reasons. Unlike emotional hunger, where it’s easy to overdo it and mindlessly overeat to the point of over fullness.

When you eat for physical hunger in a healthy way, you’ll stop when you’re full instead of going beyond fullness. And most important, when you’re eating for physical hunger, instead of eating for emotional hunger, you won’t walk away feeling guilty. Because you recognize that eating is a human need, and you have to eat in order to live; eating is a necessity.

Okay, so at the most basic level, those are the key differences between emotional hunger versus physical hunger. But there’s more to it. So, we just covered emotional eating, specifically what it means to eat in order to buffer negative emotions. But we’re not done yet, there is more to emotional eating than just that.

Just take this a step further, I want you to consider emotional eating as really eating for any other reason than physical hunger. I will bet a nickel that you do it, because I have yet to encounter a single human who only eats for hunger.

So, think about it. If you’ve ever had a piece of birthday cake in the middle of the workday to celebrate a coworker’s birthday… If you’ve ever had a snack in the middle of the afternoon to wake you up while falling asleep at your desk… If you’ve ever had a piece of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, even though you were already stuffed, but you had it under the guise of ‘it’s Thanksgiving…’ I can go on here, there are so many more.

But all of those are examples of eating for reasons other than hunger. And part of the problem is it’s widely accepted. Sure, we use food for comfort. We most definitely use food as a way to buffer our emotions. But we also use it for loads of other reasons, and none of them generally have anything to do with hunger.

We eat food to celebrate. You get a promotion? “Let’s go out to dinner.” Kids did well at soccer? “Let’s stop for ice cream after the game.” Seeing your friend that you haven’t seen in forever, what do you typically do? You eat. So, birthdays, holidays, special occasions, you name it, most, if not all, of these come with food attached.

We also use food to grieve. Think about what we do when a friend or a neighbor is dealing with a health problem or loss, we bring them food and it’s usually not salad and chicken breasts, right? It’s comfort foods. we often use food to show our love when people are hurting. And we typically do that in the form of comfort food.

My point in bringing this up, is to say that most of us use food for both positive and negative emotion. We also use food as entertainment. So, think about it. Have you ever found yourself at home on a weekend?

Maybe it’s a weekend, where by some stroke of luck, you’re not working, you don’t have multiple kid activities, and you just don’t have a lot going on. You end up eating more than you normally would. Totally common; it’s boredom eating. We use food as a space filler. It’s something to do.

Or what about parties? Have you ever been to a party where you didn’t know many people, and maybe you’re socially awkward like me? So, what do you do? You get a plate of food to occupy your hands and your mouth. It keeps you entertained while you feel awkward at the party.

And then beyond that, food itself has become a mainstream form of entertainment. How many different food and cooking shows have you watched? Our family’s personal favorite is, Nailed It! I secretly would love to be a contestant on that show, by the way.

But think of all of the different shows that are centered around food in some way. There are so many cooking and other TV shows that are centered around food. Think of all the different food blogs. There are the recipes that have someone’s entire life story before you can get to the actual recipe, the food pages you follow on Instagram, it’s everywhere.

You can even identify yourself by it. If you call yourself a “foodie,” there it is. That’s just another example of how using food as entertainment has become normalized. Food has become an accepted and encouraged form of entertainment.

So, what this all adds up to, is that most of us use food for reasons other than hunger. We have gotten so far away from eating for true hunger, that it is absolutely no wonder that we have the problems we do. We’ve moved away from eating real, whole, natural foods to solve for hunger. And instead, we eat ultra-processed, hyper-palatable foods at any and all times of day, that often has very little to do with hunger.

We use food for all kinds of reasons other than hunger, and now we’re seeing what the outcome of this is. The outcome is an obesity epidemic laced with all kinds of health problems, like diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease, among other things. And those are just the big ones.

So, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again because I want to make it clear, food is fuel, for sure. However, I also want to be real and recognize that food is more than simply fuel; it’s culture, it’s tradition, it’s connection, it’s community.

But there’s a sweet spot, and I think we, as a society, have long overshot it. We’ve taken it to excess. We’ve gone way past that sweet spot, to the point that most of us have no idea what true hunger feels like. We’ve gotten to a place where eating and hunger have largely become disconnected.

What that means, is we have the perfect storm brewing here. We have eating for reasons other than hunger. Things like, eating to buffer negative emotions. Eating to recognize and celebrate positive emotions. Eating for entertainment. Then add to that, the widely available ultra-processed food and highly-palatable restaurant takeout, and fast food that’s designed to make you over desire it.

Combine that with our culture that not only accepts but encourages eating food for reasons other than hunger, plus a culture where more is considered better, and it makes total sense why we have the problem we do. All of these, when done to excess, will lead you to taking in more food than your body needs.

The takeaway here is this: Emotional eating is about so much more than sobbing into a bag of Oreos while you console yourself after a bad day. It is much, much more than that. Emotional eating, at its most basic level, is eating for reasons other than true physical hunger.

Okay, so before I move on, I also want to add one other type of hunger that doesn’t neatly fit into the space of physical hunger or emotional hunger, and that is practical hunger. This is an anticipatory type of hunger that applies most often to people whose work and life schedules may prevent them from eating at predictable times.

As an example, I work with a number of surgeons, and they may have hours-long pieces in front of them where they know they can’t just take a pause break, scrub and leave the operating room to go get a sandwich. So, it may be that she chooses to eat before heading into the O.R., even if she’s not super hungry. This is done to prevent her from getting hangry a few hours later.

I’ve also talked through this with some of my clients who are teachers and have a very short window of time in which they can eat before the students get back to their classrooms. It may be that lunch ends up falling at 11 o’clock, and while that’s much earlier than she’d like to eat lunch, she may choose to eat anyway because the next time she would have the opportunity is two o’clock. And she knew she’d be hungry and make choices she isn’t proud of.

So, when you’re managing practical hunger, it’s important that you know yourself and know how you operate. If you aren’t yet hungry, but your schedule is such that you aren’t going to be able to eat at the time you typically do, you’ve got a decision to make.

You can choose to eat in advance, even if you’re not hungry. And you can check in with yourself later, once you do have an opportunity to eat again, to determine if you need more food. Or you can choose to wait. You can choose to hold off eating if you’re not hungry in that moment.

I would argue that this is an acceptable option for those of you who can manage that hunger without using it against yourself. Here’s what I mean by this. Sometimes, if you’re not hungry but you’re about to head into a case and/or back-to-back meetings, or you’re about to start teaching, you may decide not to eat.

You decide, “I’ll be okay. I can eat afterwards.” But sometimes you use that against yourself later by saying, “I haven’t eaten all day, I can have whatever I want. I’m starving,” and then you overeat, or you choose foods that aren’t part of your plan, or both. Ultimately, what happens is you overdo it.

Or you can use it in an unhealthy way and tell yourself, “Gee, I’ve gone this long without food, let’s see how long I can do it.” I’ve seen it go both ways, and neither are healthy ways of dealing with that hunger. So, if you decide not to eat because you’re not hungry, please check in with yourself to ensure that you’re doing it from a kind, healthy place.

The point here is that when you’re dealing with practical hunger, this is really about knowing yourself. If you’re not hungry and you don’t want to eat, you don’t have to. But if by not eating it results in you overdoing it later, because you’ve let yourself get too hungry, or if you know that fasting will result in unhealthy thought patterns that lead to an overly prolonged fast, then you may want to make a plan and have something in advance.

It doesn’t have to be that you eat your entire lunch if you’re not hungry to begin with. You don’t need to stuff yourself past the point of discomfort. You can have part of your meal, and then come back to it later if your hunger cues tell you, you need more food.

That’s just it. I just touched on it. But I want to dive in and talk about how ideally, we would use food. This is simple. It may be oversimplifying, but I don’t think so. At the most basic level, if you want to improve your relationship with food and stop emotionally eating, consider this very simple guideline: Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full.

I know, that’s it. It’s not any more fancy than that, because it doesn’t need to be. If this was the approach you took, imagine what that would look like for you. It would mean paying attention to your physical hunger cues, and eating based on those.

So, what exactly is that? I go through this exact process with clients. It’s interesting to me, because many of them will tell me they don’t really know what true physical hunger feels like, because they’ve never let themselves get hungry.

They just don’t know what it feels like to be hungry, because they constantly have food around and available to them, or they constantly snack and graze between meals; there’s some constant influx of food every few hours throughout the day.

What I’m offering here instead, is that you try this approach. Let your hunger guide your eating. Seriously, let your hunger be the cue that guides your eating.

Now, on a practical level, what does that mean? I’m going to keep it very simple. I learned this going through my own coach training, and I want to share it here. It is not fancy. It’s not complicated. It’s not calculus, okay? It’s a hunger scale. That’s it. You simply ask yourself these questions.

You ask yourself: How hungry am I? Before you start eating. And then, you ask yourself: How full am I? As you are eating, and especially when you’re all done. Then you answer the questions.

In my coach training, we were given a scale: -10 to +10. So, -10 being ‘I’m starving and can eat my arm off’. To +10 being ‘you’re going to have to roll me away from the table, I’m so stuffed.’ The idea here is to understand what hunger and satiety feels like to you.

So, in my coach training, we were advised to use a -4 to +4 scale if we were eating three meals a day. And then, you can move those numbers if you have more snacks. So, if you have three meals and two snacks a day, you might use a scale of -2 to +2.

I can’t tell you exactly what a -4 should feel like, the beauty of this is you get to decide that for yourself. It requires experimentation and some trial and error, but the more you do this, the more you practice asking and answering those questions, the more you will learn what true hunger and true fullness feels like to you. And honestly, that is the whole goal.

My goal is that if you work with me, you’re able to recognize what hunger feels like and eat based on your hunger. If eating and hunger are entirely disconnected for you, we need to repair that, and it starts by learning how to eat based on your own unique hunger cues.

Here’s the thing, and I want to be clear about this from the outset, I am not asking you to let yourself go hungry. Okay? I want to make sure you understand that I’m not asking you to see how long you can go, and you can get to a -10, hold it out and see what that feels like. No, I don’t want you to be hangry.

Instead, I want you to know what mild hunger is like; a -4 versus a -8 or -10. When you’re hangry, and primed to make decisions that will lead you to overeat. I also want you to know what satiety feels like. Too many people have told me they clean their plates because that’s just what they’ve learned, and that’s what they’re used to. They let the bottom of the container or an empty plate, tell them they’re done.

But I’m asking you, instead, to make that an inside job. Get inside and ask yourself: How full am I? And let that be what guides your decision to stop eating. If this sounds simple and basic to you, that is awesome. I urge you to try it. See what happens when you come off autopilot and start paying attention to your true physical hunger.

Let that be your guide, instead of all the other reasons that you might eat. You may be surprised it’s harder than you think. And again, that’s because we have let eating and hunger become totally disconnected, for all the reasons I mentioned before. We eat for so many reasons other than hunger, that sometimes when we try to bring it back, it can be a challenge.

What this will boil down to for many of you, is learning to process your emotions instead of eating them. It means learning how to manage your negative emotions without food to buffer them. But it also means learning to feel your positive feelings without the need to enhance them with food.

Do you see that it’s both? I learned this in my training, and I want to share it again here because it was so impactful to me. I hope it will be for you, too. If you want to know why you overeat, stop overeating. And then, all of the reasons will reveal themselves to you.

Because when you do this, you take food out of the picture, you no longer have food as a tool to take away the emotional pain you’re dealing with after an awful day of work or an argument with your partner. You no longer have food to deal with the boredom you have on a Sunday afternoon at home with nothing to do. You no longer have cookies to wake you up when you’re getting pooped from a long day of work and Zoom calls.

It’s you and your feelings, and you’re leaving food out of it. The same is true for positive emotions. Imagine what it would be like to not celebrate every occasion with food, to not feel the need to have ice cream with your kid after every little league game, to not feel compelled to have a cupcake in the break room for your coworker’s birthday.

What would that be like for you? What would happen if you showed up for both the good and the bad in your life and didn’t require food for any of it. I’ll tell you what I’ve seen when you reconnect food with hunger and stop emotionally eating, food loses its power over you.

Food becomes less of a crutch. It becomes less of a tool. You don’t rely on it to bring you comfort during times of stress. And you also don’t rely on it to heighten a celebration, it’s just food. Yes, you still enjoy food, and recognize that food can provide connection and tradition and community, but you don’t use it excessively for those purposes.

That’s the key here, you don’t take it to excess. Instead, you have peace around food. There is a huge difference between trusting yourself around food versus relying on or requiring food to make you feel a certain way. One puts all the power in your hands. And the other, leaves you powerless and dependent on things like chips, cookies and cake to make you feel better.

It is entirely liberating when you have done the work to get to that place. When you can see birthday cake from your coworker’s birthday celebration at the office, and take it or leave it, instead of thinking to yourself, “Of course I’m having this cake, it’s a birthday.” Imagine what that would be like for you.

Or when you’ve had an incredibly stressful day at work, and you come home and skip the chips or skip the chocolate cookies, and the thought, “I earned this,” does not even appear in your brain. Imagine what that would be like for you.

So, how do you do this? It’s your thinking. It’s everything we’ve talked about in this podcast, so far. It’s processing your feelings instead of eating them. It means coming off autopilot, creating awareness around your feelings, and saying to yourself, “I feel stressed. I feel sad.”

Notice what I’m not saying. I’m not saying, “I am stressed. I am sad.” Remember, you are not your feelings here. It means asking yourself how hungry you are and getting familiar with real, true physical hunger. It means allowing your feelings to be present with you for as long as it takes for them to dissipate, without buffering them with food.

It means recognizing that no feeling can harm you. That the worst thing that happens when you have a negative feeling is that you feel it, and you can handle that. Do you see that? When you do all of those things, you’ll see that you can absolutely process your emotions instead of eating them, and that food doesn’t have to be part of that equation.

This is super powerful stuff. For so many of you, emotional eating is a huge barrier to your success at weight loss and having a better relationship with food. But what I have found in my years of coaching, is that there are some large misconceptions about what emotional eating is. It’s about more than simply numbing your bad day with a huge piece of cake.

In fact, most of my clients aren’t doing that. My clients are strong, smart, busy working women who handle a whole heck of a lot, and they do it pretty well. And once they realize that emotional eating is about much more than buffering bad days with food, then we can get to work.

And we can get to work on how she will address the many, many times that comes up in her day to eat for reasons other than hunger. For the negative emotions, sure, but also for the positive emotions, for comfort, for entertainment, for habit, all of them.

And then, she can decide what she’s going to do with them. And she can start to practice recognizing what true physical hunger feels like for her, and use that as the guide to her eating. Because when you reconnect your eating to your hunger, create awareness around your emotions, and learn to process them without food, that’s it. That’s the sweet spot.

That is when you have peace with food. That is when food takes up less space in your brain. And that is absolute freedom. If you want help with this, let’s go. This is just another concept that we cover in coaching. If you use food to deal with either negative or positive emotions, if you use food as entertainment, if you use food for comfort, we can change that.

When you coach with me, I will help you manage your emotions, all of them, without requiring food. And the end result is you will feel better. Go to my website and check out www.CarrieHollandMD.com/contact. Send me a message and let’s get started.

All right, thank you again for hanging out with me. I’ll catch you again next week.

If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. And share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. Be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram or Facebook, so I can follow along and engage with you.

This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better or eat and move differently but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. And you know making that change starts with how you think, and that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.

Enjoy the Show?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top