What You Need to Know to Overcome Food Addiction and Stop Emotional Eating

I’ve been there before. You tell yourself you just want a little something sweet, just one piece of dark chocolate. And then it’s the whole bar. And another. Before you know it you’ve plowed through all of your chocolate and are halfway through a gallon of ice cream. You go to bed feeling disgusted with yourself, and queasy from the sugar binge.

Can you relate? This is called emotional eating, and it’s an incredibly common struggle for so many women. In fact, many food companies today engineer their products to make them as addictive as possible by adding chemicals that make us feel happy and comforted after eating them. I’ve spent the past several years uncovering my negative relationship with food and reversing my emotional eating patterns, and now I love to help other women like you do the same thing.

To learn how to overcome food addiction and stop emotional eating, you’ve got to dig deep into what’s causing those binges, and start to explore your relationship with food. What need does that ice cream fill for you? What emotions are you feeling before you start eating?  Are you trying to cover up anxiety and frustration about your unfulfilling career? Or maybe trying to numb the pain of loneliness or a lack in some of your relationships?

Please know that wherever you are is okay, and that you are 100% capable of healing your relationship with food. Answering these questions will help you figure out your triggers so you can finally understand how to overcome food addiction and stop emotional eating. When you start to tackle the issues food is covering up for you, you’ll be one step closer to the healthiest, happiest life you know you’re meant to be living. But I know that this process is incredibly scary and overwhelming, so I’m sharing my favorite tools and techniques to help you eliminate emotional eating for good.

Eat When You’re Hungry. One of the key steps toward healing your relationship with food is building up your connection to your body. How often do you eat out of boredom, frustration or fear when you’re not actually hungry? To change this habit, start to check in with yourself before you start eating and notice whether you’re truly hungry. If you’re not, ask yourself what emotions you’re feeling, or what events may be triggering a need for some comfort. I love to jot these thoughts down and review them once a week, so I can start to notice patterns and build up that mind-body connection.

Practice Radical Self-Care. When is the last time you did something just for yourself? How often do you feel guilty about trying to set aside ‘me time,’ or find yourself going through the motions of what you think self-care should be? Spoiler alert: if meditation or yoga or reading isn’t restorative and nourishing for you yet, then those things aren’t self-care! Part of the problem with the increased awareness of self-care practices is that now we’re surrounded by even more information that tells us what we should be doing. But guys, the first step to self-care is connecting to what truly feels good for you. Maybe that means taking yourself to a movie or buying some fresh flowers. Maybe it’s taking a bath or going on a hike. Maybe you do love meditating, and feel energized and refreshed by sitting outside and being still. Tune into what you really crave, something you would happily do all day if you could. Then add more of that into your life. Set aside the guilt, the anxiety, or any other negative feelings that come up when you think about taking this time for yourself. It’s part of my mission to finally help you carve out the time and take care of yourself – without feeling selfish or guilty. This time will work wonders for you – I promise!

Learn Your Triggers. Remember those questions you were asking yourself about what causes your emotional eating? We’re coming back to those. When you identify the triggers that push you toward unhealthy eating habits, you can come up with a gameplan to start making changes. One of my biggest triggers was my job back when I worked in public relations. The environment was very stressful and competitive, office politics and gossip ran rampant and the work wasn’t fulfilling and inspiring for me. There were many days when I left the office feeling exhausted, anxious and depressed, and all I wanted was to feel a little bit happier. So I’d stop by Moe’s and get a burrito with lots of queso, or swing by our local pizza place to pick up one of my favorite comfort foods. I always ended up eating too much and feeling sick. Then I’d beat myself up about being weak and not just eating the kale salad I had in the fridge, only to have a glass of wine or three to distract myself from how shitty I felt. And the cycle would continue. Once I identified that my career was a problem, I started developing strategies to protect my emotional energy at work and to reframe my mindset to think about choosing healing, nourishing foods when I’m feeling blue instead of foods that keep me down.

Enjoy Mindful Eating. For so many of us, eating has become almost an inconvenient necessity. We snack on the way home from work when we’re sitting in traffic, scarf down lunch at our desks and eat dinner while zoning out in front of our Netflix cues. And hey, I’m 100% not judging – I’ve definitely done this too! When we distract ourselves while eating, it further separates the mind-body connection, and separates your food from the purpose it it supposed to serve: nourishing your gorgeous and amazing body! Next time you sit down to eat, I would love for you to do so mindfully. That means stepping away from the computer, putting your phone away and turning off the tv. Try to chew your food 20 or more times each bite, and notice how everything tastes and how it makes you feel. Take deep, slow breaths in between your bites, and just notice what it’s like to be fully present with your food as you eat. Some emotions may come up for you here – just notice those, maybe jot them down with your other thoughts after you’re done eating. Like any mindfulness exercise, this will be hard at first and should be treated as a practice. Come to this practice with a beginner’s mind, knowing that the more you eat mindfully, the more comfortable and enjoyable it will become.

Think you might need some help with untangling your relationship with food and kick emotional eating to the curb? I’d love to chat. Head over here to book a free 30 minute consult with me.

If you're struggling with disordered eating, the National Eating Disorder Association provides incredible resources, including this treatment finding portal and hotline.