Is Emotional Eating Sabotaging Your Weight-loss Efforts?

Learn to Identify the “Why” Behind Your Behavior

All of us have attempted to lose weight only to give up when emotional bumps in the road become too much to handle. We have all experienced the feelings of shame, anger and even resentment towards those people who can just eat whatever they want. If you are anything like me, these people anger and frustrate you to the point of saying, “Why me?”

As a young woman, I lived at home and went to college. Studying for me was brutal and something that I still find extremely difficult today. I struggled so much with this that I ate my way through my Freshman year gaining not just the dreaded “Freshman 15” but an entire 100 pounds. I now realize that I ate because I was miserable and I ate to avoid homework.

300 Pounds on Three Occasions

In 1985, I got married weighing 232 pounds. Soon after getting married we moved to Texas, away from my family, friends and community and guess what? Yup, on came another 80 pounds! Now if you are counting that is a total of 180 pounds gained since my Freshman year of college. It took years of hard work and self-discovery before I was able to identify that my need to eat had a direct correlation to my inability to express myself and actually feel my emotions. I have been 300 pounds on three separate occasions in my life. The good news is that I have been at a healthy, average weight since 2001. I had to learn how to retrain my brain. I was in my forties when I was finally able to successfully control my emotional eating and teach my clients how to do this.

Stop the Yo-Yo Cycle

Why did I just share all of that with you? Because I know I can help you, if you are ready to be helped. Emotional eating has grown to epidemic portions in this country. We have become a society of food soothers. Is it any wonder? After all we live in a country of overabundance. There is food everywhere! So, using food as a coping mechanism is easy. Emotional eating is all about learned behaviors, and controlling how you eat requires re-training your brain and learning a new behavior. For those of you who are ready to stop the yo-yo cycle, I can help. Many of our clients, at Mind, Body & Soul Fitness, eat for emotional reasons rather than simply to satisfy their hunger. When facing a difficult problem, feeling stressed or even bored, many turn to food to alleviate or control their feelings. Upon eating our food of choice, we have all felt that instant elation, only to be followed by the crash and burn. Then come those feelings of guilt, anger and shame {insert whatever you feel} for allowing ourselves to be out of control. Not only does the original emotion remain, but now we feel so much worse for allowing ourselves to lose control. This becomes a vicious cycle and prevents you from reaching your long-term weight loss and maintenance goals.

We all know how to diet. What I teach, is how to change your behavior so that you can be at peace with food and learn to control the kraken (my special name for the monster). There is psychology behind emotional eating. At Mind, Body & Soul Fitness, we help our clients understand the “why” behind their behavior. The first step is to acknowledge that you have challenges and issues with eating. My favorite quote is from Dr. Phil, “You cannot fix what you don’t acknowledge.” Ask yourself, “Why do I eat?” and identify the emotion(s) that is causing you to self-medicate or self-soothe with food.

Want to learn to tune into your body and be able to express and name the emotions you are feeling? Download our free guide to start the learning process.

Identify Your Emotions

Following are a few real life examples from my client’s that I know some of you can relate to:

Margaret is cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and begins to prepare her children’s lunch for the following day. As she begins to gather the ingredients for the lunches, her husband says that he needs to go out of town for a few days and he is leaving at 5:00 a.m. the following morning. As Tom continues to talk about what he needs for his trip and how long he will be gone, Margaret finds herself eating snacks and tearing off the bread crust and eating it. Margaret is feeling overwhelmed. She always gets frazzled when she is left alone with the kids. After eating the snacks and the crusts, Margaret figures, now the day is blown and out comes the ice cream. She is not feeling great about herself right now.

Isabelle arrives home from work at 4:45 p.m. and her four kids hop into the car. Her daughter Mary has dance, Todd has basketball, Tyler is in the band and Susie is a swimmer. One-by-one, she drops the children off, and heads back home to start cooking dinner. She makes a few work calls and by the time she finishes, its already 6:30 p.m. Back out to pick up the kids. Once everyone is home and has had dinner it’s 8:30 p.m. Isabelle is exhausted and while cleaning up the kitchen, she starts eating off the children’s plates and picking at the dessert. She does not even realize she is doing this until her youngest makes a comment about it. Isabelle is so tired, she just keeps eating and cannot seem to stop. By the time she sits down at her computer to work a few more hours, she is not feeling great, she feels bloated and a headache is coming on.

Kerry arrives home from work late, she immediately opens her computer, pours herself a glass of wine and begins grazing. By 10:00 p.m. she has drunk more than she intended to and ate more than she wanted. She feels horrible and asks out loud, ‘Why do I do this?’ Kerry drags herself upstairs to bed, sad.

Cecelia is self-employed and juggles her mother’s health needs. Every day is filled with “someone needing something!” She longs for a quiet moment in her day, but it never comes. Cecilia barley sits to eat, she finds her friend, chocolate and that is what she eats all day when the pressure mounts or when the call comes in, “Your mom is on the phone”. By the time Cecelia arrives home, she is exhausted and starving. She calls for take-out and over orders reasoning she will take the leftovers to work the next day. Of course, that doesn’t happen. While sitting at the computer she eats everything. Cecelia goes to bed feeling defeated and bad about what she ate. She vows to do better tomorrow. ‘Why,’ she asks God, ‘why’?

Tom’s day is often routine with nothing going on. He has breakfast at the office, eats lunch with a colleague and leaves work by 5:00 p.m. On the drive home, he stops at the drive-through and grabs a latte and a donut. He then makes his way into the house. He starts dinner and while he cooks has several types of snacks. He cleans up, sits down to watch TV and the eating continues. He doesn’t stop until bed. He has no idea why he eats nonstop, but vows to cut back tomorrow.
What do you think is going on?

Emotional Eating, No Quick Fix

The solution to controlling what we eat lies in our ability to identify and express our feelings and emotions. We need to start tuning into our bodies so that we feel and name the emotions we are experiencing. Do not kid yourself, there is no quick fix for emotional eating. It takes hard work, dedication and time. Furthermore, it will only work if you are truly ready to stop using food as your Valium. Are you ready to get off the hamster wheel of eating and feeling badly about yourself? If you are, I can help you learn to regain control of your eating behavior and achieve your weight-loss or maintenance goals.

Let’s start by completing this exercise listed below.

When you feel the desire to get up and eat I want you to:

Stop, what are you doing?

  • Are you tired?
  • Are you avoiding?
  • Are you bored?
  • Are you restless?
  • Are you anxious?
  • Are you frustrated?
  • Are you sad?
  • Are you stressed out?

What is it that you are experiencing? Remember in order to fix it you must acknowledge it!

Now that you have acknowledged it, what does it feel like or what are you feeling? Take a moment and write down what you feel. We have been told not to feel for too long. There is so much noise in our world telling us how to think, how to feel, what to do; we have forgotten how to communicate our needs and feelings effectively. Many of us just stuff them down!

Do yourself a huge favor and buy a journal and start writing in it. This journal will be your friend. If you’re not into journaling, I have created a worksheet to help you get started. Download our free worksheet to begin the practice of emotional identification. Work through the exercises and let us know how you are doing.

Identify Your Emotions

For our clients that we work with individually, please share your experience and encourage others by leaving a comment below. We are all in this to together. Let’s help each other get control of the Kraken!

I want you to take away hope. There is hope for all of you. It will be messy but so worth it. Stay tuned as the next blog in the series will highlight various ways in which to express your emotions. May God bless each and every one of you!


20 thoughts on “Is Emotional Eating Sabotaging Your Weight-loss Efforts?

  1. Kerry Monastra says:

    I have found that being tired or stressed is a huge trigger for my emotional eating, and as a mom of a busy family, it is not easy to get the rest I need. However, I have made it more of a priority. Also, bc of what I’ve learned in mbsf, I now turn to exercise and work out my stress. Nothing feels better than completing a long run when stressed rather than binging on sweets in the kitchen.


    • Nancy J Schmoyer says:

      Fatigue is my worst enemy. 40yrs of night shift and homeschooling 6 children had my sleeping and eating habits in total disarray. I retired in August 2017 and was hopeful I could gain back my life & control of some normal eating/sleeping habits. I re-lost 10 of the 20lb I had gained over the previous 3 years. (total loss was 30lb initially). Continually traveling to visit the 26 grandchildren and other traveling has been a huge challenge (again )with sleep and eating. A new situation but same issues. I am trying to be more mindful in my schedule of intentionally planning margins of time to commitments/traveling to help my family and respecting my own needs for down time. There in lies my REAL issue and the eating that results is secondary symptoms


      • Nancy J Schmoyer says:

        My 26 grandhildren all live out of state. All require flights except one and that is a 7 hr drive. So if I want to have a close relationship with them as they grow ,it means a lot of continual traveling. For 2 1/2 yrs we have been GONE more than at home. Traveling makes even drinking all the water a challenge .Mostly, it is lack of control of the menu offered at meals…little kids love carbs not salads and raw veggies. Meats are marainated, coated or mixed with salt & sugar laden sauces. Candy is always sitting out. Resisting the junk food is less of a problem. I buy fruit and keep it in our suitcases. But the meats and veggies are a problem. At home we eat fish everyday and lean meats for the 2nd meal.
        So I am strictly “on program” at home ,always recovering from a travel visit and at the gym everyday. Execising is even a cahlenge. Normally at home if it is 40 degress or more, we run or bike outside or swim at the gym. Today it is 2 degrees in Minnesota. I’ll be running to the CAR !!

        Thanks for asking !


      • HI Nancy,
        When you go out, ask the server for lean cuts with no sauces or glazes. Choose french fries over other type of starches. When you get a salad, ask for just the greens, no dried fruit, dressing or nuts and seeds. If you are going to a pizza joint, get one slice instead of two. You have to keep in mind, moderation is the key.


      • Nancy J Schmoyer says:

        Lol ! All thoses servers are my daughters-in law. I am trying to “embrace the discomfort of discipline” Thanks for the ideas


  2. MaryLynn says:

    Boredom and stress often lead me to seek food. I’m learning to stop and think about why I want food…
    am I truly hungry or is it habit. Becoming more aware and thinking before I aimlessly grab something and journaling helps to increase my compliance and is helping me be successful.


  3. Thanks for the points shared on your own blog. Something also important I would like to convey is that fat reduction is not supposed to be about going on a celebrity diet and trying to lose as much weight as you’re able in a few months. The most effective way to shed pounds is by having it slowly but surely and using some basic recommendations which can make it easier to make the most from the attempt to shed weight. You may realize and already be following most of these tips, although reinforcing expertise never damages.

    Liked by 1 person

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