Emotional Eating: How to Shift From “Out-of-Control” to an Empowered Eater


We all eat emotionally sometimes. After all, there is a powerful connection between food and love that begins at the breast—it’s literally hardwired into us. Not to mention the conditioning we all received when given a food treat to make things “all better” when we were little. Naturally, we are drawn to food for love and comfort!

But for many, emotional eating has become a struggle, and I believe the main reason for this lies in the label itself. We have used “emotional eater” as a self-definition that implies weakness and deficiency. This perspective has led to weight gain, low self-esteem, and shame, which leads to an even stronger desire to eat for comfort or stress release. It’s a vicious cycle that can become both a self-fulfilling prophecy and an excuse.

And instead of getting to the root of the problem, most women try to “fix” it by pouring their energy into ineffective strategies, like restrictive dieting and willpower. The trouble is, what you resist, persists.

I’d like to suggest that the most powerful way to transform emotional eating may be to change your thinking about what it means. We are emotional beings! We bring emotion to everything we do, so why not eating? What if, instead of being an “emotional eater” by the old definition, you were simply someone learning about yourself and your needs through your relationship with food? Drop the disempowering label and you begin to reclaim your power around food, and your life.

Plus, when done the right way, eating emotionally can aid metabolism and weight loss. Positive emotions create a state of relaxation in the body, which enables you to digest, metabolize, and burn calories at a higher level. You do the math!

How to Shift From an Emotional Eater to an Empowered Eater

Here are three very simple strategies you can use to shift from an “out-of-control” to an “empowered” eater:

Make Eating Fun

Choose one meal a day and set the table with nice linens and china. Turn off the TV and negative distractions. Instead, light a candle, play some music, make it pretty, and really savor the food. (Added bonus: awareness is also a powerful metabolism-booster!)

Be Curious

Cravings are clues as to what you may be missing in your life. Craving sweets? Perhaps you are feeling deprived of pleasure. Craving salty, crunchy snacks? Maybe frustration is building and you need to release some tension. Instead of defining yourself as weak and powerless, get curious around what it is you really need more (or less) of. Then take one step to meet that need in a more effective way.

Embrace Your Feelings

Emotions can feel overwhelming, but they always pass. Even the painful ones move through when you acknowledge them. Start a journal to express your feelings in a safe place. Even just 5 minutes a day of journaling can reduce your urge to eat for emotional reasons.

How do you avoid "eating emotionally" and take control of your eating habits?

Michelle Leath is a coach, mentor, speaker, and the founder ofwww.unlockyourpossibility.comShe teaches women how to harness the power of possibility, permission and pleasure to create the lives they truly want and deserve. She specializes in helping women create a relationship with food and their bodies that works for them, so that they can release unwanted weight or food habits without dieting or depriving themselves, and so they can show up like the rock stars they are in their businesses, lives, and relationships! Having found recovery from an eating disorder herself, Michelle is passionate about helping others heal their food issues, and she also authors a blog on eating disorder recovery at

Michelle is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute, a Certified Food Psychology Coach, and has a degree in Psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She has helped women connect with their potential in various ways for over 20 years. 


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