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Why Do We Emotionally Overeat?

In this video I describe a topic that came up during a client session- one of the top reasons we emotionally overeat. I don't get into the details of this client's life, but she has a long history of restrictive dieting, is well-practiced in viewing her body as an object, and a history of emotional trauma that she has caused her to become hyper-focused on achieving and avoiding the emotions that are particularly uncomfortable.

This video by no means is exhaustive, but it may shed just enough light to help you understand how you may be using food to assuage emotional discomfort. The food isn't bad. The emotion isn't bad. And you are not bad for engaging in eating to take care of yourself. Let me say that again.

Emotional overeating behavior is not bad, wrong, or something you should feel ashamed about.

Ultimately, you are trying to take care of yourself, and that is an amazingly adaptive response indicative of a motivation to live and thrive. What we need to do is build your arsenal of additional ways to care for yourself too, so food isn't your only method of self-care when uncomfortable emotions arise.

Please be aware that if you are currently dieting, experiencing significant hunger, and ignoring those cues to fuel your body, I would not classify eating as emotional overeating. This is an important distinction. You may deem it to be "emotional" because you're feeling anxious or uncomfortable. You may also label it as "overeating" because you are eating more than you expected to or over the macros that were either self- or coach-imposed. But when there is legitimate hunger, your body will often register sensations that are not distinguishable from an emotion. For example, low blood sugar often shows up with shakiness, a headache, sweaty palms, inability to focus or concentrate, or irritability, to name a few symptoms. These are also common when we're experiencing anxiety, worry, or nervousness.

Suffice to say that unless you are eating adequately and regularly, it's difficult to pinpoint whether you're eating because of very real nutritional energy needs or because you're eating to assuage emotions that you don't want to experience. Either way, there is work to be done, new learnings to integrate, and new understandings to incorporate into your life to live a fuller, healthier, more nourished life!

Check out the forum where we're digging into the topic of emotions and which ones we find the most difficult to welcome and feel!

And if you so inclined, preview the online course I have available called End Emotional Eating & Change Your Relationship with Food.


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