When Emotional Eating is Okay


This summer has been weird. Lots of stuff is happening.

Mostly good, but some not so good.

When things get rough, staying positive can be hard.

When staying positive gets hard, it’s really easy to fall into a “food is love” pattern where food is as a comfort tool as opposed to fuel.

But is that a bad thing? Is emotional eating ever okay?

Of course it is!

Sometimes, when life gets hard and throws you all kinds of curve balls, it’s okay to reach for food as comfort.

When you’re super stressed and you need a release, it’s okay to reach for food as comfort.

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is okay when:

  1. You are totally aware that you are eating emotionally– you’re making the conscious choice to eat certain foods because they make you feel good.
  2. You have other, non-food coping mechanisms in place to address your long-term needs. You’re able to use food as ONE of MANY ways that you comfort yourself and relieve stress.

Making the conscious choice to eat certain foods because they make you feel good.

Awareness changes everything: emotional eating is only a problem when you’re doing it without awareness or when you’re choosing to ignore the fact that you know you’re choosing foods to comfort yourself.  Making the conscious choice to comfort yourself with food is different from mindlessly eating a 3 lb bag of M&Ms. I really do think that sometimes a Paleo chocolate chip cookie is the only thing that will help me feel better. I don’t know if this is engrained in me from childhood, or just because it’s a sweet treat– but I know that consciously making the choice to eat one or two without guilt actually does comfort me.

Also, consciously making the choice to comfort yourself with food helps you continue to make healthier choices. When you’re truly taking responsibility for emotional eating, you’re likely to eat less than you would if you were mindlessly emotionally eating.

Using food as ONE of MANY coping mechanisms.

Food can comfort, but it shouldn’t be your only coping mechanism. Having a balance of food and non-food stress relievers is very important. Emotional eating becomes a problem when it’s the only way you know to comfort yourself or to relieve your stress. Before you make that conscious decision to comfort yourself with food, ask yourself if you have a non-food option that would satisfy you.

When choosing a non-food stress reliever, it often helps to focus on the actual emotions you’re experiencing, rather than the experience itself.

Say you’re having a tough time because your landlord decided to sell the house you live in and you only have 60 days to find a new home (the experience). You’re feeling lost, scared, insecure, and uncertain (the feelings you’re experiencing).

  • What is it that you truly need? You may need physical and emotional security or stability.
  • What could help you meet those needs? I’m guessing that in the long run, it’s not a Paleo chocolate chip cookie, but to make progress on your house hunt.
  • What will help you feel like you’re making progress on your house hunt? Looking on Zillow or talking to a real estate agent? Talking to a friend family member about their experience buying a house?

As long as you know that cookies won’t solve all of your problems, it’s okay to use them for short-term comfort– just make sure you’re attending to your long-term needs too.

So when I’m feeling stressed and like I need some release, I’m totally okay with reaching for the chocolate chip cookies and Haagen Dazs, because I know that I have a plan to address my long-term needs.

How do you feel about emotional eating? Do you think it’s ever okay? Feel free to share in the comments below.


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