emotional eating

How To Cope with Emotional Eating

Now that you have recognized emotional eating... what can you do about it? Learn to feel your feelings-- all of them!

Learning what feelings trigger emotional eating is important, but actually learning to feel those feelings without using food to numb them is just as important, if not more so.  Everyone has different feelings that are more uncomfortable than others and trigger more shame, such as anger, sadness and loneliness.  Learn to recognize those feelings when they come up, and begin trusting yourself to fully feel them.  If you find yourself turning to food to numb any specific feelings, it will feel like a dependency on food to help you cope with that feeling and will prevent you from finding other ways to cope.

Before giving into a craving, stop and ask yourself what you are really needing.

Ask yourself "What am I really hungry for right now?"  Many times, we turn to food to "feed" a "hunger" that is really about something else, like needing companionship, feeling overwhelmed and needing to do something self-nurturing, or feeling angry and needing to confront a situation or make a life change (job, relationship, etc.).

Develop healthy lifestyle habits that support healthier eating.

This could mean exercising more, getting better or more regular sleep, taking pause and having more moments that are relaxing, or doing more things that are self-nurturing.  Remember, the better we treat our body and mind in other areas besides eating, the more value we will place on "self" and want to put healthier foods into our body.

Talk to a therapist.

Food addiction and emotional eating can be a very difficult thing to address and break.  Food is unlike other substances-- we NEED it to fuel our body.  It can sometimes become overwhelming to try and sort through all of the issues surrounding emotional eating without the help of a trained professional.  If you find yourself still struggling after having worked on changing the behavior, a professional counselor can help you navigate emotional eating, to become healthier and happier!

Joleen Watson, LMFT, MS, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

Effects of Emotional Eating

Today we are discussing the effects of emotional eating. This list is not exhaustive but will hopefully give you an idea of what can happen when emotional eating is a problem.  

Weight Gain/Health Issues: Unfortunately emotional eating can lead to significant weight gain. This can cause various problems with our health. Diabetes, joint/bone issues, heart problems, just to name a few.


Relationship Problems: Oftentimes when food is being used to cope, the person in a relationship with the emotional eater will feel worried, frustrated, and sometimes alone. The feelings can mirror that of someone in a relationship with an alcoholic or drug addict. Anger is often an issue as well. It’s difficult to talk about the issue because the person doesn’t want to cause shame to the overeater. So they often hold in their feelings, creating a gap between them and the emotional eater.


Intimacy Issues: Unfortunately, weight gain can lead to issues sexually with couples. Like we mentioned in the previous section, this can create relationship problems as well. If couples struggle sexually, often they can struggle with communicating about it as well. Again, the partner does not want to put more shame on their partner so they stuff their feelings about sex and their relationship, leading to a lack of emotional intimacy as well.


Self Esteem: It’s difficult to feel positive about yourself when you are using anything to cope. It’s especially difficult with food because the challenges it creates physically (weight gain) are apparent to others. The emotional eater often struggles with feelings of shame about their appearance, leading to a downward spiral in their thinking, leading to a downward spiral in how they view themselves.


Shame: Have you heard a common theme throughout the effects? Shame is typically a symptom that causes emotional eating but it is also an effect as well. The person tells themselves they won’t overeat again, only winding up eating a bag of chips after a fight with their spouse. This makes them feel horrible about themselves, “Something must be wrong with me. I am bad.” This is a shame spiral.


There are more effects of emotional eating but these are a few to get you thinking about what it looks like. Tomorrow Joleen will share how to combat it! Thank you for reading and have a great day.

*Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling.  We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.