Emotional Eating: 6 Steps to Overcoming

Emotional eating is something that more people struggle with than they would like to admit, and if you are one of those people, firstly, I’d like you to know that it’s okay. Emotional Eating is still a normal part of a relationship with food!

But if you’ve got fitness goals… emotional eating can get in the way.

If you don’t know me, HI, I am Emily, the Fitness Witch.

(Yes, yes, we’ve had a bit of a coming out & rebrand in the last few months)

I’m your science backed fitness, and mindset  coach, with a whole lotta woo!

I am here to help you conquer emotional eating, learn self love, trust yourself around food, & improve your mindset around macros & mindful eating!

Just know, you are not alone.

I’ve struggled with emotional eating in the past, typically around after my competitions. One of my biggest triggers was American Dream nut butters. My biggest weakness (which now i eat on a regular basis and no longer feel bad about it!)

…… because I overcame emotional eating 

Step #1, we have to make sure you are eating enough food!

You need to be eating enough food throughout the day, and in general. 

If you are eating below 1400 calories, that’s a big warning sign!

Dieting for any extended period of time will mess up your hunger signals & hormones: setting you up for emotional eating, binge eating behaviors, & rebounding if you’re not careful to reverse diet.

Make sure you’re eating ENOUGH food during the day! I see a lot of my clients eating tiny breakfasts & going from lunch to dinner without any snacks in between… then overeating snacks & sweets before dinner even starts.

While it might seem counterintuitive, try eating a bigger breakfast & plan for satiating, protein filled snacks during your day like these Greek Yogurt Pudding Bowls or Microwave Egg White Oats.

I used to calorie hoard for the end of the day. I would have these GIANT desserts, because I thought I would be starving at the end of the day. Well, I wasn’t eating enough during breakfast and lunch, which caused me to be starving come evening. 

SO EAT A BIGGER BREAKFAST!

As scary as that may sound/ be, it could be a cure for emotional eating.

I used to follow intermittent fasting so I get it. But be sure to get at least 20g of Protein with your breakfast.

Here are some ideas:

Macro-FriendliER Scotch Eggs

Loaded Baked Potato Cream of Rice

Microwave Egg White Oats

Sausage, Egg, & Cheese “McMuffin”

Wouldn’t it be nice to not get hangry around noon, because you decided to eat a nice breakfast? 

Step #2, Release the Guilt. Create Awareness. Identify triggers.

If you have recently emotional ate, it is OK.

Release the guilt, it happens.

But let’s try and get down to the root of WHY, and identify any possible triggers.

We want to try and attack this from an angle of curiosity, not shame. This is a judgment free zone.

Let’s release the feelings of “I’m a bad person” or “my coach is going to be mad at me”. (although, if your coach is going to be upset with you, you might want to find a different coach…)

If we look at this from a curiosity standpoint, we can kind of see and observe the events that happened that day, that caused emotional eating to occur. Once you can observe, then you can identify the triggers.

Being anxious isn’t necessarily the trigger. We need to find out what caused the anxiety which then led to the emotional eating. Was it an email from your job? Is it a messy kitchen? We need to get down to the root of the anxiety to see what then led you to emotional eat. 

Then we can…

Step #3 Learn and practice self soothing techniques that are not related to food. 

Once you have identified the trigger, you want to learn and practice other self soothing techniques to HELP with that trigger. You need to start doing this now, because if you default to emotional eating and a situation arises, you will have the techniques down already to help in the situation. 

Practice them NOW……. because when you’re triggered, your brain is going to push you towards the tried & true method of helping you feel safe… FOOD

Your brain has been trained (by YOU!) to lead you towards comfort foods, trigger foods because your brain knows that’s what has been helping you this whole time. It’s gonna send you to the solution it knows best.

You also know what’s going to help soothe you best.

I can’t tell you to go meditate “because it will help your emotional eating.” (You’ll probably roll your eyes at me!) Unless it’s something that you already do now, and makes you feel at peace, it may help. But if you don’t, it wont be an instant cure!

So think to yourself. What is another stress relief activity that you can start to practice when those same anxious or emotional eating feelings come up to replace the emotional eating with?

Once awareness has been created you can more easily identify the triggers, and do what needs to be done to not emotionally eat. 

Step 4: Practice FOOD HABITUATION if it’s a specific trigger food.

This is the practice of eating that food more often so that it becomes less of a trigger food. 

If you live with your parents who have candy all over the house, and it is a trigger food that you typically end up bingeing on….

Eat a piece of candy every day.

If you allow yourself to have one piece a day, your body will still get the satisfaction of eating/enjoying it, and it wont be as much of a “treat”, if it’s more of an everyday thing. If you eat one piece of candy for 2 weeks straight, you enjoy it and then you forget it’s even there because you get used to it! 

It’s like when you were a little kid at school and the kid across the tabel from you had the fruit snacks and you were REALLY jealous of the fruit snacks. And then when your mom got them for you they became a lot less….cool.

This is something I do with my 1:1 fitness & nutrition clients a lot. If they’re feeling anxious around sweets or candy I will actually assign them to have a piece of candy every day.

If it’s Oreos… same concept.

Step #5: Build self trust by doing what you say you will do more often than not.

What I mean by this, is you need to follow through with what you say you’re going to do.

If you say you’re going to do something, you need to do it.

Because if you can’t trust yourself with your own word, how do you trust yourself around food???

If you can’t trust yourself to hit your step goal or go to the gym the number of days you say you’ll go… how the hell are you supposed to trust yourself around food?

If a 10k step goal is too high, drop it to 8k, and hitting 10k will be the cherry on top! But stop beating yourself up if you can’t hit those goals. 

Same thing goes with a 5 day week gym plan. Drop that 5 day goal to 4 days a week—if you go a 5th it’s just a bonus!

This will also increase self confidence if you do what you say you’re going to and take action on your goals. 

Build self trust by LOWERING the intense expectations you’ve set for yourself.

Step #6: Make sure you don’t diet for too long.

The longer & more extreme you diet, the more your food focus will increase, leading to more emotional eating.

If you have been eating under 1600 calories for over 6 months, it is probably time to reverse diet & raise those calories back up! 

WHY can this lead to emotional eating?…. Let me tell you!

The body has negative metabolic adaptations that occur when you’re eating low calories. The body’s hunger signal will increase, while your satiety (fullness) signal decreases. SO if you’re more hungry and starving all the time, you’re more likely to emotional eat. So, be sure to reverse diet. 

This is my client Rachel, we took her from a 1300 calorie meal plan all the way up to 2000 calories–look at the muscle she built!

A common objection i get here to these; “Emily, i just can’t control myself around X food!” or “my coaches told me to throw them out”.

I GET IT.

I’ve BEEN there, I’ve been in your shoes.

Once I had a coach tell me to throw out my American Dream Nut Butter. But after being an ambassador for that company for almost 2 years at that point, I knew I wasn’t going to do that.

Because the trigger was NOT the butter, the trigger was the anxiety I was going through.

I was still teaching full time, the covid stress was high (2020, am I right…) 

These external factors led me to have a full blown anxiety attack at the gym. The music was loud, the gym was really hot, and all of a sudden I could feel the music vibrating on my skin. I had a full blown anxiety attack that caused me to leave the gym mid workout. Little did I know that when I would arrive home, there was a surprise package of ADNB on my front porch.

I didn’t even make it to a SPOON guys. I started eating it with my fingers!!

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t the ADNB that was the trigger.

It was all the external anxiety I was experiencing, between the coach that I had (that I was so afraid of admitting emotional eating too) , working at the school, and the gym being loud. 

That being said, you have to self soothe the triggers leading up to that. If I didn’t have the nut butter in the house, it would have been something else whether it was the cereal, the poptarts, and hell even the blueberries i had in the fridge. 

You will find a way to self sabotage unless you plan and practice other self soothing techniques first.

Let me say that again.

You will find a way to self sabotage unless you plan and practice other self soothing techniques first.

This is kind of the same thing as having an anxious dog! If they’re eating too fast, you’re not going to throw their food away & give it different food to help them because you know they are anxious  eating their food super fast, because of their anxiety. You’d likely look up ways to help the dog, or take them out for more walks, and maybe even take them to the vet to get some medication. 

It is the same concept, guys. You wouldn’t take the food away from your pup for eating too fast out of anxiety.

Why would you take your favorite foods away?

You would help your dog feel better because you love and care about them so much, what about yourself? 

We’re all human. Right? Humans have flaws, perfection does not exist, and emotional eating is perfectly totally normal relationship with food

*take a deep breath* 

and heal the emotional eating from the mindset side of these 6 steps.

Then once you have conquered emotional eating, you just need structured gym plan implementing progressive overload, and occasional macro adjustments.

Click here to schedule a call with me to chat about 1:1 Fitness & Mindset coaching.

You want to make sure that you have set yourself up for success once you have hit your weight loss goals to maintain those results long term without rebounding and reverse dieting & raising your calories.

Alright guys, get out there, lift some weights, do strong girl shit, & remember how powerful you really are. 

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