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  • Writer's pictureAlida Finnie

Understanding Emotional Eating.

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Rain blurring scene. Represents the uncertainty of emotional experience. Photo by Max Hofstetter via @Unsplash
Rain blurring scene. Represents the uncertainty of emotional experience. Photo by Max Hofstetter via @Unsplash

Let's talk about it. Emotional Eating.

In essence, I’m referring to eating in the absence of physical hunger. I actually prefer to call it symbolic hunger, a term I picked up from a fellow - quite brilliant - dietitian, Tracy Brown. So that’s the term I’ll use moving forward.

I’d like to know what you think about symbolic eating {aka emotional eating}?

Do you try running from it, avoiding it best you can like the plague?

You’re definitely not alone here. Eating for non-physical reasons has been so demonized and as a result, it’s our tendency to try to banish it.

But if you feel like this strategy hasn’t been all that helpful…

If you feel like there’s a constant power struggle between your body and mind when it comes to eating…

>> Either feeling in control, militantly watching every morsel that passes your lips…


>> Feeling powerless and undisciplined…

But if what you really want is to finally feel more at ease while nourishing yourself well, you’re in the right place.

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have to banish symbolic eating. There are tonnes of tricks out there teaching us how to avoid it. I’m not here to give you more tricks because I know you’ve tried them all if you’re here with me today.

I’m here to support you while you dig a little deeper. Let’s see if we can understand emotional eating a little better.

First, not all emotional eating prevents you from being your best self. Emotional eating can be delightful like eating a slice of wedding cake. But the stuff that may create a power struggle between you, eating and your body… this is the space you can use to get to know yourself even better. Perhaps you can even see emotional eating and your struggle with it as an opportunity to grow?

Right now, you’re doing the best you can and to beat yourself up for eating when you’re not physically hungry, this so often keeps us stuck. If we’ve always turned to food to cope, and now you’ve told yourself you’re not good enough because you use food in this way, what do you suspect that may lead to?

Hint: What do you usually turn to during times of emotional turmoil and 'not enoughness'?

So instead, what if you saw symbolic eating in a kinder light, one that reveals a need that you’re doing your best to fill right now, it’s just not quite the right match so your need doesn’t get fully met.

If we call a truce, breathe, and invite curiosity during these times, this may be the right, albeit counterintuitive path to ease and freedom around food and eating.

Mindfulness gives us space and opens up options to choose a new path or choose the old one if that’s makes the most sense for the siutation! Essentially, it helps build new possibility for your next actions, helping you dull the blind magnetism of habit.

You can follow this two-step process

Step One:

Follow yourself around and see if you can pause for a moment when you know you may be reaching for food with impulse. Remember the pause is intended as just that – a pause, not another strategy to avoid eating. The pause is a space to register what’s really going on with you. In this pause, get curious about what you need. Is it physical? Did you wait too long between eating times and now you’re ravenous?

Step Two:

If there’s no physical need you can identify, ask yourself what it is you do need right now. Do you need a distraction? Do you need some ways to sit with discomfort? Do you have a calling that’s been buried and needs to be uncovered?

The idea is we’re being curious on what would be a good match to help us either grow or bring us back into balance where we feel our most vital and connected to this present moment.

In the mean time, you’ve gotten yourself this far, so don’t fret if the opportunity for change doesn’t happen straight away. Keep leaning in. Have faith in the process.

If you liked this post and don’t want to miss more powerful Intuitive Eating trainings, special offers and loads of encouragement, I'd love for you to Join My Circle for FREE right HERE.

Big love,


#IntuitiveEating #HealthoverDiets #NonDietApproach #WeightNeutral

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