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Emotional Eating, Stress, and Finding Compassion for YOURSELF

November 4th - probably one of the more anxiety-ridden days of 2020 and that's really saying something.

People across our country are glued to the news watching numbers, praying for results, waiting for states to turn blue or red, disagreeing with neighbors, friends, and even family members, and are rightfully worried about the future of our country.

Aside from the election, we are still in the midst of a pandemic with many answers unknown. Some are mourning the loss of loved ones, others are struggling financially and stressed about job security, still more are worried about their own health and we are all adjusting to a very different holiday season than what we are used to.

With that being said, some sort of stress is very likely at the forefront of your life right now.

People deal with their stress in a multitude of different ways - some tactics being more healthy than others. (I'll be the first to admit I fall back on poor coping methods at times). Today, I want to focus on how your relationship and reliance on food changes when faced with an emotional situation.

Emotional eating: maybe it was that high school breakup that had you blasting old Taylor Swift while downing a pint of half-baked ice cream. For some people, it's memories of late nights in college studying for a test with a few too many pizza slices. Maybe it looks like anxious non-stop snacking due to job stress, or family tensions. My point is - emotional eating doesn't have to look or feel a certain way. It's different for everyone.

If you have found yourself in the past months overeating, snacking due to anxious energy, covering your emotions in sweets or comfort food - that is OK. You are far from alone in this and these actions are SO justified with what we have dealt with this year. Let's be real - we all found ourselves at one point slumped on the couch binge-watching our favorite show with a bag of snack food during COVID quarantine.

And my guess is - when most of us have "eaten our emotions" at one point or another, we've felt a bit crappy afterward. Typically, the aftermath of overindulging involves some sort of shame or disappointment in ourselves.

Take a moment now - think of the last time you had an emotional eating episode. How did you feel before/during/after? During these moments, we are often not fully present with ourselves. We've gotten caught up in what is making us upset, worried, sad, etc. and do not have a clear mindset. Maybe we don't WANT to be present with ourselves, maybe we are trying to escape even further and food is that escape.

For me - I know that the emotions of stress lead me to anxiously rummage for a sweet or salty snack in the pantry. I then eat MORE of that snack than I wanted to because I found it to be a distraction and activity to ease my emotions. Afterward, I am upset with myself for eating "too much". It's pretty simple and it's pretty normal.

Essentially, we are using food/eating as a sort of distraction - something to "numb" the other emotions we are feeling. The food creates a buffer between ourselves and whatever it is we have in front of us. All of a sudden, eating is helping us feel a little bit better.

OK but then what? You're sitting there feeling bloated, uncomfortable, feeling sluggish, and asking "WHY DID I HAVE TO EAT ALL THAT JUNK!?"


The shame, the embarrassment the self-destruction as GOT to GO! It is not "bad" that food causes you some sort of comfort. (Why do you think they call it "comfort food"?!).

The worst thing you can do for yourself after a night of overeating is get up the next day and start restricting, put yourself on a "diet" or dwell on whatever you consumed. Restricting will only lead to a binge, which defeats the purpose of trying to "un-do" what you did.


ACCEPT whatever happened. - it is what it is -

That episode of stress-eating isn't going to ruin your week, your body, and it sure as hell shouldn't ruin your self-esteem.

Be sure to drink plenty of water, maybe go for a walk or do your favorite workout class, and continue to eat as you normally would. Don't skip a meal, go on a juice cleanse, or only allow yourself to eat veggies. Your body will be absolutely fine and you won't suddenly gain 10 lbs from one day of extra eating. Sit back, relax, slap a face mask on, and sip some red wine.

In order to help prevent common stress-eating habits in the future try to:

- stay hydrated

- do not restrict food throughout the day

- get enough sleep

- maintain a healthy meal schedule

- check-in with your emotions

- find new outlets for stressful energy

- make sure you're not actually hungry!

Stress-eating is bound to happen once in a while (especially if it's one of your go-to tactics). I'll tell ya right now - I'm probably not physiologically hungry but a bag of salty popcorn and some chocolate sounds GREAT and comforting. Having an enjoyable snack at the end of the day even if you aren't totally hungry isn't going to be the death of you.

However, if you feel as though stress is driving MOST of your eating habits (whether that means you're NOT hungry due to stress or constantly eating), then maybe it's time to get some extra help. Asking for help is never something to be ashamed of! I know I still need a ton of help with my own relationship with food. :)


PLEASE do make sure that you are not simply physiologically hungry and trying to restrict food. Your body does need fuel and carbs and sugars and snacks to maintain your energy throughout the day. Check-in with yourself and work to make sure you're eating enough. I will tell you from personal experience that if your body is hungry it WILL want you to eat eat eat in order to protect itself. And once again - that is normal and OK!


Get outside, get baking, get decorating, get in the holiday spirit! Find some time for ENJOYING the season in the midst of a stressful situation.

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