the root of emotional eating

The Root of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating. I can’t tell you how many times women tell me they are emotional eaters. Guess what. We all are! Before some of you vehemently deny it, hear me out. I honestly believe that we all have emotional connections to food and to some extent, that’s okay. What?! Yes. I said it’s okay. But I also said, “to some extent.”

Think back to when you were a little girl. What were some of your favorite foods? For me, I adored peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken nuggets, both Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles, cheesecake, and chocolate anything (milk, bars, cookies, cakes). These foods made me happy.

If I was bored or overwhelmed with life (yes, even as a kid), I’d whip up a batch of chocolate no-bake cookies or bake an upside-down pineapple cake and eat my way to temporary happiness.

We need to also acknowledge that we tie food to so many good things in life: weddings, parties, social gatherings, family time, sporting events, hanging out with friends, and the list could go on and on. Beginning my twelfth birthday, I started celebrating with a Jell-O No Bake strawberry cheesecake (in place of regular cake) every year. In college, my friends and I would land at a nearby pizza place because it was cheap, easy and tasty. We’d enjoy that pizza OVER conversation, relationships, and fun. Even this coming Friday, the women’s ministry at our church is hosting a dessert night with the primary purpose being to offer a space to further relationships with one another in the context of a laid-back gathering.

When I’m stressed out, overwhelmed or feeling emotional, what do I tend to crave? Chocolate is usually at the top of my personal list but honestly, any of those foods I mentioned earlier would make me smile – at least temporarily. Why is that?

There are numerous reasons we eat more when we’re stressed and this post won’t have the time to delve into all of them. But emotional eating specifically, why do we do it?

  1. It offers us a way to numb or ignore the struggle we’re facing. For a moment, we may be able to shut out the “thing.”
  2. It may offer a calming feeling as it connects us to memories or relationships.
  3. It may have been a chosen way of coping for longer than we realize and we haven’t learned or explored other options.
  4. It’s easy. Truthfully, emotional eating feels easier than going for a walk, taking five minutes to pray or meditate, or practice some deep breathing.
  5. We’re missing something in our personal life: feeling loved, appreciated, pleasured, etc., and we’re filling that void – but with food.

As a huge proponent of functional medicine and discovering root causes, my question then goes a bit deeper than, “how do I stop emotional eating?” This is where we need to consider our specific triggers. What triggers ME, not others in general? Is it a hard day at work? Why? Don’t stop with that. Was I feeling unappreciated? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Angry? What are ways I can work on eliminating that root cause while I also work on practical habits and strategies to reduce my emotional eating? Just a few things to think through. Pause for a moment and think through your triggers. When you think you know them, ask yourself at least one more time, “why?” and you may just find a layer you didn’t realize was hidden in there.

Does this sound good in theory but not sure how to put it all together? I offer free 30-minute Discovery Sessions to hear out your particular struggles, desired goals and explain how my services can clarify and help your journey toward health. Schedule today at

Until next time…

Take care,