Non-diet nutrition

What to do if you eat your feelings

In this episode, Claire touches on a topic that brings many women to Flourish—emotional eating.

Show Notes
Program note: Hey, glad you’re enjoying the podcast! In this episode, you might hear Claire talking about Nutritional Freedom and Foundations. Since we launched the podcast in 2020, we've undergone a makeover to improve the membership experience. For more, listen to our "And we're back! All the updates!" episode.

Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

When it comes to nutrition, does it feel like you know what to do, you're just not doing it? Or maybe you find yourself stuck in this annoying all or nothing cycle. If it sounds like I'm reading your diary, well, that was my diary for a while too. And it's also the story of the thousands of women I've personally coached.

That's why I created Flourish, the nutrition and body image support app made for women. If you recognize that diets don't work, but "just not dieting" isn't helping you feel your best either, download Flourish today. Your first live session with one of our credentialed nutrition and psychology experts is totally free, no credit card required.

From there, you'll continue your journey with personalized accountability and support so that once you graduate from Flourish, you'll never need another nutrition program again. So head to the show notes and download Flourish for iOS or Android today.

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Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Nutritional Freedom podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, registered dietitian, founder of Nutritional Freedom, and total stationary nerd who's sharing episodes each week to help you ditch diets and get healthy for good.

We'll dive into what really works when it comes to creating sustainable nutrition and health habits, ways to improve your body image, and how all of this helps you live a life that's in alignment with your values. Because that's what really matters, right? Let's dive in.

Claire Siegel: Hello there. Welcome back to the Nutritional Freedom podcast. Y'all, y'all, y'all. I am actually recording this on a Sunday, which is unusual for me, but I sort of unintentionally took like a half day off on Friday. So here we are here, we all we're having to make up for it.

Uh, we had a meeting with our wedding planners on Friday and to all of my other COVID brides, this is not easy. It is, um, a bit challenging to navigate these, these changes. And, you know, so we're on to, I think, version three of our wedding that we are planning, and I'm excited. It's, it's definitely not what we had originally planned or intended or envisioned. Gosh, we got engaged over a year ago now.

Um, But we're just, we're ready. We're ready to get married. And so we're going to make it happen, and, uh, make, make the most of it. But yeah, we had that meeting with our planners last Friday. Friday's usually when I record the podcast. And I just didn't have it in me after that meeting. It was exciting, I was just, you know, feeling sometimes you're just not feeling it. But here we are, it's a Sunday and I am feeling it.

So, that's the beauty of getting to create your own structure and create your own schedule. And I think many of us are experiencing a little bit more of that freedom now that, you know, so many of us are living and working from home. So I've been, uh, you know, doing my best to have that structure and then also bring in, uh, a lot of flexibility and a lot of self-compassion, which we talked about extensively last week.

Um, so definitely recommend you check out that episode, last week's episode, if you are interested in bringing some more structure into your, your life, especially as it pertains to how you approach health. Okay?

Now, before we get into today's episode, I want to share a listener review. I am so, so grateful to all of you who have rated and reviewed the Nutritional Freedom podcast in iTunes. It is so helpful. It really helps people find us and new people get their ears on the podcast, and it's great feedback for me. Um, definitely loved all the feedback we've been getting on the podcast so far. So I'm going to keep it.

Here we go. [Username] wrote, "Short, sweet and packed with inspiration and knowledge." She says, "Love your podcast, Claire." Thank you. "It's one of the few shows that I listened to on repeat since the episodes are concise, but so rich in nutritional and motivational knowledge. Keep it up!" That is the plan. Okay?

So today's episode touches on a topic that brings a lot of clients to us. It also brings a lot of people to our social media. It brings perhaps you to this podcast, and that is emotional eating. Emotional eating. Now, typically this takes the form of essentially trying to eat your way out of negative emotions, like stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Just to name a few. There's there many tough emotions, right?

Now. This episode isn't called how to end emotional eating, and that is for a reason. That may be an episode title that would get more clicks and more listens, but that's not it. Okay? Because the truth is a healthy relationship with food is actually inherently emotional. Right? If you think about it, food ties us to our family, our friends, our heritage. Special times and special places in our lives.

So, as I was writing out this episode, I was thinking about foods that carry like particular emotional weight in my life. And the first one that came to mind, maybe you know this, if you follow me on social, um, chocolate chip waffles and sort of by proxy chocolate chip pancakes. And that is because growing up, we would go visit my grandma and my grandpa on my mom's side in Daytona beach, Florida. And my grandma would make the best chocolate chip waffles.

And I don't know if it was the mix or if it was her waffle maker, but she just was able to make them so crisp and light and delicious. And sometimes she would add walnuts, but always, always, always chocolate chips. I did not know that was a thing until my grandma introduced me to it. And so that food, it just like the smell, the whole thing. It is such an emotional. Experience for me, especially right now. And, and, you know, quarantine in times of COVID we can't go visit her and in Florida, we can't go visit my grandpa in Florida. And so, yeah, you know, it's just a very emotional, it's an emotional food, and that's a beautiful thing.

I have a somewhat similar, emotional, um, feeling our attachment to matzah ball soup. So if you don't know, that is a kind of culturally Jewish food. And my mom who—I love my mom, she's amazing at many, many things... um, cooking is not one of them. But she makes some bomb matzah ball soup.

So every year, every Passover that is like her thing. So just reminds me of like my family. It reminds me of my mom. It reminds me of, you know, my, my heritage, my background. So yeah, food is emotional. But there's levels, right? So a relationship with food that's totally devoid of emotion may leave something to be desired, right? You may miss out on some of that richness in life. And then on the other hand, on the flip side, on the opposite side of the spectrum here, an overly emotional relationship with food can cause a lot of unnecessary drama in your life. Okay? So that's really kind of the side of the spectrum that we're going to speak to today. All right?

But the truth is when it comes to coping mechanisms, emotional eating is actually pretty benign. Right? You can probably think of other coping mechanisms that are far more problematic, let's say. But that doesn't mean that emotional eating is effective.

So what do I mean by that? Well, I'm going to use an example from a past client, let's call her Laura. Laura was dealing with a lot of stress, and her go-to coping mechanism was food. And that's true for many of us, right? So on a coaching call, she shared a story in which she ended up eating emotionally after her child got acutely sick. So we walked through exactly what happened.

Basically her child got sick while, while she was away at college, she felt worried, Laura did. And as a result of feeling worried, Laura reached for cookies after dinner, and then felt guilty afterwards because she over ate and that wasn't an action that she agreed with. So now she not only feels worried, but she also feels guilty. She feels overly full. And let's not forget that her child is still sick.

And as Laura said, she wasn't going to feel okay. She was not going to stop worrying until she knew her child was okay. And ultimately her child was totally fine. Everything is fine. But this is just such a good example of the, you know, emotional reaction and our default coping mechanisms, the things that we reach for to try and feel better.

So that's what I mean when I say that emotional eating is often very ineffective as far as coping mechanisms go. It rarely actually solves anything. So, at best, it offers some temporary relief through distraction. Okay? And at its worst, it can actually layer on more negative emotions because of the way that you may judge your emotional eating behaviors. And this is exactly what Laura found.

So what do you do, you here listening to this podcast? What do you do if you find yourself eating your feelings or eating based on emotion. I would first start by neutralizing your view of emotional eating. So in that example I shared, the guilt that Laura felt during and after this incident really prevented her from being able to look at the situation objectively, and, and it really kept her from kind of thinking clearly about ways to go about it differently. Right?

Like right away, even in engaging in eating the cookies, like the guilt already started to set in. And it really, it did not help her handle the situation in a way that she agreed with. And listen, this is easier said than done. And I mean, a clear example in which getting coached really helps. Because we internalize so many cultural messages about how we quote unquote, should eat, which can lead to a lot of that judgment that's really hard to sift through in your own mind. Especially in real time, right? So having a space to talk it all out is really powerful.

So as Lauren and I were discussing on this call, we started to objectively and neutrally look at what happened. And she was able to see that while emotionally eating the cookies wasn't bad or something to feel guilty about, it also didn't solve the matter at hand. Okay?

So again, start by trying to neutralize your view of emotional eating. And then I want you to take a closer look at your desire to avoid negative emotions. Now this may not even be a conscious desire so much that it is like an unconscious default. And this is exactly what we did with Laura. We slowed down to take a look at the situation with all that unnecessary guilt kind of squared away, or at least shelved for the moment, we turn to the worry, the initial worry that she felt... very understandably so, this worry that she was so quick to try and override with food.

Why did she not want to feel that feeling of worry? When we dug in further, we saw she actually did. She did want to feel that feeling of worry. She didn't want to feel happy. She didn't want to feel neutral in response to her child getting sick. Worry was exactly the right feeling for the moment, but her default urge was to take action to avoid feeling that sense of worry.

Some tough emotions are hard to feel. Like there is no question about that. We have an entire lesson on this in our freedom membership, but if you're trying to override all of your negative emotions with food... for one thing, you're probably missing out on a lot of room for growth. And in all likelihood, you're also stirring up so many more unnecessary, negative emotions for yourself. Right?

So there are negative emotions that we need to feel that are there, you know, in a rightful way. And then there are negative emotions that come up that we don't need to feel, such as the guilt with food. You never need to feel guilty about. You never need to feel guilty for eating. And so often because we try to avoid the negative emotions, the tough emotions that we need to feel, we end up stirring up more unnecessary, negative emotions.

So if we could just take a look at that urge or unconscious default to avoid negative emotions, we may actually be able to set ourselves up for even more success by being more willing to experience the full spectrum of emotions. Okay?

Lastly, I'm going to suggest that you compassionately and curiously check out the role that food plays in your life. Is food your only source of joy? Is it your only source of entertainment? Is it your only relief from life's stresses? If that's the case, putting a lot of pressure on food. And I think that more than ever, so many of us are falling into this because our lives are limited and we're in a really tough time right now, right?

It is, it is August of 2020 as I'm recording this. And there's a lot of really difficult, tough, and painful stuff that we are going through collectively and individually right now. And so it makes sense that food has been, you know, perhaps the throughput, the, the joy, the love, the relief, the entertainment, when so much of life feels hard. And when in, in many ways our lives feel so limited. But if that's not serving you, if that's not working for you, you can change it. Okay?

So think about how you can create a toolbox of coping mechanisms and self-care tools that can sit right alongside food. Again, the goal here isn't to eliminate emotional eating, but to really make sure that you have all the tools you need. The same way you wouldn't just, you know, you wouldn't set out to build a house with just a hammer, so then why would you go through life's journey with food as your only emotional management support tool? You wouldn't, right?

So those are my recommendations. What to do if you eat your feelings. No quick tips here. No hacks, because that's just not how it works. If that were how it works, you probably wouldn't be here, right?

So if you want some more guidance as you dig further into your journey towards truly sustainable nutrition and health, I'm going to recommend you check out our free course, the three keys to never diet again. And if what I've shared with you today has resonated with you, again, take that step, start making that shift from gathering inspiration, listening to the podcast, reading all the books to really taking action.

When you sign up for the free course, you're going to get a workbook and three days of video lessons to help get you started in your own journey, your own process of ditching diets and getting healthy for good. You can freaking do it, my friend.

All right. If you love this episode, I would love your feedback. I would love to know, you know, what kind of takeaways that, that you had, what you gathered from this episode, all of the many things. Let me know. Okay? Have a wonderful rest of your day, a wonderful rest of your week, and I will see you in the next episode. Bye.

Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

Headshot of Claire Siegel
Claire Siegel
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.

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