Emotional Eating: Understanding Feelings


Emotional eating is a way to disconnect from our feelings.  Very often it isn’t a specific feeling we are afraid of, but just afraid to feel any feeling.

Here at Green Mountain at Fox Run, our women’s healthy weight retreat, we know that women often don’t know where to begin to understand the feelings that may lead them to eat.  I call the process of reconnecting with your feelings the Archaeological DigUsing your curiosity rather than judgement to explore what is going on underneath the eating is a way to start digging deeper into understanding your feelings.

Questions such as these might help you start your Archaeological Dig:

  • When was the first time you remember emotionally eating?
  • Do you remember what was going on?
  • What foods are you attracted to now? Are these foods you used in the past to cope?
  • What feelings were not ok for you to express in your  family of origin?

Daniel Goleman has written extensively about Emotional Intelligence. In his article Are Women More Emotionally Intelligent Than Men? he reports:

Emotional intelligence has four parts: self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, and social skill. There are many tests of emotional intelligence, and most seem to show that women tend to have an edge over men when it comes to these basic skills for a happy and successful life.

But even with higher emotional intelligence, women who use food to cut off from their feelings often have to do some digging  to understand the emotions that may be contributing to the urge to eat mindlessly.

What feeling leads you to emotionally eat most often?  If you don’t know, just guess.

2 responses to “Emotional Eating: Understanding Feelings”

  1. Top two feelings that lead me to emotionally eat: inadequacy and impotence.

  2. Darla says:

    Hi Karen, Inadequacy and impotence are intense feelings and ones that invite escape through eating and honestly, through other numbing behaviors. Adding self compassion is a powerful tool toward acknowledgment of those tender feelings. Good to hear from you. Thanks Darla

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

Marsha has been a guiding force at Green Mountain at Fox Run since 1986. In addition to overseeing a professional program that helps women establish sustainable approaches to healthy living, she is a respected thought leader when it comes to managing eating, emotions and weight. She has been a voice of reason for the last three decades in helping people move away from diets, an area in which she is personally as well as professionally versed. An accomplished writer and speaker, Marsha is the author of six books, including the online course Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals (co-authored by Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, Human Kinetics), What You Need to Know about Carbohydrates (Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics [The Academy]), What You Need to Know about Vitamin and Mineral Supplements (The Academy), and The Pregnancy Cookbook (co-authored by Donna Shields, RD, Berkeley Publishing). She has worked extensively on a national basis to educate the public about nutrition and the impact of dieting on eating behaviors, including binge eating and emotional eating. Active in many organizations helping to further the cause of health and wellness, Marsha currently serves as vice chair of the Binge Eating Disorder Association and vice president of The Center for Mindful Eating and has been active in the Association for Size Diversity and Health in support of Health at Every Size(R) principles.

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