Emotional Eating: Is It Possible to Not Hate It?


If you are looking to stop emotional eating the process of learning to understand it can be challenging and  frustrating.  But by exploring rather than ignoring you can start to look at  your emotional eating. Perhaps  you can begin to be less mad at your eating and even start to appreciate this pattern as a way to get your attention. I call this process Befriending Your Emotional Eating.

What if your emotional eating is trying to help  you?  If you start with the premise that it might be  protecting you, maybe you could not be so mean to it.  The way we talk to ourselves about our eating and our body is often very hurtful.  You wouldn’t talk to a friend that way.

3 questions you can ask your emotional eating:

  • What emptiness are you wanting to fill?
  • If I wasn’t hungry for food, what would I be hungry for?
  • Take a guess: Is the eating protecting you from sad, mad or scared feelings?

If you can’t answer these questions for yourself, think about what you might say to a friend about their situation with emotional eating.

Rick Hanson author of The Buddha Brain uses the word benevolent instead of befriending.  Here is what he has to say:

Benevolence is a fancy word that means something simple: good intentions toward living beings, including oneself.

This goodwill is present in warmth, friendliness, compassion, ordinary decency, fair play, kindness, altruism, generosity, and love. The benevolent heart leans toward others; it is not neutral or indifferent. Benevolence is the opposite of ill will, coldness, prejudice, cruelty, and aggression. We’ve all been benevolent, we all know what it’s like to wish someone well.

So whether you use the word befriend or benevolence, how could you befriend your emotional eating today?

6 responses to “Emotional Eating: Is It Possible to Not Hate It?”

  1. I think (like Geneen Roth says) our emotional eating often has a story it wants to us to hear. Sometimes the eating part really is just a firefighter, trying to distract us. Often times, there is another layer underneath, that we have exiled. I don’t know why we are so adamant about ignoring our feelings. Sometimes we need to develop our emotional muscle to sit with these feeling parts or listen to them. We also need to retrain/rewire our neuro pathways so that we can be more ready to deal with the emotions that come up.

    Geesh, everyone lately seems to be talking about that Buddha’s Brain book. I better get on that reading train soon.

  2. Deborah says:

    I must confess… if I thought about my answers to those questions I’d talk about aloneless (vs loneliness), isolation etc.. but if I’m honest I often overeat / binge-eat because I’m angry.

    I have problems dealing with anger and THAT’S when I binge!


  3. It was only when I stopped hating emotional eating (and myself for doing it), that I was able to stop doing it (as much). Getting compassionately observant and objective, as if I am outside of myself, always helps!

  4. Elexandra Harris says:

    I never hated my emotional eating. It really helped me get over with stress and whenever I feel depressed. Stressed, when spelled backwards is desserts. 🙂

  5. For me, the dialogue with myself begins when I feel the need to grab a bag of chi[s or a cookie….I know that I’m having some sort of internal struggle when I try to snack because I’m never hungry. I think my need to feed myself is purely a stress mechanism.

  6. Phoebe Valencia says:

    I used to hate emotional eating. It really made me fat by eating a lot whenever I feel stressed. But it all changed when I got married and got a partner who doesn’t mind having a fat wife. 🙂

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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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