Let’s talk about “emotional eating.” I know I see a lot of clients who come into my office greatly distressed, feeling anxious and ashamed because they “eat emotionally.” We’ve been taught this is a bad things and today, I want to offer another perspective, specifically my own recent experience of emotional eating, and how I’ve embraced this as a form of self-care.
I had a tough week. (Yes, therapists have hard weeks, too, we’re all human beings in this together!) And I love fresh, warm cookies- they’re buttery, sweet and this morning a cookie felt very satisfying and comforting! I ate a cookie because it felt comforting, it was emotionally soothing. Did you know it’s actually really normal and totally okay to eat a food just because it feels good?
🍪Sometimes a cookie is self-care! 🍪 For me, cookies are a part of my self-care today!
I used to be under the impression that since “food is fuel”- eating for any reason besides to “refuel” was bad or wrong. Now I couldn’t disagree more. That you must eat only for “fuel” is totally a very rigid, shame-based message created by diet culture & it’s a recipe for disordered eating! And if you’re now thinking “but that’s how I’ve been thinking and that’s wrong, too”- slow down, don’t feel badly, there is no judgement here! The messages we get about food are really LOUD and absolutely confusing!
Here’s what I’ve come to learn- yes, food is fuel for our bodies AND it’s SO MUCH MORE! Food is a wonderful source of pleasure (our brains reward us when we eat because we NEED food to survive!) Food is a way we connect to others- there are experiences that go with eating that have so much value beyond the energy food provides: laughter with friends, the connection to one’s culture or family, etc. Food is meant to be enjoyed and experienced, not simply digested.
I’m really grateful for this cookie. It was a way I could bring pleasure, comfort, soothing to myself after a tough week. It was an act of self-compassion. I’m grateful my body can handle eating a wide variety of foods, including cookies.
So am I suggesting you always soothe by eating? No, I’m a fan of variety (food & coping skills). Food is an option, and one that is NOT shameful! Is food the only way I’ve comforted or soothed myself this week, my only form of self-care? Nope- I also reached out for support from those I trust, I’ve journaled, did gentle yoga, cuddled with my dog, etc. AND I went out of my way to go buy a really delicious cookie from an amazing bakery because that felt good to me and my body!! None of these forms of self-care are better than another- they all worked for me in the moment, and that’s really what it’s all about.
Let’s all try to be kind and gentle with ourselves today. Practice self-care as it works for you!
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by how you need to eat, if it’s consuming a large amount of space in your mind each day, you may need someone to help you work through this with you. This is the work I’m passionate about doing, and there is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help.