How To Eat For Emotional Reasons

Say what? What kind of dietitian would give instructions on how to eat for emotional reasons?

An enlightened one!

Most people think it’s wrong to eat for emotional reasons because they think they will eat way too much and gain weight.

Many people also feel that they should be able to control their emotions and not let them get in the way of achieving their goals.

But of course, our emotions do get in the way and the end result is a feeding frenzy that has a temporary numbing effect. Within minutes, however, that effect is replaced with feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing.

It often goes like this: Jon is passed over for a promotion at work and feels unappreciated. When he gets home, he stands in front of the refrigerator and grabs the leftover pizza, eating several slices in a short amount of time, while experiencing intense anger and frustration. He shoves each piece into his mouth, one right after the other and grabs a Pepsi to wash it all down. He then grabs a bag of chips and plops in front of the TV, eating almost the entire bag without realizing it.

When he gets up, he feels stuffed and uncomfortable. He regrets eating so much and feels disgusted with himself. He sees the Oreos on the counter and thinks “what the hell? I’ve already gone off my diet”.

He proceeds to eat the entire package of cookies while standing at the counter and then goes to bed promising himself he will get back on the diet tomorrow.

Is this emotional eating? Yes. Is it a positive experience in which Jon gains insight into his emotional distress? Absolutely not!

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Emotional eating can be a positive and helpful experience. Really, it can!

The problem isn’t eating in response to emotions, it’s how the eating is done. Ellyn Satter, RD MSW, author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, describes a different way of eating called “eating competence” that teaches people how to eat for emotional reasons so that they feel satisfied and happy after the eating experience is over.

Here are 10 steps to becoming a competent emotional eater based on Satter’s work.

  1. Identify what emotion you are feeling and why. Are you mad, sad, or just bored? Pinpoint the exact feelings you are having and why you are feeling that way. Put your thoughts on paper if it helps.
  2. Put in a delay. Before reaching for food, try going for a walk or calling a friend. Anything that will help you process your thoughts and work through the emotions.
  3. If food is what you really want, go ahead and get the food that you want. Put it on a plate and sit down at a table. This is key!
  4. Center yourself. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Pray, meditate, or just sit there quietly for 30 seconds or longer and notice your feelings. Pretend that you stepped outside of yourself and just notice the feelings you are having without forming any judgement.
  5. Tell yourself that this food will not take away the problem that is causing you to feel emotional but it will help you feel better temporarily.
  6. Take a bite and put your fork down. Chew slowly and taste the food. Do not read or look at a screen. Tell yourself you can have as much as you want.
  7. As you eat, pay attention to feelings of fullness and satisfaction. As soon as you feel full and satisfied – not stuffed but comfortably full – put your fork or spoon down and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. If you want more, eat more but eat it slowly and attentively until you are comfortably full and satisfied.
  8. Check in with yourself, as to how you are feeling. What emotions are you feeling? This is often when we gain insight into the problem at hand. Thoughts and ideas will often pop into our heads that we hadn’t thought of before, because we hadn’t allowed ourselves to be quiet and mindful.
  9. Sit quietly for a few more minutes, breathing deeply. Continue to notice your feelings and when possible, jot them down on paper.
  10. Put your plate and eating utensils away. Clean up and leave the kitchen.

This is called intuitive eating. When you eat intuitively, it’s easier to pay attention to feelings of fullness and to stop when you get to that point. It’s also easier to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings too.

Giving yourself permission to eat this food (no matter what it is) and to eat as much as you want removes the “power” the food has over you and allows you to relax and just enjoy eating experience.

Intuitive eating also allows you the time and space to hear yourself think and to notice what you are feeling. This can help you decide what you are going to do about the situation that brought on the emotions and how you will handle these feelings in the future.

Eating for emotional reasons is not a bad thing and when done right, it can be a positive and enlightening experience. Give it a try!

Want to become an intuitive eater? I can help you do that! As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I love teaching people how to ditch dieting and eat normally again. Click below for more info!

12 Week Individual Intuitive Eating Counseling


  1. frolep rotrem December 31, 2020 at 10:50 am

    of course like your web-site however you have to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very bothersome to inform the reality then again I’ll certainly come back again.

  2. cheap flights January 31, 2021 at 4:53 am

    Marvelous, what a website it is! This webpage gives helpful
    information to us, keep it up.

  3. cheap flights January 31, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    My programmer is trying to convince me to move to
    .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the
    costs. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using
    Movable-type on a number of websites for about a year and am anxious about
    switching to another platform. I have heard good
    things about Is there a way I can import all my wordpress
    posts into it? Any help would be really appreciated!

  4. cheap flights February 1, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my web
    site thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to find things
    to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use a few
    of your ideas!!

  5. February 2, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    Hi, i feel that i noticed you visited my blog so i got here to go back the
    desire?.I’m trying to find issues to enhance my site!I suppose its
    adequate to make use of some of your ideas!!

  6. cheap flights February 2, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    Hi there colleagues, its enormous article regarding teachingand completely explained, keep it up all the time.

  7. February 3, 2021 at 7:13 am

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to
    get the hang of it!

  8. February 11, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    I do agree with all the ideas you’ve offered on your post.
    They are very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too brief for
    newbies. Could you please lengthen them a little from next time?
    Thank you for the post.

  9. restaurants for birthday party February 13, 2021 at 6:09 am

    You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!

  10. Hello. magnificent job. I did not imagine this. This is a excellent story. Thanks!

  11. Yslkap March 6, 2021 at 9:21 am

    canadian online pharmacy tadalafil – buy tadalafil online reddit tadalafil 5 mg

  12. web hosting March 10, 2021 at 1:31 am

    Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay.

    I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward
    to new posts.

  13. March 15, 2021 at 12:14 am

    always i used to read smaller content which also clear their motive, and that is
    also happening with this piece of writing which I am reading here.

  14. coconut oil March 15, 2021 at 11:03 pm

    Hello, just wanted to say, I loved this post. It was inspiring.
    Keep on posting! ps4 games 185413490784 ps4 games

  15. March 18, 2021 at 10:11 am

    When someone writes an post he/she keeps the idea of a user in his/her
    brain that how a user can be aware of it. So that’s why this paragraph is perfect.

  16. March 18, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    Ahaa, its nice dialogue about this paragraph here at this website,
    I have read all that, so now me also commenting here.

  17. March 19, 2021 at 6:28 am

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my website so i came to
    “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to enhance my web site!I
    suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

Leave A Comment

About the Author: Cindy Dallow