Intuitive Eating Principle 7 is all about emotional eating. Why do we eat when our stress levels are up? What can we do to step away from the cupboard and only eat when we’re actually hungry? Let’s talk about the four questions you need to ask yourself.
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The Four Questions to Ask Yourself About Emotional Eating:
- Is your hunger physical or emotional in nature? [13:06]
- How are you generally feeling? [15:45]
- What is the need you’re having at that moment or what is the boundary? [16:23]
- How can you fulfill that need or express that boundary without turning to food? [19:20]
- Finding Support Through Intuitive Eating
About Emotional Eating
Emotional eating is something that most people on this planet are familiar with. When you’re not sure if you’re hungry for food, but there’s this emptiness inside or uneasiness that makes you reach for something.
I have absolutely been there. You’re so not alone! Here are four questions you need to ask yourself when you think you might be eating emotionally.
Why We Eat Emotionally
As with almost anything we do, there are deep-rooted reasons why we do what we do. Emotional eating is no different. One of the biggest reasons we turn to food is because of stress!
For some people, comfort eating is the only way they know how to navigate stressful feelings or any other number of emotions. So when this is the only mechanism you have, of course, you’re going to turn to it more often.
Honestly, and I want to stress this, saying that you’re never going to emotionally eat again is not realistic. There will be times you eat when you’re not hungry! Plus, food has so much more significance in our lives than just curbing hunger.
You are not a failure if you turn to food to navigate your life right now.
Four Questions to Ask About Emotional Eating
What we’re talking about today is how you can start recognizing the different types of hunger in your body. Hunger for nourishment feels different than hunger from loneliness or stress.
But if you’ve never learned to tell the difference between these feelings, it can be hard to start. I’ve broken down the four questions you should ask yourself when you reach for food.
Check-in with your body. Is your hunger physical or emotional? How are you feeling in general? Really get in tune with your emotions, here.
What need are you having right now? What is the boundary that you’re coming up against? And finally, how can you fulfill that need without turning to food?
Build up your arsenal of other ways you can work through your emotions that don’t involve food. Whether it’s journaling, going for a walk, calling your best friend, or something else, I’d love it if you let me know in the comments below.
In This Episode
- Why it’s not realistic to say you’ll never eat emotionally again [7:35]
- How the different types of hunger manifest in your body [13:30]
- The four questions you need to ask yourself about emotional eating [14:00]
- How setting boundaries can help you handle your emotional eating [18:30]
Resources Mentioned In This Show
“Stress can drive us to use food to fill emotional needs.” [6:54]
“In times of high stress, for some people, comforting or finding safety and security in food is the only mechanism that they have or they know.” [8:32]
“Food is more than just energy. Food can be an emotional, cultural, social, or religious experience.” [12:15]
“Getting more clarity on how you feel, not just the sensations in your body, which can be a very helpful stepping stone, but emotionally, how do you feel? Different people have different amounts of access to this at any one given point.” [15:54]
4 Questions to Ask About Emotional Eating (Intuitive Eating Principle 7) FULL TRANSCRIPT
This is Episode 300 of the Listen To Your Body. On today’s show, I am continuing with my intuitive eating principles series, we’re going to be talking about emotional eating, specifically for questions to ask yourself to bring clarity around your emotional eating patterns.
The next evolution of harder to kill radio is here. Welcome to the Listen To Your Body podcast. on this show, we’ll explore the intersection of body, mind, and soul health, and help you reclaim your abilities to eat and move more intuitively. Hear Your body’s signals, and trust yourself more deeply.
I’m Steph Gaudreau, a certified intuitive eating counselor, nutritional therapy practitioner, and strength coach. On this podcast, you can expect to hear expert guest interviews and solo chats that will help you deepen your trust with food movement, and your body. Remember to hit the subscribe button and share this podcast with your friends and loved ones. Now, on to the show.
Hello, hello. Welcome back to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining me today on this episode of the show. I’m really pleased today because I’m going to be introducing or talking more about principle seven of intuitive eating, which is coping with your emotions with kindness. I’m calling it four questions to bring more clarity to emotional eating. And there’s a lot of overlap between those things. But I want to give you some actual questions that you can start to become curious about for yourself. Because learning about what this particular principle means and says is a little bit different than starting to get curious and beginning to ask yourself how it’s showing up for you in your life. So we’re going to go through that today. Before we do a couple of things first, push that subscribe button, please. Thank you, that’s going to make sure that new episodes get uploaded into your device like magic. It’s wonderful. Secondly, this is kind of a big one. But if you are not yet on the Listen To Your Body newsletter, what are you waiting for? Get your tuchus over there.
So that is StephGaudreau.com/LTYB. Now, I mentioned this newsletter a lot, and the reason I’m saying it today is because I am in the process of streamlining and simplifying my business. Lord have mercy. It’s been seven years, so much has changed. I mean, I’ve run my website for 10 years now, which is bananas to even think about.
And there have been lots of changes and iterations. Some of you have been listening to this show since my website was Stupid, Easy Paleo, and the podcast was the Harder To Kill Radio Podcast. Some of you are probably like, what the fuck are you talking about?
It’s been a journey friends, hasn’t it? And yet, it’s been so gratifying to get clearer on the mission and the mission is currently to help as many folks as possible break up with dieting so that you can use your gifts, skills, and talents to create a better world. Because side note, you know, obsessing about the size of your thighs, is keeping you looking inward and not doing any of those things. And there is so much love and compassion if you’re in that spot.
And it really mirrors my own journey in so many ways. All that is to say that with the simplification and streamlining of the business is also coming or it’s also including things going away. So Made Strong is now gone and will not be for sale any longer. Side note if you already own it, you still have access for the foreseeable future. So don’t panic.
But one of the things I’m doing is really focusing my newsletter on folks that want to hear about things like listening to your body, tuning in, intuitive eating, and building more self-awareness, working with mindset, body neutrality, and that universe. So if you’re on the existing Steph Gaudreau newsletter and you’ve been there for a while it’s not going to be as active anymore. And I want to make sure that you’re not missing out if you feel like you’re a great fit for those things that I just mentioned. And if not, that’s okay.
But I want to make sure that you’re not confusing the two. So StephGaudreau.com/LTYB will get you on the list into your body newsletter, and on average, I email once a week. If I opening enrollment for something, then I tend to send a few more emails during that time, so folks know about it. But that’s the gist. It’s really pretty simple. And so I want to make sure that you have the opportunity to get onto that new newsletter and you know what it’s for.
Okay, so let’s go ahead and talk about principle seven of intuitive eating, officially called cope with your emotions with kindness. I’m labeling this podcast for questions, to bring clarity to your emotional eating. This is a really complex topic. Emotional eating looks different for different people. emotional eating often times comes with the baggage of guilt and shame, which can then lead to more emotional eating. And back in April, I was looking around and feeling the pulse of what was going on in my community. And this was a very common topic that folks were asking about talking about struggling with, and I’m sure continuing to do so. Because when stress goes up, I mean, not only do we seek more oftentimes energy in those times because we’re developing our reserves and creating a sense of safety and familiarity. But stress can drive us to use food to fill emotional needs.
And we’ll talk about that. But I launched this course in April, I just said, Hey, I’m going to put together this intuitive, sorry, this emotional eating course in April. And it was really well attended. And what came out of it was not, you know, never eat emotionally, again, I see a lot of programs out there like that. And I don’t know what they’re like on the inside. But their marketing is very, like, never eat emotionally, ever again. Stop emotional eating in its tracks. And I think it’s more nuanced than that. Because if we say in every emotionally again, is that realistic? likely not. Which can then if you become back in a pattern of eating emotionally, then he starts all over again, right? Like, I’m horrible. I’m judging myself. This is bad and guilty and shameful.
And that continues the cycle, it sets up a binary, right? You’re either eating emotionally or you’re not. And I think what you’re going to find through this episode is that it’s much more nuanced, and there is a spectrum. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that eating for emotional reasons is not always a bad thing. And it’s more about helping you develop knowledge of your, your own situation of your body of how eating for emotional reasons, shows up in your life, and then helping you develop the practices around filling your emotional needs without turning to food. And that’s oftentimes a very gradual process. Because in times of high stress, for some people comforting or finding safety and security in food is the only mechanism that they have, or they know. And so just saying, nope, hmm, stop that 100% right now just quit. Or you know, you’re bad for doing. It seems so paradoxical. You’re like, bad for eating emotionally, according to some folks, which then drives more guilt and shame, which then causes more emotional eating, but really is thinking about how can you begin to introduce other mechanisms for meeting emotional needs, aside from food or in addition to food so that slowly, you can begin to explore those and build those into your life?
So the answer is not necessarily to kick the legs out from underneath somebody and say hey, no more emotional eating. You’re terrible for doing this. That’s not realistic, and it’s not helpful. And the other caveat here is some folks will end up needing more support beyond just a self-inquiry here. So you may need coaching a community you may need a therapist you may need someone who specializes in trauma and is trauma-informed, in terms of a mental health professional to help you begin to unpack this for yourself and there is no shame in any of those things, please, we cannot do these things alone.
Even if we’re like, I’m going to join a free Facebook group, or I’m going to listen to a podcast or I’m going to talk to my friend about this, please stop putting all of the pressure on yourself to solve this for yourself. You’re not the only one who is feeling like this. Right? And yet, it’s very isolating because of the shame. So for questions to help you kind of explore this for you. These are not the only four questions. They sound simple, but they’re not easy. They’re very nuanced. And it’s really looking for the opportunities for growth that feel really good for you, in your own situation. Before we do that, though, I wanted to say, the wellness world reduces food down to one like the top one of the top two things that define someone’s health. And that is so far from reality, right? There are social determinants of health, that go beyond food, it’s so much more than that. Yet, the wellness world is very focused on food and exercise. And so we tend to think, well, if you’re eating for emotional reasons, just fixed it with food somehow. And it might be broader than that, or it might be different, you might have to look outside of food for the reason why there’s an emotional eating component. And then the second thing is that the wellness world oftentimes reduces food down to eating down to a robotic act, right fuel food is fuel, calories in calories out.
And that’s doing a major disservice to a lot of people. Now, it can be a stepping stone, to understanding that you need to eat enough nourishment. And for some people, that heuristic of getting enough energy or food as fuel is a stepping stone for them. But a cautionary note is that it reduces food down to a single dimension, which is just energy.
And the food is not just energy. It’s an emotional experience. It’s a cultural experience. It can be a religious experience. It’s a social experience. It’s a point of connection and more.
So I would encourage you to start looking at that start becoming curious. Where have I made food, a robotic act of eating I should say a robotic act? Where can I start to look at the nuance and the multifactorial nature of food? Where have I denied myself that because there’s one correct way to eat, and I’m using heavy air quotes, or one right way to eat, or the way I’ve been told is healthy to eat is very white and westernized? Just a couple of things to consider.
So the four questions, first, is my hunger physical or emotional in nature? Again, a simple question, not necessarily easy to answer, you’re probably not going to answer it for yourself in the next eight-ish minutes of this podcast.
But it’s important to start distinguishing the physical from the emotional hunger, they do show up in slightly different ways. And it’s important to think of the context in which that hunger comes on. And here’s the rub that I see happening a lot with my community and my clients, the people in my membership, and the folks that I work with, is that there’s a pang of physical hunger because they’re not eating enough energy. Or they’re still slipping into patterns of restriction. And then something stressful happens, and they attribute the eating that then they do which is often eating past the point of comfortable fullness to an emotional reason. So they think, Oh, fuck, I fucked this up again. Why do I always do this? I’m bad. I’m a bad person. I’m horrible. Why can’t I break this cycle and it becomes an emotional cycle of thinking that had to originally do with a physical reason?
And oftentimes by paying more attention and building the ability to sense hunger and fullness and honor that over time, what they thought was emotional eating is taken care of because they’re fulfilling their body’s biological needs for physical hunger. So pay attention to that. If you’re someone for example, who fasts like which I cannot recommend for a majority of people unless you’re dead set that it works for you. But fasting often becomes just another diet. I need an accurate MJF or just another fucking diet, the fast thing often becomes just in their fucking diet where its primary purpose is to actually reduce caloric intake. And a lot of people who come from an IT background cannot do that in a healthy way. Then they feel stressed in the afternoon, life happens, the world’s dumpster fire and they overeat past the point of comfortable fullness. And then they feel really bad about it. And they’re like, oh, sees that stressful thing happened? Well, there’s a need for energy and it wasn’t being filmed. So that’s a really important point.
Secondly, in this self-inquiry, how am I feeling? Again, sounds simple, not always easy. There are tools that you can use, I teach these tools, but getting more clarity on how you feel, not just the sensations in your body, which can be a very helpful stepping stone, but emotionally, how do I feel. And different people have different amounts of access to this at any one given point, or where they’re at in their lives or because of their history.
But getting more clarity on how you feel is really important because it helps to lead to the third question, which is, what is the need I’m having here at this moment? Or what is the boundary that’s lacking? What is the need I’m having in this moment, or what is the boundary, and some people think that boundaries are needs, and you can use them interchangeably if that’s the case, but I think of a need, like, you know, I’m lonely. And if you developed a pattern where food helps to soothe your loneliness, then when you feel lonely, you may look for food, even if you’re not physically hungry. And by the way, we eat for non-physical hunger reasons that are not negative emotions. Someone has a birthday, and we have a piece of birthday cake.
It’s okay to not eat for physical needs but notice how often it happens. And if it’s the primary reason for eating, or if it’s the default for dealing with feelings, it’s important to start building other strategies and start practicing those other strategies and skills. So what is the need? If you’re lonely? Is it a need for connection? Is it a need to talk to someone? Is it a need to have a hug? Or have some kind of physical contact? And I know that’s difficult right now with socially isolating and things like that? Is it a need to feel seen and heard? Can you do that virtually? Right? Or is there a boundary that’s not being expressed? I find this so often with women who are doing at all trying to be the perfect spouse, significant other mother, employee, business owner, you name it overwhelmed too much on your plate. So if overwhelm is the feeling, what is the boundary? Or what is a boundary that you could express?
And so looking for that and saying, well, do I need to tell no to that person? I’ve talked about boundaries before on the show a long time ago, but do I need to ask for 24 hours to make that decision? Hey, can I get back to you in 24 hours, please, or Hey, I need 24 hours to get back to you. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. That’s expressing a boundary, right? taking something off your plate, delegating something, I’m thinking about delegation a lot in my business, right? delegating, no one human can do at all. So what is the need or a boundary that is not currently being met? And then lastly, how can I fill that need or how can I express that boundary without eating or instead of food or in addition to food?
Again, I don’t think the most helpful thing in the world is just to say, guess what, you’re done. No more eating emotionally can never eat for an emotional reason. I don’t think that’s realistic. And I think it sets people up for a feeling of failure. So looking at what other things can I do to fill that needs. So for example, if I feel lonely, what’s a brainstorm a list of things that you could do to help fill that loneliness and it’s most effective. When it comes from you, because for me, connecting with a big group of people in person, if we could do that right now, doesn’t feel good.
I’m an introvert. I really don’t like big group situations, I really don’t, it’s very draining. So for me feeling connected might be calling my sister, or getting on the phone with a friend, or petting the cat.
You know, it has to make sense for you, it has to work with you and your personality and your likes and your life. And I could rattle off a whole list of things that you could do instead. But if the idea for you of, you know, doing a puzzle, if you feeling bored, instead of going to the kitchen, and you hate puzzles, it’s never it’s not going to be something you’re going to do. So the idea is to brainstorm ways that you can fill that need instead of eating or in addition to eating and start to gradually build those skills because those habits or those other options are going to take time, they’re going to take time for you to warm up to or to start implementing or to get used to. Okay, so it’s not, when I work with people, the goal is not to never ever eat for an emotional reason ever again, is to provide other alternatives. So that filling an emotional need with food becomes less and less common.
Okay, so that does it for our questions, and I’ll just review them really quickly. One, is this hunger physical or emotional. Two, how am I feeling right now? Three, what is the need or boundary for me? Four, how can I feel that need instead of with food? There you go. That is this episode on principle seven. If you love this show, share it out on social I would love to see it and of course, share it out on your behalf and amplify that. You can also get the Show Notes for this episode on StephGaudreau.com You can find show notes, transcripts for all of the podcasts, and all that good stuff. Next week. I will be back with principle eight to continue our series so I hope you tune in. Until then, be well.
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