By Cat Sharp

The Truth About Emotional Eating

One of the most common things I hear from clients is around the idea of emotional eating. “I do great until I have a bad day. I’m such an emotional eater!”

In fact, most women consider themselves an emotional eater. It’s so common that it’s become this badge of identity. We share memes on social media (Momma needs chocolate!). We build rituals around it (You just went through a breakup? Time to eat ice cream from the tub!). We consider it a normal and acceptable way of life. In fact, there is a well-used term for the foods we use to try to appease our emotions: comfort food.

I personally have a very long history with emotional eating. I clearly remember digging through cabinets looking for anything with sugar in it after a stressful encounter with my ex-husband. I remember making brownies for dinner after a stressful day at work. Actually, I remember eating half of the brownie batter before the pan ever made it into the oven, cause my emotional state was not getting better waiting on that pan to cook!

I have lots of stories like these. My go-to stress foods were usually pizza and brownies, but barbecue (I’m from the south, y’all. Barbecue is important!), cookie dough, ice cream, deep-fried Chinese food, and super cheesy Mexican food have all joined the ranks as comfort foods over the years.

But here’s the truth.

Emotional eating isn’t something to take lightly. In fact, it’s evidence that we are trusting our own solutions over God’s.

Seeking to fill our missing pieces with anything but God is idolatry, pure and simple, and always leads to disappointment.

Emotional eating is simply an attempt to medicate negative emotions with food. But let’s be honest; it’s really terrible medicine. It doesn’t solve the problem, and the side effects of weight gain and post-indulgent guilt are worse than the promised-but-never-delivered cure.

When was the last time that tub of ice cream actually made you feel better?

We as Christians are directed to live differently than the world, and that includes responding to unpleasant emotions differently. The Bible is clear: when we are struggling, battling any emotional upheaval, we are to seek God.

Seeking to fill our missing pieces with anything but God is idolatry, pure and simple, and always leads to disappointment.

So how do we stop emotional eating?

Know Who You Are and Whose You Are
You are not an emotional eater. You are a child of God. “Emotional Eater” isn’t part of your true identity, so stop claiming it as such. If you need some new “I am” statements from the Word of God to use instead, check out this list.

Pay Attention
If you’re anything like me, you’ve built a habit of emotional eating, and often don’t realize you are doing it until you’re finished. So you have to start paying attention to yourself. Are you truly hungry or simply trying to appease an emotional roller coaster?

Set Up Roadblocks
Since the habit has become second nature, and is not always easy to recognize at the beginning, put some roadblocks between you and disaster. Get rid of your common comfort foods. Make it harder to access them in an emotional frenzy. I personally wrote Scripture on bright-colored sticky notes and posted them on and in the cabinets where we store food. I also printed a Scripture and put it on the fridge, right next to the handle, in a place that my eyes HAD to see when I opened the refrigerator. I needed a reminder to seek God in hard times to help me stop reaching for food that would only make me feel worse.

Get an Accountability Partner
Find someone that will hold you to your promises to seek God in times of stress or emotional discomfort. You want someone that will pray with you, for you, and will check in with you if you go quiet and stop checking in. Someone who won’t make excuses for you if you falter, but also won’t tear you down when you do.

What do you do if you break down and cave to emotional eating?

One of my favorite verses for things like this is Colossians 2:6: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,…”

This is a reminder to me that I will fail, but the same way I approached Christ at the time of my salvation is the same way I should live my life: in full repentance and submission. I will fail, I will become prideful, and I will sin. But when I do, I just return to Him in the same way I came to Him for salvation. And in that moment of repentant submission, I am instantly forgiven. There is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus. Shame has no place in my life, and if you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, it has no place in yours, either.

Has emotional eating kept you from consistent weight loss results?

Check out the interactive Bible study to help you END emotional eating for good!