Emotional Eating

Emotional eating (sometimes called stress eating) involves using food to make yourself feel better. It is characterized by the act of eating to satisfy emotional needs, rather than to satisfy physical hunger. Food (either consciously or unconsciously) can be a source of comfort in stressful situations. Emotional eating is typically used as a way to numb negative emotions like fear, anger, boredom, loneliness or sadness.  Both major life events and the normal hassles of daily life can cause the types of negative emotions likely to trigger emotional eating. A therapist can help you understand the reasons behind your emotional eating and teach you tools to both recognize and cope with it. If you have been experiencing episodes of emotional eating, reach out to one of TherapyDen’s specialists today. 

Meet the specialists

Who hasn't used ice cream to deal with a break up? What better to come home to after a horrible day at work, than a steamy bowl of mac n cheese? Food should be enjoyed. We celebrate milestones with sweets and we feast at holidays. Throughout history, food and emotions have gone together. And yet there are times, especially in our culture, when managing emotions by eating gets out of hand. If you are thinking about food more often or if you want to find other ways of managing stress, let's talk.

— Kathryn Gates, Marriage & Family Therapist in Austin, TX

First of all, emotional eating is nothing bad or wrong. It is a NORMAL stress response, a normal way to celebrate occasions, a normal way to soothe ourselves, and normal way to feel pleasure. It’s a 100% natural and valid way to do these things. It works!! It is simply not the ONLY way we can go about doing these things. I help women and femmes explore their coping skills to see what works for them, and to simply add some to the list.

— Emma Doerner, Counselor in Seattle, WA

Whether eating too much, too little or consuming nutritionally bankrupt foods, irregular and unbalanced eating habits may be creating physical, mental and emotional discomforts, such as digestive problems, anxiety, depression, trouble with concentration, strained relationships and increasingly lower self-esteem. Lisa is a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC AZ 18242) and a whole foods clinical dietitian, specializing in food and eating issues.

— Lisa Schmidt, MS, LAC, CN, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Scottsdale, AZ

Emotional eating is a coping skill. You often don’t realize why you are eating. Learning mindful techniques can help you become more aware of what you are doing while helping you to discover why you are doing it.

— Michelle Stroebel, Associate Professional Clinical Counselor in Granite Falls, NC

We all need soothing and comfort. Life is stressful, even in the best of circumstances. These days, that stress can be overwhelming. But eating can only offer the distraction of pleasure (followed by the distraction of body shame or worries about health). You can learn to give yourself the exquisite comfort and soothing you really need by listening to your feelings and being gentle with yourself. As you do, the need for medicinal cookies will likely abate.

— Julie Levin, Marriage & Family Therapist in Pleasant Hill, CA

Often times if we struggle with managing our weight, we also struggle with feelings of depression, anxiety, or lower self-esteem. We often use food as a way to cope and deal with emotions that we struggle with, and we can also essentially become addicted to foods. One common method that I frequently use to help heal a relationship with food is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT). This technique has a great deal of evidence behind it as being effective in healing our relationship with food.

— Danielle Wayne, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Boise, ID

Difficult relationships with food can take many forms and often individuals who are hurting don't receive the help they need because they don't fit the typical anorexia/bulimia diagnoses or aren't "underweight." I have a special interest in supporting atypical eating related issues including binge eating, emotional eating, & mens' eating disorders. I practice using principles from the Health at Every Size® model including intuitive eating and joyful movement.

— Sahra Riccardi, Counselor

Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect all people. If you find that you are preoccupied with your body, food, weight loss, dieting, control of food, restriction or binging, it is time to seek help. If you are struggling with disordered eating and/or body image concerns, it would be an honor to guide you on your healing journey.

— Elisa Mott Jones, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Palm Beach Gardens, FL

I help clients become more attuned with their emotions, hunger cues, and learn the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger to address emotional eating.

— Allie Shivener, Licensed Professional Counselor in Franklin, TN

I have experience supporting people who have used eating to cope with stressors and would like to develop more adaptive coping skills.

— Sally Stone, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Brooklyn, NY

My approach to eating concerns recognizes the complex role eating can play as a mechanism of coping for individual, family, and culturally systemic issues. We work together to acknowledge the fullness of this role as well as it's history, while honoring the desire that may exist to change. Through our work we can begin to develop new and healthier coping strategies as a natural outcome of increased awareness and self-compassion. I tailor my approach to the needs and style of the individual.

— Stephanie Smith, Psychologist in Sacramento, CA

I work with my clients to develop a balanced approach to eating. I come from an "all foods fit" and "health at every size" framework. As a result, our objective will be centered around developing a new relationship with food, stress, and shame - rather than counting calories and weight loss. I teach my clients how to eat intuitively and listen to the cues in their body. I also incorporate mindful eating strategies so clients feel connected to the flavors and textures of their food. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that is supported by body shaming and guilt. By shifting the dialogue away from dieting behavior, my clients learn to eat normally, stop when full, and replace emotional eating habits with alternative behaviors that are more consistent with their longterm goals.

— Samantha Winton, Clinical Psychologist in Saint Petersburg, FL