Emotional Eating: Why You Self Sabotage and How To Stop

You are doing amazing with your diet and are super proud of yourself for all the healthy food choices you have been making, and then it happens… You have a moment of eating “bad” food. You binge on chocolate, cake, or whatever your junk food of choice is.

Then the guilt trip begins along with thoughts of failure.

  • “I was doing so good, why can’t I have any control over what I eat?”
  • “Ugh… I’m a failure. I might as well eat junk the rest of the day and start fresh tomorrow.. Or maybe even on Monday.”
  • “What is wrong with me?”

Sound familiar?

Why You Self Sabotage:

This often happens to those of us who live with the ‘diet mentality’. The diet mentality is when we have an all or nothing approach and believe that the only way to lose weight is to restrict food and stay away from “bad” foods.

By viewing certain foods as “bad” we give them power.

So, when you are on a diet, depriving yourself of all “bad” foods, you start to crave them and eventually give into that craving and then feel like failure. This sense of failure makes you feel like if you’ve had a slice of cake, you may as well eat the whole thing!

If your body is craving a food that is nutritionally void, what you are really craving is the feeling that the food gives you, or a distraction from a feeling.

As an emotional eater, which many of us are, we tend to use food to numb ourselves to a feeling, avoid a feeling, or to feel something. We are trying to fill up on a feeling.

Most diets call for cutting out certain foods, often the same foods you reach for in times of stress, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, happiness, and even just being plain old tired.

Now that you have cut out that food you no longer have a way of dealing with the emotion. For a while willpower works, but once it wanes, you give in.

What you want to do is be more mindful and notice any triggers that come up. A trigger is something that happened during the day or the emotion you are feeling.

How To Stop Emotional Eating:

  1. Eat more mindfully. Take a few deep breathes before you reach for a meal or snack and ask yourself what you are feeling. Is it hunger? Is it boredom? Is it stress from work? Is it a lack of “me” time because the kids have been home all day?
  2. Once you know what you are feeling, pause and ask another question. Will this food give me actual relief from stress or will it really help me relax? What is a non-food related activity I can do instead that could give me the same feeling I am looking for?
  3. Go do the non-food related activity.
  4. It may seem easier said than done but even if you practice this once a week you will get better at it and slowly create a new habit. It doesn’t and won’t happen overnight.
  5. Let go of the all or nothing diet mentality. If you do self sabotage, ask why you did it and what you can learn to prevent it next time. If you give up after sabotaging yourself definitely won’t reach your weight loss goal – so don’t worry about getting derailed, just focus on getting back on track.

I will end this post with an analogy that has helped me and my clients heal from emotional eating and the diet mentality.

Imagine driving down the road and hearing a POP followed by your tire going flat. You pull over and get out to confirm, your tire is flat. This isn’t ideal and it wasn’t planned or expected. So what do you do? Do you put the spare on and get back on the road… or… do you pop the other three tires and feel like a failure?

Every day, every meal, is a choice. Sometimes we mess up and over indulge. You are human and it happens. Forgive yourself and move forward. Learn from it. Do better at the next meal. Don’t pop your other three tires.

Meaghan mcelroen

Meaghan is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and NASM – certified personal trainer who believes that awareness and movement lead to a healthier life.

She is an avid hiker, a former emotional eater, and a self-love coach. Meaghan combines strategic fitness workouts with mindset to help women overcome emotional eating and make better food choices so they can feel sexy and confident!

Get a week of Free Workout Vides here! You can also download her free Emotional Eaters Food Journal!