Health & Fitness

Emotional Eating: Using food as the problem solver

Emotional Eating

Food is meant to nourish, fuel, and support our bodies. It is a source of our energy. Yet, there is so much more to eating than this simple explanation. In fact, food acts as a drug for many people. Its purpose becomes distorted by emotion. Most can relate that sometimes acting on emotion gets us into trouble, and emotional eating means trouble for the waistline.

Constantly on the mind

How many times per day do you think about food even when you aren’t hungry? Emotional eating is responding to feelings like stress, grief, or even celebration with high calorie, high fat, high sugar, high carbohydrate, and little nutritional value foods. These comfort choices never come in small doses, rather, the more the better. This habit can lead to obesity, mental health issues, as well as food addiction.

Suitable for every occasion

Eating your way through a breakup. Gorging on calories to make the stress of your job go away. Binging on carbs to offset your boredom. Shoveling sugary treats because you deserve to celebrate your promotion. These are all forms of food abuse be the cause of sad or happy related.

Downward spiral

Control gets lost. Eating becomes unconscious and mindless. It’s easy to pick at food because it is in front of you. We actually look forward to eating, and sometimes we don’t’ even know how else we would reward ourselves be it not for a treat. It’s human nature to avoid feelings, especially those we don’t want to deal with. Sometimes hating your own body, leads to doing what you know is bad for it. This is a form of self-punishment. When we don’t take care of ourselves and are sleep deprived or wait too long in between meals, picking up the fork and going back for more is very easy to do.

Problem solver

We can’t out-exercise these bad choices. We can’t make the true problems go away with these decisions. Emotional eating is only a temporary solution. Why the eating took place will still be there after the last bite. There are so many other ways to feel good besides eating. Stop feeling powerless to food. Let the feeling pass. Filling your stomach won’t fill in the answer to your problem. The amount of food never seems to satisfy the situation, but momentarily eating became a distraction. When it’s over, guilt and regret set in. You tell yourself you will go run 10 miles to erase the damage. This is a form of self-punishment too. Calories are meant to fuel a great workout, not be abused to get used up as much as possible to undo a poor decision.


Avoiding feelings with food to subside emotions can even become an unconscious habit. Find what triggers you. Give yourself 5 minutes to just breathe, sit with the situation, then decide what the best course of action is. Being self-destructive is never a good plan. Don’t put yourself in situations that make food the answer. Go for a walk instead of hitting the drive-thru. Phone a friend, because hey, you won’t be able to talk with your mouth full. Your body needs quality fuel and your gas tank isn’t meant to be filled with dollar menu items

Megan Johnson McCullough is a NASM Master Trainer & Instructor, AFAA Group Exercise Instructor, candidate for her Doctorate in Health & Human Performance, professional natural bodybuilder, she’s a Women’s Health Magazine Action Hero, and she owns a fitness studio in Oceanside, CA, called Every BODY’s Fit. Her mission is to help every BODY become the best version of themselves. Her pug, Steve Nash, is the mascot and her assistant at the studio. She is happily married and loves spreading her passion for health, fitness, and wellness through training and writing.

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