Eating with Emotion

Originally published October 2013. 

I don’t often use a lot of self-disclosure on my blog. In fact, the last time I shared something personal was July 2011 when I talked about my body image. But after finishing my dinner tonight I had a little conversation with myself that I wanted to share.

I love chocolate…like, a lot. I especially love German chocolate. Ok, to be more specific I LOVE Milka Schoko and Keks and I love the Butter Biscuit by Rittersport. As luck would have it, Trader Joe’s sells those Rittersport bars at a very reasonable price. I typically have at least one back up bar in my treat bowl at home. (Yes, another reveal, I have a treat bowl at home.)

So I came home tonight after a very full day at work. In fact, it was an unusually full day. I sat down to a meal that was just what I needed on a cold, rainy evening. I was tired and hungry and couldn’t wait to eat. After I finished my meal I started to think about my Butter Biscuit waiting for me in the treat bowl. I got all excited knowing that it was just what I wanted to finish my meal. I broke off a line of chocolate and noticed that I was eating it with tremendous delight. The chocolate was making me quite happy, quite warm and fuzzy, and I noticed the stress of my day begin to dissipate.

And that’s when I started to think about the difference between eating WITH emotion and emotional eating. I talk about emotional eating most days with my clients and I can assure you that there is a difference! Emotional eating has a few particular qualities:

  1. It is used to cover up, diminish, numb or avoid challenging emotions.
  2. It happens with great speed and little pleasure. It goes in the mouth and down the hatch before you can savor a single bite.
  3. It leaves you feeling physically unwell after you have eaten.
  4. It creates disconnection with yourself.
  5. It is often followed by guilt, remorse, and shame.

Now what I described above is light years away from eating WITH emotion! Eating WITH emotion includes getting super excited to eat a meal you love or try a new restaurant you’ve heard friends raving about. Eating WITH emotion is eating things that are super yummy and satisfying. Eating WITH emotion leaves you feeling physically satisfied and content and emotionally balanced or even happy!

Not every snack is going to be the zen experience I described earlier. Not every meal will send you to Cloud 9. BUT, I truly believe that experiences of eating WITH emotion are vital to our health and well-being.

So when was the last time you ate WITH emotion? What did you eat? And if you haven’t lately, what’s stopping you? Hop to it, your body will thank you. J

Enjoying your food and eating with emotion is not the same as emotional eating. Explore the differences on Marci, RD blog.