Emotionally eating is not bad in itself. We all have emotions and feelings and will celebrate with food or have a bad day and want to enjoy a nice treat.
However, when we are emotionally eating to fill a void, or it’s a constant way of coping for us, that’s when we need to address the underlying issues.
We can not solve emotional hunger with food.
Let’s start by talking about the mind-body connection in relation to why we are emotionally eating.
The mind-body connection means that our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can positively or negatively impact our biological functioning. Meaning our minds can impact how healthy our bodies are.
Also, what we do with our physical body (what we eat, how we move our bodies) can impact our mental state positively or negatively.
This results in a relationship between our minds and bodies.
When we say that “our bodies hold stories,” this refers to the narratives our minds believe about every pain, trauma, or moment in our lives. Every event we experience carries a story of joy or dread. The past stories our bodies hold become the reference guide for current events. Every moment, our bodies respond in the ways we have trained them through our beliefs, pain, and joyful moments.
Good news: If we have trained our brains and bodies to respond one way, it means we have the strength and power to train our brains in a new way. Feelings become sparked by emotions shaped by our personal beliefs or memories. (What we believe about food and our bodies matters when healing from emotionally eating.)
Thoughts are the language of the brain, and feelings are the language of the body. You can become subconsciously triggered by something someone said or an event. Therefore, you react and respond according to who you have experienced in the past or the story you have told around it. We can’t escape what’s in our souls and hearts.
Proverbs 27:19 paints a beautiful picture of this for us: “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.”
There is no separating the two. They go together because our body works as one. We can’t escape or run away from what we feel because the root of our emotions is what tells us what to feel.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”
Timothy is reminding us of what we have in Christ. This shows us that when our thoughts align with God’s Word, we move in the direction of power, love, and our bodies to move in the direction of self-control and obedience. (In other words, what we think we will move closer to.)
Our lives follow our most dominant thoughts. We do not do something physically that we have not already thought about mentally. Our beliefs/triggers will guide our actions.
This is why we can not ignore the other stressors in our lives regarding weight loss.
This is why it’s more about calories in and calories out.
This is why it’s more than finding the best workout and working out 5-6 days a week.
Your body is working as one.
Knowing about the mind-body connection helps us to then understands specific emotions we have towards food and why we find ourselves emotionally eating.
Here are a few beliefs we carry about food when it comes to emotionally eating:
- Food doesn’t talk back to you and tell you when you are right or wrong.
- Food just feels like it’s there for you.
- There is no threat to safety with food because it’s not talking back to you or manipulating you.
- It’s safe.
- It’s consistent.
- It doesn’t talk back.
- There is no opinion.
I just want to remind you that it’s not that you lack discipline or willpower it’s that you need to build the bridge between what you know to believe what you know.
Therefore, when we become vulnerable, sharing our feelings, our sense of safety can be threatened along with our sense of belonging. Putting our feelings on the line means there is an opportunity to be rejected.
How do we honor our body as we work through why we are emotionally eating?
Paul implores us to recognize that our bodies are not our own but belong to God. Having been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 7:23) by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, as stated in Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, we don’t have any right to give them over to sin (sexual immorality in the case of 1 Cor. 6).
Christians may feel they’re at liberty to use their bodies how they choose (1 Corinthians 6:12). Our bodies are instruments of righteousness.
Therefore, we should keep our minds on things from above as opposed to giving into fleshly temptations. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, we waive the right to do whatever we choose with our bodies.
Receive His Love
God loves you. Our longing and desires are to people see us, hears us, and are there for us.
None of those can come from food. To honor our bodies, why we heal, and work through why we are emotionally eating will require us to receive His love and go beyond knowing He loves us.
1 John 4:8: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
God, is the embodiment of perfect love.
Your food doesn’t hug, embrace, or listen to you.
Recognize God loves you. As we discussed earlier, some of the top reasons we are working through emotionally eating beyond their desired caloric preference are they eat for comfort, love, companionship, or some other emotional fulfillment.
When you truly understand the depth of God’s love, food is no comparison.
Honor Your Hunger
We can honor the body God gave us and work through emotionally eating by recognizing the type of hunger we are experiencing.
Emotional hunger comes on suddenly
Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly
Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods
Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied with a full stomach.
Emotional eating triggers feelings of guilt, powerlessness, and shame
Physical hunger comes on gradually
Physical hunger can wait
Physical hunger is open to options—lots of things sound good
Physical hunger stops when you’re full
Eating to satisfy physical hunger doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself
Be kind to your body
This involves working out, moving your body, how you speak about your body and what you speak over your body.
Go back to the basics. What does your body need? Water, food, community, love, support, and how are you meeting the needs of your body?
However, when you are trying to recognize the moments you are emotionally eating, it’s important to know we can’t shame ourselves into change. We can honor our bodies with our words and actions as they do what God created them to do – take care of us.