Heal your relationship with food! And lose weight too! These are the claims that many programs focused on treating emotional eating make. And it’s easy to understand why. It’s enticing, right? The problem is, it’s not always true.
When I see this kind of marketing, I can’t help but feel like it’s diet-culture-in-disguise capitalizing on what they know we want to hear: follow this program and you will lose weight. This type of marketing may show up in the form of “love-yourself-thin” courses, or health coaches who insist that once you heal your emotional wounds and replace food with a different coping mechanism, the weight will naturally and effortlessly fall away. It’s appealing to want to believe that if we can just stop emotional eating, then we’ll lose weight and get all of the health, happiness, and magic moonbeams that diet-culture promises us. But it’s simply not true, because addressing emotional eating is NOT a weight loss tool. And using it as such only keeps us stuck in the very patterns we are seeking to escape.
To be clear, some people do wind up losing some weight when they work with a trained professional to help them diversify their coping-skills-tool-chest. But nixing emotional eating–if that’s even possible for you–does NOT guarantee weight loss.
Let’s break it down. Firstly, food is our biologically-built-in coping skill. It’s easily accessible for most of us, and it can be super effective in helping us get through difficult moments. The only reason we demonize it is because we fear that it will lead to weight gain. Emotional eating, however, is not inherently bad, glutinous, or unhealthy. In fact, it might be the only thing you have available to you, and that’s okay.
Secondly, emotional eating is often a response to restriction and deprivation. As long as your body thinks it’s not getting enough nutrients, you will continue to experience a pull towards food that may feel out of your control. But I promise you, trying to double down on not emotionally eating is most likely going to backfire and can lead to full-blown bingeing if you haven’t addressed any underlying biological or mental restriction.
And thirdly, even if you vary your coping skills and you address any restrictions you might be experiencing, you STILL might not experience weight loss because body diversity is a simple fact of life. People’s bodies are unique, and it’s natural that we vary in size. Some bodies are just meant to be larger, and some are just meant to be smaller. Emotional eating, or not emotionally eating, isn’t going to change our genetic blueprint.
Now that we’ve covered all of that, I don’t want you to feel distressed. No, stopping emotional eating might not be the quick-fix you’re looking for. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate, effective ways to heal your relationship with food and your body. If you’re interested in a new, different way, sign up for my FREE 5-day quick-start guide to The Anti-Diet Plan!