The Emotional Side of Eating

During the 90s when I was struggling most with my appearance, I read a lot of books on the subject of weight loss. Most every book had the same basic message: fat is evil and emotional eating is bad. Overall wellness or body love was not really a popular message during that time. Consequently, I grew up believing that eating to feed my emotional state was wrong. So whenever I gave in and ate “emotionally,” I felt ashamed, which led to a lot of bingeing because often when I feel like I have failed at eating, I just keep eating.

Thinking about it today, I don’t really understand how you can extract emotions from the eating experience. Food is this wonderful substance that not only fills our bellies and fuels our bodies, but also ignites nearly all of our senses. It was meant not only as sustenance but as a pleasurable experience. If it wasn’t, God wouldn’t have given us so many options and varieties! In fact, I would dare to say that when we try to take the emotional side out of eating, we are essentially buying into another diet mentality that will end in bingeing and disappointment.

Overall savoring and enjoying food is a good thing. Dieting often leads us to be at odds with food, always trying to abstain from it and labeling it. That is not the kind of life we were intended to live. Enjoying the emotional side of eating is a wonderful experience—especially when you are doing it without guilt—and should be something we practice at every meal.

Looking to food for comfort, however, is different than emotionally engaging in the eating process. Ladies, life is downright tough sometimes, and if you are having a day where you are hanging onto sanity by a thread and you decide to run into Starbucks or fly through the Wendy’s drive thru window in order to self-soothe, then own it and enjoy it. You are human and you are not bad for indulging. This only becomes a problem when it becomes habitual. I am not saying the food choices are bad, I am saying that consistently turning to food for comfort instead of Christ is a slippery slope. It happens in certain seasons of life, but if this has become your normal, then I would suggest you seek some Godly counsel and spend some time with Christ every day, asking Him to help fill that void and bring the comfort you need. He is really the only one who can truly comfort you because, in this case, food will disappoint and eating is no longer a healthy emotional experience.

If you have found yourself in a pattern of turning to food for comfort, here are some practical suggestions that may help as you seek Christ for the deeper things:

Love on yourself: Decide that your body is awesome, and love on it for seeing you through this tough time. Drink some really good chamomile or ginger tea with raw honey. Make a warm bowl of good soup. Drink a homemade smoothie. Nourish your body with some goodness that you enjoy.

Cook: Pick a meal you know well that is filled with lots of nutrition. Think lentil soup, a favorite salad, salmon patties, etc. Gathering lots of wholesome ingredients and preparing them for yourself will boost your mood and hopefully make your body feel good. (Maybe put on some good worship music as you cook.)

Slow down: Challenge yourself to slow down and chew, chew, chew!!! Not only will you enjoy your food more, but you will actually feel yourself getting full and have better digestion.

Swap sugar: If you have recently added a lot of sugar to your life, you may not be able to just stop eating it, even if it isn’t making you feel good. So instead of trying to cut it out, swap it out for a different option. Maybe try a Greek yogurt ice cream bar or bake a sweet treat where you have control over the ingredients. I do this often when I start feeling yucky from consuming too much sugar. It helps me transition to a lower-sugar regimen more easily.

In the end, recognize that food will always fill a part of us bigger than bellies. That is okay as long as Christ is filling the greater part of us. He is the one who created all the food, so let Him teach you to love it, enjoy it, and love the body it sustains.



  1. I really love what you had to say here about it being kind of impossible to remove the emotions out of food and eating. Food ties into so many great memories for most people so I definitely think there is always going to be that emotional side to it. I suppose in many ways it’s about switching the experience to positive emotions and tying it to healthier options (not always but more often). I always like to remind myself that healthy is not a antonym for delicious so healthy food can bring about positive emotions as well. Great tips at the end too, thanks for sharing!


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