Emotional Eating And The Cycle Of Shame

Most women struggle with emotional eating. Many men struggle with emotional eating as well, but they don’t seem to recognize it as readily as women. Emotional eating tends to breed shame. When someone asks me what I do and I tell them that I specialize in emotional eating, I get one of two responses. Either they get very excited because this is a struggle and they are open with others about it, or their eyes glaze over and they quickly end the conversation. The second response is the shame response. I think this is largely due to the negative self-talk that comes with emotional eating. People think they are just weak and lazy or lack willpower. This is not the case. We build strong connections in our brains when it comes to emotional eating. The emotions we want to avoid quickly become paired with food as a way to numb ourselves and the connection grows into a conditioned response. This is why we can find ourselves reaching for food before we even register an emotion. Shame plays into the emotional eating dynamic in two ways. First, feeling shame becomes a powerful trigger leading us to try to use food to numb ourselves. This is likely a pattern formed in childhood. When we don’t have another way to cope, food becomes a powerful, but eventually devastating method of coping. It works really well at first, but over time, we start to feel consequences of using food in this way. The most obvious is weight gain, but we also struggle to cope with stressors in our lives without using food and that can cause problems in various areas of our lives, particularly our relationships. The second way shame is connected to emotional eating is the way we beat ourselves up after eating something we “shouldn’t” or overeating. This diminishes any remaining shred of self-esteem we have and actually drives us further into the emotional eating cycle. The key to changing this pattern is to learn how to let go of shame and start developing healthy coping skills. To learn how we can help, call us today! (801) 901-1391

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.

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