Forget Emotional Eating, Let’s Talk About Emotional Dieting

SummerBinge Eating, Dieting, Self-Love, Weight Loss6 Comments

I want to introduce you to an important concept that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:

Emotional dieting.

You hear so much about “emotional eating” and how we use things like food to comfort and numb our emotions. What I see more often than not is “emotional dieting” stemming from a fixation on our weight.

Dieting and hating our bodies are so normalized and widely encouraged in our culture, so it’s no wonder we don’t recognize that we turn to these things for comfort. Let me explain…

I’ve talked about how we turn to body hate in an effort to distract ourselves from our emotional discomfort, which is something I learned from Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter in their book, When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies. They say, “We turn our bodies into metaphors for all of our bad feelings.” They go on to say that bad body thoughts involve displacement: “You are “attacking your body instead of allowing yourself to feel or think something else.”

We become preoccupied with our weight to comfort ourselves.

We try to control our emotions and destiny by fixating on our weight, because we believe that being thin will make everything better—which we know is not true.

Emotional dieting is when we medicate ourselves with dieting to soothe and fix our feelings, which is another reason why dieting is so addictive.

It’s easier to think that our weight is the problem, especially when we live in a culture that discriminates against fat bodies.

It’s also easier to think our weight is the problem instead of facing things like rejection, loneliness, anxiety, hurt, shame and fear of the unknown. We think dieting will protect us from feeling these things so we numb ourselves out by obsessing over our weight and planning our next attempt at weight loss.

It gives us hope that we have “control” and that everything will be better if we can just lose weight.

What if you’re really using dieting as a way to numb out emotions? What are you really trying to avoid? And more importantly, what are you missing out on by doing so?

Instead of using an unhealthy coping mechanism like dieting, we can look for compassionate ways to process and deal with the discomfort of life.

I know it’s scary to give these things up and I’m not saying you do that with a flip of a switch. This stuff takes a looooooong time! But, I want you to know that the freedom you’re seeking through weight control is something you can have…No cutting carbs required.




6 Comments on “Forget Emotional Eating, Let’s Talk About Emotional Dieting”

  1. This is very insightful and hits so very close to home for me. Fixating on dieting and exercising gives me what I’m slowly learning is a false sense of control over my life (as I actually am out of control in regards to these things). The ridiculous amount of time I spend with my weight loss obsession is a great distraction from other more uncomfortable emotions resulting from difficult situations and being in an unhealthy relationship. I’m working towards finding the courage to deal with the real underlying issues. Thank you for your words of wisdom, support and straight up honesty Summer.

  2. Love this Summer! What a great new perspective, and it makes so much sense. Often it’s not just eating when you’re hurt, sad or anxious, but it’s emotional dieting that makes you believe that losing weight will make you feel less hurt, sad or anxious. People
    who diet believe That losing weight is a magic solution to ‘fix’ what’s wrong in their lives, and think that it will make their lives ‘perfect’ (which of course never happens)!! Emotional dieting is done at least as much (if not more) as emotional eating, even though it’s not really talked about..

    1. Thank you Karen! It’s so true that emotional dieting is likely more common than emotional eating. It’s unfortunately a normalized and encouraged behaviour in our society.

  3. Thank you, Summer, for mentioning the book “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies”. This book, and the earlier publication by the same authors entitled “Overcoming Overeating”, was the premier work on the subject of no more dieting. A lot of Munter and Hirschmann’s work parallels the concepts seen in the work of other body image coaches today. This article by you is spot on and it is another article that I will read again and again. I love your insight! Rock on!

    1. Thanks Allison! It was the game-changing book for me and has been an inspiration for my work. I always recommend it to people. Thanks for your kind words!

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