• Self - Improvement

    How to Disempower Your Emotional Eating Behaviors

    The Keto diet is a popular eating lifestyle that I am currently experimenting with. I partnered with a friend to stay accountable for my transition into a lower (processed) carbohydrate lifestyle. We officially “launched” our efforts together two weeks ago. Things were going relatively smoothly with the expected small bumps along the way. However, yesterday’s small bump turned into a major pot hole that left me feeling like an emotional, powerless, deflated flat tire. Here’s what ended up happening the other day, and the major lessons I learned from the experience:

    I started my morning with a handful of almonds and a tablespoon of coconut manna. Healthy fats. Good to go.

    At work- in between surgeries- I had to walk by a countertop full of chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies to get to a workroom computer to place orders on my patients. No biggie. I had my black coffee next to me nice and warm, keeping me soothed and distracted from those gooey carbohydrate desserts. Plus, it was 11am. I needed to fill my stomach with nutrient dense foods for lunch when I was ready to sit down and eat.

    Lunch was catered, so I walked into the break room unsure of what the entree would be. (Mistake #1): not bringing my credit card with me in case I preferred a different lunch option. Lunch for that day was breaded tilapia, steamed vegetables, chicken bean chili, and salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, carrot). I honestly wasn’t all that hungry but I loaded up a lunch plate anyway. (Mistake #2)

    I scraped off the breading from the tilapia, enjoyed a cup of the chicken bean chili, and packed the rest of my plate with the vegetables. Not terrible. That is, until I turned my head to the side counter where a monstrous baking sheet of shortbread brownie squares was sitting uncovered.

    Here’s the thing- I’m not a fan of shortbread anything…but once you incorporate a layer of moist, rich chocolate…I’m all in.

    emotional eating

    With that said, I told myself; “I’ll be good. I’ll just have ½ of the precut squares.”

    I ate every bite and enjoyed it immensely.

    Fast forward to my afternoon. I headed across town to our other hospital to see another patient. After that was finished, I had an hour or two of downtime. I grabbed a seat in our provider lounge and distracted myself with some work on my laptop. I was still satisfied from lunch, but I started feeling bored. I thought about grabbing another black coffee, but I was pretty coffee’d-out.

    The refrigerators in our lounge house to-go salads, veggie cups, sandwiches, and finger-foods. I decided that if I was really going to munch, it would be wise to stick with the vegetables. Despite my lack of appetite, I made a salad, added some guacamole, and dressed it with olive oil and vinegar. (Mistake #3)

    After my salad, I thought; “I really wish I had something sweet to finish this off with.”

    (Mistake #4): I then proceeded to explore the dessert drawer. Yes. There is such a drawer in the lounge, and it is deadly. Piles and piles of chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, bagels, muffins… a carb lover’s dream drawer!

    emotional eating

    The craving I was having was for a Reese’s peanut butter cup. As I looked in the drawer, I saw a chocolate chip cookie and peanut butter cookie. I thought; “Technically, if I eat them together, my craving will be satisfied!” (Mistake #5).

    I finished BOTH cookies simultaneously.  I started feeling “gut rot” in my stomach and a growing disappointment at what I had just done. I was embarrassed and ashamed to tell my keto-friend about what had happened just then (and throughout the course of the day). I needed a recovery plan- a way to cancel out what I did. I promised myself I would burn off the carbohydrate calories I consumed the second I got home from work.


    I ran 4 miles thinking- 2 miles / cookie was about right. I did 15 more minutes of mat work afterward and thought;

    Perfect. I’ve more than corrected my mistakes from earlier today. Now I’m going to skip dinner and allow my body to digest for the rest of the night.”

    Ha. Ha. Ha. It gets better.

    After speaking with my fiance, he suggested home-made pizzas for dinner. Since I wasn’t hungry for dinner, I offered to make some for him (since I was home earlier from work). Thinking ahead, I told myself that if I couldn’t handle the smell or sight of the pizza, I would just put some of the ingredients in a bowl with some cauliflower rice in an attempt to enjoy the “condiments of a pizza” without the guilt. (Mistake #6)

    emotional eating

    Not only did I eat a bowl of condiments, but I also ate a piece of the pizza as well. Oh- and then I rounded everything off with a piece of dark chocolate and a cup of unsweetened almond milk for (yet another!) dessert.

    So here’s the deal…

    Whenever I start feeling defeated, guilty, ashamed, powerless over my food, embarrassed to admit I was eating emotionally…

    I PAUSE and take a moment to reflect.

    Mistakes are powerful opportunities to learn about yourself and to better understand barriers to your progress.”

    As a result, I reflected on each “mistake” I made from my carbapalooza day and discovered 6 personal lessons:

    emotional eating

    Lesson #1)

    When it comes to catered food and I bring a “I’ll just wing it” mentality, I set myself up for failure. It’s better to have a Plan B ready when I know there’s a chance I’ll be stuck with an unhealthy option. The next time I’m in this situation, I’ll make sure I have a credit card in my pocket, or a small bag of nuts handy that I can slowly enjoy as others eat around me until I can enjoy other healthier options.

    Lesson #2)

    I don’t have to eat if I’m not hungry. It’s OKAY to not eat based on a clock schedule. Just because it’s 8am, 12pm, or 6pm DOES NOT mean I have to eat. My body and hunger signals hold the true clock and schedule for when it’s appropriate times for my body to refuel.

    Lesson #3)

    When I am bored and have food nearby, I am an emotional eater. In order to stay consistent with my health goals (for the rest of my life), I will be more successful when I busy myself and physically remove myself from nearby food stimuli.

    Lesson #4 + 5)

    When significant cravings hit, it’s best to slow down and identify which taste bud is consistent with the craving. Once the taste bud is matched, get creative with finding a healthier alternative over something that is processed. When I was craving the Reese’s peanut butter cup, I was really craving something salty and sweet. Had I recognized this, I would have likely enjoyed a cut-up apple paired with nut butter.

    Lesson #6)

    Disrupt visual food stimuli to avoid mindless munching. One thing I know about myself is that I won’t eat food if it either loses its visual appeal (ie: I place a napkin over my plate once I’m done eating) or if it has lost its original taste (ie: I sprinkle pepper over the residual food, or I brush my teeth with a mint toothpaste). Had I sipped on peppermint tea or brushed my teeth, the idea of tasting pizza would have had no appeal to me around dinner time and I would have been comfortable skipping dinner to give my gut a rest.


    After reflecting on these lessons, I always keep them in the context of one of my core philosophies: loosening up on life. In addition to this, bring curiosity to your behaviors, and use mistakes as lessons for next time. Be intentional about making a change to correct prior errors. And always remember, bumps and potholes are part of the lifelong journey. Equip yourself with your own personal toolbox of how to circumvent those dips in the road to help you reach a healthier version of who you are today for the longterm.

    emotional eating

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    Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.