Cori (00:00):
Hey guys, this is Cori from Redefining Strength. Welcome to the Fitness Hacks Podcast. This is the show where I share all my free workout and nutrition tips. I’m not going to ever fill this episode with sponsorships or ask you to buy anything. All I ask in return is if you’re enjoying the podcast to leave a review or leave a five star rating or even better share it with somebody you think it might help. This will only take a few minutes and would mean the world to me and possibly change the life of someone. So let’s jump right in. Today I’m joined by my fabulous dietician, Julia, to talk about emotional eating. Julia, thank you for joining me today. I will let you take this away with what is emotional eating and how can we identify different triggers with it?

Julia (00:43):
Hi, Cori. I’m so excited to be here and be able to talk about this. This is something that I think is a really important topic and it’s pretty common and definitely this time of year where we’re not spending as much time outside, A lot of people may feel a little bit more boredom or sadness, which can lead to emotional eating. So definitely excited to be here and shed some light on it as far as what it really is. So it’s eating in a way that to suppress or soothe negative emotions that we’re experiencing. So this can be anything from stress, sadness, anger, fear, or this can even be good things like excitement or happy stress that we can be experiencing.

Cori (01:22):
I love that you mentioned it’s both negative and positive emotions because I think so often we do only think about it as, oh, I’m stressed. I went to the cabin and I grabbed out far too many chips or cookies or whatnot, and now I feel guilty about it. But we don’t consider the fact that we also do it in celebration. Food has become so much more than just fuel, and I even see it with patterns. The weather starts to warm up and all of a sudden I’m like, Ooh, margaritas and chips and guacamole, and I want these changes. Not that I don’t try and make an excuse for that at any time of year, but there are certain patterns and hidden things that we’ve conditioned ourselves to want. Can you talk a little bit about identifying those different things so that we can navigate the emotional eating to find our balance?

Julia (02:05):
Yeah, definitely. So like you said, it is really just kind of that brain pathway that we’re so used to taking and it’s comfortable for us and we’ve kind of wired our brains to go that way. So a lot of people think that we’ll do things like emotional eating maybe because, or just any compulsive behavior for that matter, because we lack willpower, right? I’ll always hear people say, I wasn’t mentally strong enough. I knew I shouldn’t have had it, when in reality we do it because it’s usually the only way that we know how to self soothe. So it’s just a comfort thing. Like you said, we use food in our culture to celebrate things. We use it as a comfort thing. So for example, most of us have heard of dopamine. It’s an important part of our brain’s reward pathway, which causes the body and our mind to feel good when we’re doing something pleasurable to us.

So highly palatable foods, things that are high in fat, salt, sugar give us an abrupt boost of dopamine as well. So it makes sense that when we are comfort eating scientifically, these foods do make us feel better. But the key takeaway here is that it’s usually not the food that we’re seeking, it’s the feeling that that food gives to us. And the issue with this is that it’s not really one solving the problem. So it’s really not fixing why we’re having those emotions. It’s more of just a bandaid in a sense. And then we’re also coping in an unhealthy manner. So this can contribute to things like weight gain and just health issues that we really don’t want to run into over time. So when this happens continuously, we’re just wiring our brain to immediately turn to food whenever we do feel stressed or scared or even happy. And it does take time to really rewire those pathways so that you’re coping with healthier alternative behaviors. For sure.

Cori (03:47):
I love that you mention wiring our brain to sort of repeat certain patterns and routines because it does become so unconscious at times. You don’t even think about it and you don’t realize why it’s a struggle. I even see with weekend versus weekday eating, we’ll say, oh, the weekends are when I fall off. Well, it’s because we’ve conditioned a certain lifestyle. There are different habits and routines and we’ve conditioned certain things to go along with them versus the weekday. So the more we can start to assess those patterns, see why we’re handling things in different ways, the more we can break those things down to create new patterns and routines and make unconscious habits conscious as we implement new things. And that’s also what makes it so difficult. We’re unlearning something as we’re trying to learn something, so there’s kind of an extra stress or strain, which does require a little bit of willpower, but if you’re constantly feeling like you’re just relying on willpower, there might be something else off as well when we’re going about this process. Any tips for trying to make some of those unconscious patterns more conscious?

Julia (04:47):
Yeah, that’s a great question. So that kind of ties into our big theme for this week is mindful eating and bringing that conscious awareness to our eating decisions. So the first step, like you said, is just acknowledging and bringing that awareness to it, right? This is the first step with any issue is just realizing, Hey, this is something that I’m struggling with, so I want to really be mindful around my eating. And then secondly, just working to acknowledge and reduce those triggers as well. So this could be something that maybe you’re not able to control as well. Maybe you have a really stressful work environment and that’s not a job you can leave at this time, so that’s just going to be a constant trigger for you, but maybe working to reduce your stress in other ways. Maybe that means indulging in something like doing meditation or journaling in the morning before work, and this is going to look different for every single person.

I had a past client of mine who when dealing with emotional eating, she would just lay on the floor, but she was like, that’s what works for me. It helps me detach from the emotions, recover a little bit. So this is going to look different for every single person. It could be going for a walk, calling a friend, reading a book, whatever is kind of that self soother for you that just allows you to take a step aside from it and just ask those appropriate questions as well. Is this really the food that I want? Could I substitute something else like reading or going for a walk? Am I just trying to relieve feelings of sadness or boredom or am I at a party and I’m socially eating because everyone around me is eating? So really that first step is just bringing awareness to it and asking ourself those questions, checking in with ourself and taking a step back. I think it’s so easy for us. We get home from a long day of work, we’re stressed, we grab a bag of chips and we’re just snacking right out of it, right? We’ve always all been there. So just really bringing that awareness to it and asking ourselves those questions that may feel a little bit uncomfortable and hard to do in the moment, but will really help us bring awareness to our decisions overall and help us reach our goals in the longterm as well.

Cori (06:45):
Being more mindful is so important, and I think when people come into coaching, when people start a new program, we’re looking for, and I know I’ve been guilty of this, I’m looking for the magic macro ratio, the magic thing to do to stop emotional eating, the magic workout plan that’s going to get me X amount of muscle in X amount of days. We’re looking for a thing, a tactic, but in reality, what helps us truly achieve our goals and create lasting results and lasting lifestyle changes is simply reflecting inward. It’s asking ourselves those hard questions. It’s drawing awareness to habits we repeat and asking ourselves why we’re repeating them. Because I think so often we haven’t questioned our own self-imposed limitations. We haven’t questioned, questioned our own belief about ourselves. We haven’t questioned why we do different things, and if we don’t question it, we can’t make a change.

So with emotional eating, asking yourself, why am I repeating this pattern over saying, oh, I don’t have the willpower. Oh, I just, I’m a bad person. I feel guilty. Anything negatively associated with it, which only perpetuates the pattern in an odd way, we need to take that time to say, Hey, I’m human. I have issues. What can I do to address this? How can I move forward? How can I make this something I actually want assessing? What do I want? Is this important to me? Why am I doing this? I love that you bring up that question. I just think it’s something that we so under utilize, but it can be so important to help us make changes that meet us where we’re at. So in talking about all this too, you had mentioned eating disinhibition. Can you go into that a little bit because I think this is a very interesting subject that ties into all of this and something we need to be aware of when we’re talking about building.

Julia (08:23):
Yeah, sure. So eating disinhibition is really the tendency to overeat in response to different stimuli. So this can occur in a variety of settings. Say that you’re at a party and there’s a table full of really good looking food, or just say that it’s in response to emotions since we’re talking in the context of emotional eating right now. But it really just means that those normal inhibitions that prevent overeating are removed, making people more likely to overeat, which can lead to weight gain. There was a study done back in 2010 which identified a specific gene to be associated with it. So I love that we’re able to really test for that in our DNA testing and give people an idea if they are more inclined to this because it’s something to be aware of and then know that, hey, maybe I am someone who I need to bring more mindfulness around my eating choices because that’s really going to be key for me in order to reach my goals. Versus that other mindset of just being like, I just lack the willpower. It’s just how I am.

Cori (09:21):
I think it’s so important, that point and that differentiation between, well, this is just how I am. Yes, you may have the gene for it, but this is just giving you the power to control what you can’t control because you can’t control that tendency necessarily. But you can become more aware of it and come up with strategies for it, whether or not it’s giving yourself that visual reminder of, Hey, if I’m reaching for this, I’m probably doing this because I’m stressed. Is this a food I want? And even in that assessment, there are going to be times we make mistakes where we do exactly the opposite of what we’ve been trying to work to do. And the last thing we want to do is make ourselves feel guilty. We just always want to learn from those experiences. Say, Hey, how can I address this in the future?

Or if you do turn to something and be like, okay, do I want this? If you really want it after going to do something else, then have it too. There’s not one way of handling things and recognizing that tendency towards certain things can help us then find different approaches to navigate it in different situations, whether it’s emotional eating or even that tendency just because you have that food all in front of you to keep going back for more, which I dunno about you, but I’ve done definitely now off of this, there are reasons why we even don’t eat due to emotion, and I want to talk about that as well because I think there’s different responses we have to different emotions in our life, and the more we own our natural responses or our personal responses, the more we can plan for them and address them. So if you are somebody who instead of eating out of emotion, doesn’t eat when you’re stressed or tired or angry or whatnot, can you talk a little bit about how to handle that and what to do in those situations as well?

Julia (10:52):
Yeah, sure. So losing our appetite due to emotions can also be attributed to that same what we call that fight or flight response, which is also why we can overeat as well. So some will overeat as a way to sell soThe while others can’t shift focus on anything but the stress and find themselves constantly undereating. And again, this is something where it’s just bringing awareness to it and learning to meet yourself where you’re at, not force feeding yourself. Maybe you’re just going to have small protein rich snacks. Maybe you’re going to do things like meal replacement shakes during this time just to get that in. Or even creating an eating schedule to help you kind of find that balance during that time in your life where you know that you do have that stress, but you still want to nourish yourself and kind of meet yourself where you’re at and do your best there as well.

Cori (11:37):
And I’m bring up something that’s potentially going to ruffle a few feather, but intuitive eating, and I mentioned this because I think it’s so key with the whole theme being mindfulness in our eating and even eating out of emotion. If you think about intuitive eating and eating in response to what you’re feeling, emotion’s going to potentially impact that. And so you’re not going to just be eating for reasons of hunger. So the more we can learn, if we are striving to eat more intuitively, which should always be our goal, the more we can learn those cues and even track our nutrition in the process to see, hey, have I feel correctly, is this out of emotion? Or hey, am I not eating out of emotion as well? Because that undereating, if we train our body to constantly undereat, is going to be something that we’re going to have to address at a later date. Just because we don’t feel hungry doesn’t mean our body doesn’t need the fuel. So with all of this, I wanted to ask you a little bit about your opinion with the push towards intuitive eating, how that plays into being more mindful and even how to truly build a more intuitive eating style pattern, so to speak. Because sometimes it is something that we have to learn and many of us don’t naturally want to do it and we eat for other reasons than just fueling.

Julia (12:43):
Yeah, I love that question. And I do want to note here that there is a huge difference between emotional eating and kind of binge eating like you brought up. Whereas binge eating, we typically see that where we’re over restricting and we’re not giving ourselves enough. So the end of the day comes and we are like, I need to eat everything in sight. And it’s kind of that binge and restrict cycle that we really fall into. So I do want to point out that that is different than emotional eating, even though it may feel the same, whereas emotional eating is strictly more just related to the emotions and the binge eating is most likely because you’re really under fueling, like you said, and you’re not eating enough. And that’s where tracking really does come in and really does help us realize those patterns and see what leads to it.

Because there are times where it’s like, Hey, I did emotionally eat, but maybe that’s because I also did not eat very well during the day. I didn’t have balanced meals, I skipped my lunch, my blood sugar is all out of whack and now my cravings are all out of whack as a result of that. So there are scenarios where our eating choices can reflect on maybe choices that we made earlier throughout the day as well. And as far as just kind of learning to control that a little bit, I think your question was, and just how we can overcome that and tie in intuitive eating, it’s really just going to be, again, always checking in with yourself and also after meals like, Hey, how am I feeling after this meal? And do I feel satiated? Do I feel like I need to eat something else?

Sometimes I think we feel like if you have a sweet tooth after meals, or if we feel like we still need to eat after meals, we need to ask ourself, did I have enough in that meal? Did I have enough protein, enough healthy fats, enough fiber? Was it a really well-rounded meal, or am I just eating strictly out of emotion? So again, just checking in with yourself, there is this big kind of push for intuitive eating today, which can definitely tie into this and teach us how to still check in with those emotions, check in with our hunger signals as well, allow us to stop eating when we feel full from a meal and allow us to know when we need to have a snack as well.

Cori (14:44):
But it’s definitely something often that’s learned. So if you’re like, I don’t know what to eat, I’m not seeing results, just you’re eating quality fuel. Just because you’re trying to respond to your hunger cues doesn’t mean that you haven’t trained your body to respond in different ways. We train patterns, we train responses. So often, sometimes taking that reflection, that step back to track, to dial in our macros, to really assess our portion sizes, to even assess why we’re doing specific things, be it out of emotion or be it out of a pattern we’re conditioned to repeat is incredibly important. So sometimes you have to go through that data gathering phase in order to really learn what you need. Now, going off of this, let’s just say, and I know you gave us a lot of strategies to handle those emotional eating times and even try and prevent them, but let’s just say you find yourself in a situation where you have already eaten out of emotion next steps. And I know one of them is not to make yourself feel guilty. How can you respond and move forward after something like that? Because I think that initial response, because we’re human and we’re going to have those situations where we don’t do what we should or what we wanted, that initial response can really make or break how we approach things in the future. What would be your recommendation if someone found themselves in that situation where they had that emotional eating episode and they’re like, oh, no, what now?

Julia (15:57):
Yeah, I love this question. My best advice. Just own it, right? So many, I’ve had so many clients in the past where they’re like, Hey, this happened. I’m just not going to track it for the day. I just want to put it behind me. I know it wasn’t a good thing. Just put it in the past, close my eyes, not look at it, and I’m like, Hey, track it. This is awesome that this happened. We can learn from it, right? We don’t track always to be perfect. We track for that data, like you said, and that way we can look at it, we can see what else you ate during the day. We can reflect on what led up to it and we can know how to better approach it in the future. So something that I’ll go through is like, okay, what led to this?

What were your emotions? What happened during the day? What was the main trigger for it? And how can we better prepare for it going forward? And sometimes it is as simple as it was just a really busy day and I needed more things prepped, and sometimes it is a lot deeper, and we do need to tackle those stress and those emotions and all as well. But really just owning it and then that way you’re accepting it and that’s that first stage and that way you can work on it if you always just continue to ignore it and just be like, I know it was a bad thing. It’s in the past. I’m moving on. I’m like, no, let’s bring it back. Focus on it right now and see what we can do to better approach it and help you moving forward. Because if not, it’s going to be a cycle that you’re continuously going to go through. And like we said, that those brain wiring pathways, you’re constantly just going to lean on that food if you never really force yourself to learn why you’re doing it and find those other coping mechanisms.

Cori (17:20):
Owning it is so important. I just want to repeat, own it. Own it like a bazillion times. Because I think so often we do try and sort of rush past failure, so to speak, bad experiences, and then we never learn from them. And that keeps us stuck in a cycle of repeating them, not to mention associates, even more guilt with the situation instead of just saying, Hey, I’m human. This is something I can learn from. And in that we almost drop some of the emotion with it. We give ourselves power to control it. It’s not just saying we don’t have the willpower, we don’t have the ability to change it. And in giving ourself back that agency, we often can move forward a lot faster, and it starts to bring that pattern to the front of our mind a little bit more because we don’t feel so guilty from it, so we’re not running from it. So this has been all incredibly helpful, Julia, and I’m going to check for some comments, but any closing thoughts that you wanted to share?

Julia (18:13):
I just want to say it is really common, and I think people think that it’s something that they just struggle with themselves, and they do think it’s that lack of willpower and mental strength and all that. So just know that you’re not alone, and it will take time to change those habits. Maybe it’s not going to be something that happens on the first try, the first week, first month, first year, whatever it may be. But slowly over time, those little efforts are really going to add up to the big change, and it will get you there to make more progress. So don’t feel defeated. If it’s something that you’re working on and you’re not where you want to be yet, just celebrate those little victories, own the failures, and keep moving forward

Cori (18:47):
On the failures. Celebrate the victories and recognize it’s always going to be a process. Those are such key points because we do feel alone sometimes in our struggles, or we feel like we’re the only one struggling and no one else understands and we’re not alone. And a lot of times food is more than just fuel. And the more we own that fact, even the better off we’re going to be. Thanks for listening to the Fitness Hacks podcast. Again. This is the place where I share all my free work, workout in nutrition tips. I’m never going to run sponsorships or ask you to buy anything. All I ask in return is if you’re enjoying the podcast to leave a rating, review or share it with someone you think it might help. This will only take a few minutes, and it would mean the world to me and possibly change life of someone.

*Please Note: this transcript is auto-generated and there may be some errors in the transcript