Ep #241: What is Emotional Eating

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Episode #241: What is Emotional Eating?

In this episode, we dive deep into the concept of emotional eating.

Often considered a buzzword, emotional eating is a complex issue that affects many people.

We explore what emotional eating truly means, why it happens, and practical strategies to address it.

Join Coach Jenn and I as we unravel the psychology behind eating behaviors and offer insights into creating a healthier relationship with food.

In this episode…

≫[2:28] What is emotional eating?

≫[6:20] Using food to numb your emotions

≫[11:10] Next week’s episode

≫[12:18] The panic in gaining weight

≫[13:25] Buffering with food

≫[18:20] Processing emotion

≫[19:19] What to do

≫[20:07] Identifying your triggers and emotions

≫[26:57] Time for a time-out

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Hi, I’m Shannan Christensen, a corporate girl, life coach, Mimi and wife who struggled with her weight. Since I was eight years old, I weighed as much as 315 pounds and dieted, like it was my part-time job. I always thought weight was gonna be my struggle. Fast forward through many failed attempts and so many lessons learned, plus a whole lot of coaching,

 

and I lost weight for good. I live my best life in a body I love with freedom and joy. I created weight loss for successful women podcast to help you lose weight with simple and easy steps so you can get off the diet rollercoaster for good and lose all that mental weight you’ve been carrying around. If you’re a woman tired of dieting and food plans looking to lose weight for the last time,

 

you are in the right place. Hello, love. So happy back with you, coach Jen and I here again. Woo hoo hoo. I’m just loving our new format. I’m loving everything that’s going on. We’re towards the end of May. I can’t even believe it. We have ladies joining us because again, ladies, I’ve made it so easy for sure.

 

I’ve made it easy. Like we wanna help you. This is the best time. The cool part about me, I think for my ladies is not only do they get these amazing coaching, but once you’re in the membership, like if you join right now at $39, I won’t raise that price on you. No matter when I raise prices again, when I do the thing,

 

as long as you continue in the membership, I won’t. And I do that for everything. So if you ever get a discounted price with me, you stay at that price. And I believe in that. It’s just no better time to join than right now. We’re coming into summer and I just know that this year is flying by. I don’t know.

 

How about for you, Jen? I mean, we’re like, Yeah. I’m like, wasn’t it just New Year’s? What is happening, Right? I mean, holy moly. I mean, you’re getting ready to end school with your boys. Yeah. Yep. Two days after this release is, they’ll be done. So, Oh my gosh, right?

 

Summer fun. I love summer. I mean, it’s not as great here in Arizona, but I can appreciate it for all of you folks who have experienced winter and who are just, you know, can’t wait for sunshine. I am all for that. So today, emotional eating, oh my goodness, it’s a loaded term because some of you think you don’t emotionally eat and some of you’re like,

 

oh, I’m an emotional eater. And you’ve taken on that kind of role and you use it in a way against yourself, actually. But let’s talk about what is emotional eating? So emotional eating is where we use food to do something other than fuel our body. So lemme say that again. Emotional eating is when we use food for something other than physical hunger or to fuel our body.

 

So I think of this when we use food to comfort ourselves, when we use food to cope, and there’s an important part about emotional eating. It’s when there is a negative consequence, I don’t wanna forget that part. So we use food when we’re not physically hunger hungry, and it gives us a negative consequence. So for example, let’s just say you’re at a birthday party and you want to eat a piece of cake,

 

great. Eat the cake. That doesn’t mean that you’re emotional eating. You might say, oh, I’m at a birthday party and I wanna eat this cake. You know, for me, I enjoy food too, right? So even to this day, I put a cookie on my plan or I put something on my realistic plan. I don’t think anything about it.

 

I’m not using food and having a negative consequence, because when I start to feel full, I stop eating it. I am make a decision ahead of time, and I’m not using it to comfort myself, cope with life, numb my emotions, push down my emotions. That is emotional eating. It is when you’re using food to comfort, numb cope,

 

and it has a negative consequence, meaning you’re eating more than what your body needs for fuel, and you’re eating it in a way that, you know, provides physical discomfort too, along with the emotional discomfort. Anything, Jen, when you think about emotional eating that comes up for you or the way that you view it? When I think of emotional eating,

 

for me and when I’ve talked to clients, it’s kind of about, you know, avoiding feeling a certain way, right? It’s a way to, to just feel better and not have to deal with what’s going on. And I think sometimes we use that term, that title for ourselves, like I’m an emotional eater, and then we just hold onto that,

 

right? And we use it for all the ways that we can, just to kind of, like you said, comfort, numb, avoid. That’s how I think of emotional eating. Yeah, when you said that, I just thought when we put on that I’m an emotional eater, I think it almost gives us an excuse to keep doing what we’re doing.

 

Because then you’re like, oh. Because then you meet another emotional eater and they’re like, oh yeah, me too, right? And the next thing you know, everyone’s like, I’m an emotional eater. And then, you know, you’ve taken on kind of this identity and this role. Now, look, I have emotionally ate many times in my life.

 

I now have the tools through this work to know when I am using food for something different than what I want to use it for. I like to enjoy food, I like to celebrate with food. I like the traditions that my family have around food. And I think that’s an important piece. And I also like that I don’t eat to stuffiness. I don’t eat when I’m feeling stressed.

 

I have tools now that I can use so that I don’t use food to comfort, numb and cope. You know, I wanna tell this story because every time I think about numbing, I think about this very particular time in my life. I was newly married, pretty newly married, and I was gaining weight. And so that was a little stressful for me because my husband didn’t know me at my highest weight.

 

When I met him, I was at a pretty decent weight. He knew, of course, about my previous weight loss surgery and all of those things, but when I started to gain weight, I started to worry like, oh, you know, is he gonna leave me? I mean, he never, no matter what I, because I, I have weighed a lot with him.

 

Again, this was my own thinking. And so here I am, we’re pretty newly married. It might have been like a year or so in maybe going towards two years. And so we’re blending families. I had a raging teenager at the time, and we had two younger kids that were, you know, in that kind of, let me think at that time,

 

probably nine 11 range. And then we had my son who was full on teenager. I worked full-time. I had an hour or two, an hour and a half commute each way. So it was long. It was a lot of my day. You know, there was no working from home Monday through Friday, and I was growing my career and I wanted more in my career.

 

I decided to also go back to and get my MBA, my master’s, so to say, you know, I was exhausted. I had a lot of fear. I was still learning about how to blend families, be in a marriage, a good marriage, right? I had really never had a successful relationship before my current husband. And so I had so much fear and so much anxiety.

 

I just wanted to numb all of those negative emotions because on the other spectrum, I was happy. I mean, I loved, I was in this really great relationship. I loved my step kids. I somewhat loved my son. If you have a teenager, you know what I’m talking about. I mean, I loved him, but I just didn’t like him very much at the time.

 

No, I’m just kidding. I mean, maybe I’m not, no, he knows, he knows. We just talked about it the other day. He’s like, mom, I’m like, I know, I don’t wanna know. I don’t wanna know all the things that were going on that I didn’t know about. And so, you know, just going through all of these different things,

 

and then I was gaining weight and that was freaking me out because I had had weight loss surgery. So I thought I was done with that. I thought, Ooh, I had the weight loss surgery done. Boom, put that in the box. I don’t have to worry about weight Shannan. I never did any of the mental weight. I didn’t have a coach at that time.

 

Here I am gaining weight thinking, oh my gosh, this didn’t work. Like, what am I gonna do? I’m gaining weight. And I did like the most extreme thing that in my mind that I thought I could do. And so I just wanted to numb all that noise. And so I did it with food. And so I remember almost feeling like a robot,

 

just like, oh, okay, it’s time to make dinner. Oh, okay, it’s time to, you know, do the thing. Hi husband, I love you. Time to do the thing with my husband. I mean, just like numb, like numb, numb at work and numb at home. Get a list a mile long of all the things I need to do.

 

Food. I remember this so clearly. I actually remember my dresser at my nightstand at the time. I remember chalking it full of peanut m and ms, I’m sure Reese’s entered it and other candies. And I would always have it full. And then at the end of the night, you know, kids’ bed, kids’ home, were all the things done.

 

I would go up to my room, my husband and I would watch a show, and I would be like, Ooh, finally, finally. And I would open that candy up and I would just eat it. I mean, girl, I would eat it up. I had the big bags because I just wanted to be numb before I went to sleep.

 

And I started, and I remember it so clearly because at the time it felt furious. Like I was just like eating it while I’m watching tv. And I, and it was just like, please take away the day. I remember thinking like, I’m just washing away the day and this numbness, this kind of disconnection from myself, you know, it’s not a happy place to be.

 

Actually. You don’t have a lot of joy in that. You have a lot of fear and overwhelm. That’s how I felt. Numbing was not helping me, and I was still gaining the weight. I wasn’t feeling my most energized self with all these things I had going on. You know, this goes back to just thinking about like what we do.

 

You know, in next week’s episode, I’m gonna talk about a really amazing topic called Success Pain. And I think about this, I was bringing pain and recreating it in my life by numbing. And it was one of like really like amazing, I mean, me marrying Paul and my current husband was like one of the best days of my life. I,

 

I couldn’t believe that I had found this really amazing human who wanted to marry me too, right? And I remember like, just thinking like I had always wanted it because I was a single mom for a long time. And so I just wanted this family. I, so I had this thing, I had this beautiful career. I had all these amazing things,

 

and yet I had this secret, this secret of I’m just, I gotta push down all this other emotion. I gotta push down all this pain. And I’m just eating, eating, eating, eating, eating. And luckily my husband also has a sweet tooth. And so, you know, again, he’s oblivious to it all because he, you know,

 

he was just in love and everything was so good and you know, all the things right? But the secret I had was this constant going in my head of like, oh my gosh, I’m gaining weight. What have I done? I can’t stop it. Like I’m gonna start my diet. I went back to Weight Watchers. I mean, because I went back to the gym.

 

I started just panicking. And if you’ve ever had that feeling of panic of just like, I’ve gained weight, I don’t know what to do, I’m in this secret by myself. I put the smile on for everyone else, like, oh no, I love it, I love it. I’m, you know, everything’s good. They’re like, oh my gosh,

 

you’re married. Oh my God, everything’s so good. I’m like, it’s so good. Meanwhile, my, you know, we’re blending families and me and my stepdaughter just go fight. And you know, things are not that great. And my son is a teenager and I can’t even, I don’t know who he is. I can’t recognize him right now,

 

right? Like all this is going on and I’m just feeling like, oh my gosh, what is happening? So Jen, ah, tell me as I was talking, what do you think? I love that story. I’m sure I’ve done that too. Before, at some point, I just, ironically as I was like gathering my thoughts for this podcast,

 

I was having a late night, like later than normal. I love my sleep, ladies. I always, since birth, have done well with sleep. And so I was like, okay, it was getting a bit later. It was a day that the kids were not at teenage phase, but we are pre-teen, and they just wanted to be,

 

I mean, truly they’re just being kids. But I had a lot of things going on and I was like, okay, when they go to bed, I’m going to get a couple Oreos. I’m just gonna go have a couple Oreos. And they went to bed. And then I sat there and I was like, okay, just paused and asked myself like,

 

do you really still want them? Like, do you really need them? You’re gonna be going to bed and having this conversation. But so many times prior in my life, man, I would’ve gone in like emptied out to sleep with those Oreos because yes, all the stress from the day, all the things, we just want those feelings to go away.

 

We don’t wanna have to feel them. And we think that the food’s gonna do that. Yeah, we do. And nighttime, many of you struggle with nighttime eating. This is why, it’s because it’s this relaxation and you have tied relaxation to food. And so it’s just become a habit in your brain, your automatic brain. It’s just like, oh wait,

 

we need this. And so again, this is just part of like doing this work to kind of learn the techniques and the tools that we use so that you can, again, do something different. This is the thing, we have emotions and they live in our body. And when we process emotion, when we sit through emotion and we let it be there without taking action,

 

with just letting it be there, pausing, breathing through it, processing it, and we really teach a lot of this. So all my transform bosses, you know, this is an emotions basic. And we teach it, and we have it in our course, and we do a lot of workshops and things around it. We’re actually doing in June,

 

our workshop is all around feelings and emotions so that you can become unstoppable. And that’s the work that we’re gonna do in June in Transform Boss. Because as women, especially when we were younger, we were very quickly told, you’re being too emotional. You don’t cry. Oh lord, she’s crying again. Stop that crying, stop that whining. You know,

 

ladies, right? Like all the things. And so what happens over time is we just stuff our emotions, we just push our emotions down and we don’t feel the negative emotion. And so it can get trapped in our bodies. Cause physical ailments, physical pain, illness, all sorts of things actually. And so feelings and emotion lives in our body,

 

not in our heads. When you have a feeling, it’s in your body. So when you feel anxiety, you’ll feel it in your body. You feel it in your heartbeat, you’ll feel it in your belly, you’ll feel it in your tenseness, right? That’s where emotions live. And so we’ve just been programmed not to feel them, especially negative feelings,

 

because negative feelings don’t feel great. It doesn’t feel great to feel anxiety, to feel fear, to feel anger, to feel frustrated, right? Ooh, I was so frustrated the other day. I’m not kidding, ladies. I was, I was doing this thing, I was trying to record something for my ladies and Transform Boss, and it just was not working out.

 

You know, the sound wasn’t working, the air, you know, all these things. And I now have the tools to process that emotion and to also tell myself like, Hey, you know, before I would’ve just powered through it, that’s my old self. My old self was just get it done, Shannan, no matter what, just get it done.

 

And I was like, no, you know what? I need a break. Like this is not flowing. I gotta do some breath work and some things to kind of like get myself in the right head space. I said, let’s just come back tomorrow. Let’s just do it again. And it was so crazy because I came back the next day and Woo,

 

girl, I was on fire. I just like, right? So again, before I would’ve powered through it, and then at the end of it I’d been like, where’s my sleeve of Oreos? Right? I would’ve just done that, right? To relieve the stress. Now I’m just like, okay, I’m gonna take some breaths. I’m, I know how to rest.

 

I know without eating, and I know how to process emotions. And so emotional eating comes from wanting to numb, wanting to disconnect. And it’s not that as humans, we, it’s okay to disconnect. Like sometimes you want to just slow it down. But there is a way to do that without having a negative consequence. It’s when you have the negative consequence of overeating,

 

of doing the other things. And so again, we have emotion, and we have been taught to avoid negative emotion. And this is the crazy part. You can process an emotion in about a minute and a half, two minutes. And once you do, you’re just like, oh, I feel better. I feel lighter. And you can do some things to your nervous system too,

 

to calm your nervous system. And it’s actually shocking to me, like anytime my brain is like, again, I don’t wanna do the thing that feels good to me. I’d rather be in familiarity and comfort and live in the pain. And I’m gonna talk about that in the next episode. And so I just have to remind myself like, let’s go do the thing that’s gonna make us feel better.

 

Let’s go do that. We think it’s hard. It’s not really hard. Living in the pain is hard, but right. And so again, processing emotion instead of eating. There are some techniques that we have in Transform, Boss that I teach ladies on how to do it. But I wanna give you my podcast listeners. A couple things. I would say the first thing is just to identify what are your triggers,

 

right? Is it stress? Is it nighttime? Is it weekends? Because you know, weekends are fun and relaxation, and you don’t allow yourself to have any fun during the week. Ladies, if you live a life where you have no fun during the week, I just wanna give you this tip. Reevaluate. How can you have more fun, more relaxation,

 

more great things during the week? That’s for all my ladies. I know all the ladies who are, you know, working outside of the home or even inside of the home who have children still at home. We save it all up for the weekend and then we just barrel like, oh my gosh, you know, I’ve eaten a pie. And so again,

 

identify what the triggers are. Identify two, you know, like what emotions is it? Two, maybe it’s the transition in your day. Maybe you come home from maybe you’re out shopping or doing errands, or maybe you’re coming home from work, or you know, picking up the kids, whatever it is. Or you take care of elderly parents and you’re coming home from that.

 

And this transition, there’s these transitions that we have. And in those transitions, you know, we wanna overeat because we haven’t allowed ourselves to feel right. I think about those of you who are caretakers, you take care of your parents. And then it’s stressful because one, when you start to take care of your parents, and I know because I did this with my mom,

 

like even right now I can feel like some anxiety in my body. Just even talking about it, it’s stressful. It is like, I shouldn’t be doing this. She took care of me, right? What? What is happening? Oh my gosh. And then you start fearing like, oh my gosh, she is going to pass away, right?

 

It’s like all of these emotions, you’re just like, I can’t feel these emotions. Where is the bowl of pasta? I just can’t feel this. But you can. And when you do, you’ll actually feel better. Because this is the thing, emotions come and go. Like if you think of your last 24 hours, how much emotion have you had?

 

Oh my goodness. I mean, if I think of the last 24 hours I have felt happiness, joy, frustration, some fear, some fear. I hadn’t, I was behind. That’s always, Lord, ladies, it’s a reoccurring thought. I work on, I’m always behind. I’m not kidding. I even used to have this little story about how I was born late.

 

’cause I was late. I was like, see, I’ve just always been late since the day I was born. Ladies, it’s good to know those thoughts because it’s not true. It’s not true. My behind is self-imposed, right? So again, this work, this is why I love this work, because you get to figure out what’s going on in your brain and in your body where your emotions live.

 

And so when you can process this, so if you’re having so much stress because you’re taking care of, you know, elderly parents, or maybe you’re a caregiver, when you allow yourself to just sit and process that emotion, or maybe you’re in that transition period and you don’t take the negative action, I mean, you just start feeling like powerful. Like,

 

oh yeah, oh yeah, I can feel the emotion. I can feel this and not eat. And I tell you, it feels so powerful. I can’t think of another word. Maybe you can Jen, but it just feels like, wow, I can feel the urge to eat and to overeat, and I can actually take a breath, use some of the tools and just like,

 

feels amazing. What do you think, Jen, As you were talking to? I think it’s a little off topic, but I think it goes with this, yeah, expectations. Because as you were telling your story, right, you found this amazing man to be your husband. You have stepchildren and a, a son that you love and a great job,

 

and going back to school, all these things that should be fabulous, right? And I think when we put on these masks and to everybody, yes, it’s fabulous. I’m, everything’s going great. And then internally, we’re not being honest. We have this mask, and we have this expectation that when I’ve checked off these boxes, maybe weight loss is one of your boxes.

 

When I’ve checked these boxes, then these negative emotions are gonna go away, and I’m just gonna get to be happy and things are gonna be good and they should be different. But I think just allowing and embracing, no matter what, where you are in life, what you’re experiencing, you are always going to have all the emotions and just embracing them instead of thinking that they one day will go away or they shouldn’t be there.

 

Because I think for me, that’s a piece of this emotional eating is that, ugh, I’ve got right Then we start telling the stories. I’ve got so much to do, blah, blah, blah. I’m behind all the things. And if we can just take that moment, have the awareness like you talked about, and just embrace the emotion, allow ourselves that a minute and a half,

 

two minutes to process it and remind ourselves like it’s part of the human process. It’s okay that we are experiencing this. Nothing’s gone wrong, essentially, Nothing’s gone wrong. Look, life. Every day you’ll have just an array of emotions from negative to positive to neutral, all of them. You’ll get bored, you’ll get happy, you’ll feel excited, you’ll feel sad.

 

This is a day. Now, some days are a little heavier depending on what’s going on in the negative. And some days are more right, are more in the happiness and joy. But I could not agree more with you, Jen. I don’t believe the purpose of our life is to be happy. I believe the purpose of our life is to,

 

one, find your purpose, and then two, live in your purpose. And three, feel all of the emotion of it, all of it, the good and the bad. Because when you can feel emotion, you just feel unstoppable. So identify your triggers, right? Where you’re kind of eating outside of what you want. Really, you’re having a negative consequence,

 

right? And identify what’s causing that. Just ask yourself why, like what’s happening? If you ate more than you wanted, ask why. And then also, you know, look for other ways to cope. I think we use food to cope and to numb, and so is there other things that you can do? There’s a million things you can do.

 

For me, I just like to make it simple. When I am feeling emotion, I like to breathe through it, and I like to pause and get back into my thinking, brain out of my habit, brain out of my, you know, flight, fight or freeze brain. I like to call her Lizzie. I like to just get outta that and just come back to myself and just breathe through it.

 

I don’t wanna make it complicated for me, just getting up, just that fact of movement and just getting up, walking to the other room, taking some breaths. It is just a really simple way. And then lastly, get support. You know, we have spent a life not feeling our emotions a whole lifetime of not feeling them. And you need help with this.

 

This is the work that we do in Transform. Boss is to help women start to feel emotion again in really simple and easy ways that are not complicated, that don’t take a lot of time. Did any other ways to process emotion that you know or you can help ladies with? Yeah, I mean, a good timeout, ladies. We didn’t wanna be in timeout as kids.

 

I put myself in timeout sometimes, like a minute. I just need a minute. I just had this story pop in my head real quick that a friend, her son’s baseball team, they were in a tournament and they lost I think quite a few games, a couple games, and the coach said to them, listen, when you go home, I don’t want you to go get on YouTube.

 

I don’t want you to watch tv. I don’t want you to do these things. I want you to just be aw. Because when we go to tv, when we go to food, when we go to those things, it’s avoiding feeling those emotions. So I would say like, just be okay being with your emotion and just trying to be proactive with that,

 

right? Maybe you know, you’ve had a stressful day. Give yourself that five minutes in the car when you get home in that transition from work to walk in the door or whatever your transition is, maybe you can build in a five minute or two minute time period where you just have that moment to breathe and be with yourself. Oh, I love it.

 

I love the verbiage of timeout too. You know, when we’re kids, we hated timeout, but this is what I find most things that I did not like as a kid, I am hopeful for as an don’t like sleep, rest, you know all the things, right? I’m like, oh, please. Right. Oh, I love it.

 

I love it so much. All right, ladies, I love this episode. Again, we’ll see you in a couple weeks. We’re gonna talk about success pain. I know you’re gonna wanna listen to it because right now, your brain’s like success and pain. How do they go together? You’re gonna find out in our next episode, episode number 242.

 

So we’ll see you in a couple weeks, and I hope you have a beautiful couple weeks, and Jen, and I’ll see you soon. Bye for now. Do you wanna lose the mental and physical weight for the very last time? Make it easier on yourself and feel better. Then, one, follow this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. So every other week,

 

I’m in your inbox. Number two, go to bly coaching.com to get my free course. That’s BFLY coaching.com five for now.

 

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