Overcoming Emotional Eating

Overcoming Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is one of the most common factors that stops successful weight loss. This article explains the motivation factors that contribute to emotional eating, and shows you the way out.

Pleasure & Pain

Human beings are pretty simple, when it comes to motivation, we are naturally compelled to move towards pleasure and away from pain. When you think about it you might also notice that the pain or pleasure can come from inside us or outside of us. The really interesting thing is that there is always a balance of pain to pleasure from the inside & outside. Huh? Your body is designed to maintain equilibruim, to keep you safe, to survive at all costs. To help maintain this balance you are wired to balance internal pain with external pleasure, and vice versa. There is always a counterbalance of the opposite side. What does this mean? It means when you feel bad inside your brain is wired to reach for some kind of comfort from outside of yourself.

Maybe you have a bad day at work and you come home and pour yourself a nice big glass of red. You breakup with your boyfriend and bury your feelings at the bottom of the ice-cream container. Or you have an energy slump at 3pm and reach for a coffee or the vending machine candy. Pain on the inside = reach for comfort on the outside. (I can hear you now, “so that’s why I do it!”)

Emotional eating and quick fix crash diets are on the instant gratification side of internal pain and external pleasure. Slimming, weight loss and long term health is external pain and internal pleasure.

What Drives Emotional Eating?

With emotional eating, the internal, emotional pain: boredom, loneliness, sadness, guilt, frustration, low self-esteem, etc drives the mind to look for instant pleasure, (external pleasure) as a pick-me-up, and you get cravings for comfort foods to get that immediate pleasure and satisfaction.  (They’re not called comfort foods for nothing!) This is to distract your mind from the pain inside, it is a survival mechanism, to get you through emotionally tough times. However, as you already know, that comfort is only ever short lived, and afterwards you may feel guilty about eating that food, which makes you feel worse, so then you eat more and feel worse and eat more spiralling downwards emotionally and getting fatter.

The switch

The only way to overcome this instant gratification cycle is to switch sides to the External Pain / Internal Pleasure side. The external pain of saying ‘no’ to comfort foods, exercising and limiting portion sizes comes with the internal pleasure of happiness, self-confidence, positive feelings and increased physical health.

There are two ways to switch sides and overcome emotional eating, you can either just get started exercising and eating the right foods OR you can begin to internally clear out the emotional pain, self-sabotage and self-hate, forgive yourself for your past choices and focus on being kind to yourself starting right now. Emotional eating is a survival mechanism to help you to avoid your difficult emotions, because they are uncomfortable. The quickest way to overcome the emotional eating/ drinking is to face the emotion. Feel it. Allow it to course through your body. Acknowledge whatever you’re feeling without judgement. Ignoring or judging yourself for what you feel does not work. Allow it to come, and it will storm through you and you’ll come out the other side, much, much faster than if you suppress it.


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White-knuckling it. Willpower -blowout explained.

Sometimes people will just work on doing the exercise, and healthy eating with willpower all the while feeling deprived or using exercise and dieting as a punishment for their past behaviour. This is pain on the inside and pain on the outside, there is no balance, no pleasure, so if you are doing this, or have done it in the past, you know it is not sustainable in the long term. They have not worked on changing their mindset (releasing the inner pain) and will often find that their motivation is short lived and they go back to their old ways. This is because the inner pain is still there desperate for some comfort and pleasure, sabotaging you.

Lasting Change

If a change is going to last then you must focus on the internal pleasure and satisfaction that exercise and healthy eating gives you. Start small, go for a walk in the fresh air, notice how good you feel while you do it, take it at your own pace and be grateful for your body. As you focus more on these positive feelings and thoughts, and forgive yourself for the past, or for any slip ups, it will reinforce the internal pleasure and eventually this will overcome any old negative feelings towards exercise and healthy foods and (Gasp!) you might even find that you really enjoy it!

After only a short period of time doing positive things for your body and being kind to yourself in your mind you will begin to feel the internal effects; health, happiness, satisfaction, and these internal positive feeling will compel you to continue to exercise and eat right.

Get help.

I would strongly suggest getting professional help from an NLP coach or personal trainer as you embark on switching sides. You may need support and guidance to stay on track, until you thoroughly learn these new habits of being.

When you completely focus on the Internal Pleasure of doing the right thing by your body and nourishing it with healthy foods, exercise and positive thoughts you will feel amazing and have loads of energy to overcome any obstacle. This comes from confidence and loving yourself and helps to build high-self esteem, a healthy body and happiness.

So if you feel yourself looking for some external pleasure, know that the comfort is short lived, allow yourself to feel the discomfort of whatever you’re feeling and allow that discomfort to give you the insight and energy to change.



My specialty is helping people easily release the internal pain through advanced coaching & NLP techniques, when the inner pain is gone you become naturally compelled to do the right thing by your body and get slim as a result. Skip the quick fixes and get straight to fixing the core of the problem. If you’re interested in my phone or online coaching programs contact me on Kylie@MyMindCoach.com.au or sign up to my newsletter on the right for special offers and weekly articles.

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