emotional eating to lose weight

Zap the Power Out of Emotional Eating to Lose Weight Regain

February 11, 2021

Two of the biggest fears many have when starting a weight loss program is will it work and will I be able to keep the weight off for good? They both rely on a changed mindset and understanding that weight management is a life-long battle with many stages as you learn, change, and grow. Emotional eating to lose weight is very common throughout your weight loss journey. Most people eat for a variety of emotions at one time or another.

However, some do it more often and overeat for more reasons until it turns into a crutch or a habit. This, in part, is to avoid coping with unwanted feelings or thoughts that have no immediate answer. One can then react without accountability, switch the focus to their weight, body image, or history of failures, and attempt to cope with that familiar unpleasantness than the newly triggered one.

Mood vs. Food

Emotional eating can be a great ‘catch-all’ for all the reasons we overeat. We often blame food, poor eating habits, and lack of willpower or motivation as the root of our problems. We say things like:

  • if we could just lose the weight, everything would be great;
  • if I could just be thin, I would be happy;
  • if I can keep this weight off, my life will be everything I want it to be.
  • if I can stay thin, I will get the job, the marriage, the love, the circle of friends, etc.

When, in fact, you can achieve those things at any size. The bond between emotions and food is solid. However, it is so tightly entangled that it can be challenging to solve and a difficult cycle to break. When you say you eat because of stress, financial problems, family issues, fears, or uncertainties, those assessments are too broad. No one can immediately fix those descriptive views in one or two thoughts or actions. So what do you do? You can take the self-assessment or question further. For example:

What kind of stress?

  • Is it job-related? If so, in what way? Are you afraid of being downsized or let go? Is the environment toxic? Is there someone there that “pushes your buttons” or intimidates you? Do they remind you of someone else in your life? Someone from your past? How does the person, place, or thing make you feel?
  • Is it relationship related? In what way [lack of a relationship or in the wrong one]. Are your emotional needs being dismissed? Are you dismissing them? Does someone make you feel unloved, not important, or useless?
  • Is it ‘general overall life’ [be careful here, that is a large category]? Are you trying to please too many people? Do you say ‘yes’ when it should be a ‘no’? Are you ‘afraid’ of not being liked, accepted, wanted, or included?

Do the same with family issues, fears, or uncertainties. You must continue to ‘peel the onion’ in questioning until you can get to the root of the emotional trigger. It requires honesty and awareness of what you genuinely perceive in the situation. There is no room for trying to get others to see it the way you see it or agree with you. Your emotions are just that—your emotions, and they have to be recognized before they can be managed.

How To Zap The Power Of Emotional Eating To Lose Weight

If the emotions are not managed, they will return and be coupled with the regained weight and [often] guilt, sense of failure, and fears of gaining it all back. The cycle of:

emotional eating to lose weight

Is it easier to escape with food? Yes.
Does it have a high price to pay? Yes
Can you heal and move on without the use of excess food? Yes

Weight loss occurs when you follow your food plan, exercise routine, and address the triggers that send you to excess eating. It can be that simple if you are ready to address the issues.

The rest of the effort along this journey has to be working on the internal conflicts, facing issues that have been buried, and rebuilding the areas of your life that are missing or unhealed. Managing emotions takes consistent internal work before your weight loss begins, during it as changes occur physically and emotionally, and afterward for long-term maintenance.

How Can You Zap the Power Out of Emotional Eating to Lose Weight Regain?


Start at the start

When did the weight regain begin? What was going on during that time frame? What did you ‘stop doing’ that was in your best interest to continue? What changed or [more importantly] what or who did not change? Assess the situation honestly, so you can recognize the breakdown.


Evaluate your goals

Did you meet them? Were they as exciting as you thought they would be? Did life change to your happy place, or did it bring on new challenges, confusion, or issues you are not ready to address? Do you need new goals? What is your reason for losing weight and keeping it off now? When goals are met, you need new ones. Otherwise, you will naturally default to your old, comfortable ways, which will lead to excess eating.


Start keeping a food log again

The food log is such a great tool to get you re-centered and focused back on what you are consuming. As humans, we remember the really healthy things and the really bad [not so healthy] foods that we consume and usually, the problem is in the middle.

Your total consumption per day over the course of weeks gives you valuable information that you may be ignoring. Look for ‘patterns’ in your log.

When in the day are you consuming more than normal? What is going on around that time? Look at the food choices too.

Are you seeking comfort foods like sweets or fast foods, which could signal chaos or simply large portions of anything, which could mean you, are throwing in the towel? However, you are not throwing in the towel on your weight program. That is a smokescreen. You are ‘throwing in the towel’ or ‘giving up or losing hope’ with something in your life but you are expressing it through your eating issues. Identify it and take the steps to address it.


Get support

You need a safe place to voice your internal struggles. Go back to your program’s support system or if they have none, find a new support group. Reach out to counselors who specialize in obesity whether in person or online. Seek support in your inner circle – if you do not have that kind of circle, that is certainly an area that needs to be addressed. Associate with like-minded individuals who understand your struggle.


Address emotional triggers individually

Now that you do not have the weight to hide behind you will need to begin addressing the triggers one-by-one. You cannot overhaul your whole life in a few decisions. You have to feed, fix, forget or feel your way through each one of them as they appear to you.

Use your food as a guide to know if you are ready. If food gets out of control, you are not ready to address that issue alone – seek help. If you can manage food as you are dealing with the trigger, you are ready.


Never give up on you

Pause, take a time out, give yourself a reprieve, but never give up on you. There is nothing in our lives that we do perfectly all the time. Weight management is included in that scenario.

Some days it is a breeze, other days the ravenous rage is overpowering. Then there are days in between where you will hang on and get through it. It may not always feel empowering but as long as you do not feed your way through it, you win!

emotional eating to lose weight
Debra Taylor


Dr. Debra Taylor, Ph.D., M.S. is founder of "Weight, WHAT? Food Addictions Center" working with surgical and non-surgical weight loss clients for pre and post care and long term support. She is a national and international motivational speaker and trainer for addictions, obesity, finding purpose and living your best life.