Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating

Last week when I was teaching my Weight Loss Class in Virginia, a lot of discussion ensued during and after the class regarding emotional eating. The holidays increase anxiety about food and they encourage grandiose weight loss attempts for the New Year. I also think orthorexia is more prevalent than ever before.

I’m not a psychologist. This blog is not meant to replace psychological counseling from a trained professional! But, here are some of my favorite Healthy Discoveries for the Emotional/Psychological Side Of Eating.

Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling – Anita Johnston Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in eating disorders. She wrote this book to supplement the work she does in her private practice. I really like her work and I use some of her stories when I teach.

Johnston draws on myth and folktales to inspire women to discover the metaphors that are hidden in their own life stories. Her chapters include: The Root of Hunger, Reclaiming the Body’s Wisdom, Spiritual and Emotional Hunger, and The Inner Hearing, Seeing and Knowing.



Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self – If the word “chakra” in the title freaks you out and makes you think of New Age Woo-Woo; try to suspend judgement and give this book a chance before mentally writing it off. I have highlighted and dog-eared practically every page. It is my absolute favorite psychological resource (especially for comprehensive explanations about emotional eating, addiction, control, deprivation, trauma etc). Eastern Body, Western Mind is extremely insightful and a book that I frequently reference. Please do not let the title deter you!



Warming the Stone Child – These two audio tapes were recorded by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Clarissa has her doctorate in Jungian Psychology and is well known for her famous book,Women Who Run with the Wolves. While these audios were not specifically recorded about “eating issues”, I think they speak very well to some core psychological roots that might contribute to emotional eating.



 The 16 Steps – The 16-step empowerment model is a holistic approach to overcoming addictions/obsessions; it views people in their wholeness– mind, body and spirit. I like this alternative approach much more then the traditional 12 Step Overeaters Anonymous model.

A fundamental basis of this model is flexibility and an openness which leads to continually ask: What works? Who does it work for? and How can we help it work better? It encourages people to be continually open to new information and not to become trapped in dogmatic teachings -nutrition, health, weight loss or otherwise.

If anything sums up one of my fundamental life philosophies it would be that last sentence; so it’s no surprise that I like the 16 Steps.

What about you? What are your favorite books or philosophies regarding emotional eating? Leave your comment below, if you are an email subscriber click here to return to the original post.

Comments 4

  • Sagan says: December 17, 2008, 11:09 am

    I haven’t read many books regarding emotional eating specifically- I will have to look into these books that you’ve listed here! Definitely worth reading about this stuff. We’ve all got emotional eating issues on some level, I think!

  • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. says: December 17, 2008, 8:35 pm

    Interesting info.
    I agree with Sagan. Most everybody has emotional eating issues, but some are a lot worse than others.

  • Dr. J says: December 18, 2008, 6:54 am

    Have to concur with both Sagan and Dr. Hubbard! I guess with emotional eating my bottom line is, making excuses for behaviors will not solve them, nor will continuing to do them. Working on changing a behavior by doing other behaviors is the only answer, I think. Baby steps in the better direction, and keep going.

  • Jolene says: December 18, 2008, 10:03 am

    Sagan – Yes, there is a lot of stuff out there…most of it I haven’t found to be very useful, but the above sources are very insightful and practical — I think. You’ll have to let me know what you think if you read any.

    James – Actually I think “everyone” pretty much has a vice but emotional eating may or may not be their vice! I think it depends a lot on brain chemistry as to why one person uses and/or chooses/abuses alcohol, drugs, food, overspending, religious fanaticism, smoking, workaholism, extreme exercise, sex, etc as their emotional vice/escape.

    Dr J – No excuses here! Just interested in the psychological reasons why our brains choose food for emotional comfort such as, putting “extra padding” around the body (weight) to emotionally protect themselves. Studies show sexual abuse survivors tend to be more overweight adults.

    Stuffing the body with food when one doesn’t want to hear “what their gut is telling them”, or something/someone is “eating at them”.

    Eating to fill “emotional hungers”. Craving and really needing emotional support and then inappropriately using food to unsuccessfully fill that emotional void etc.

    I think when people learn those and many other ” Psychological Why’s” it is easier to make different, more appropriate and lasting changes.

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