Emotional eating is like a big umbrella, and underneath that umbrella are many types of emotional eating, each with their own set of triggers and remedies.
I’m about to hash out the top 7 types of emotional eating that I’ve seen from my work as an eating psychology coach. And to help you put these items into action, I’ll include little tips along the way. Are you ready?
The Most Common Types of Emotional Eating
By the way, if you’re new around here, this blog is the home of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness: a path to feeling normal around food. It’s an approach to stopping compulsive eating rooted 100% in psychological and spiritual practices.
In my humble opinion, compulsive eating has almost nothing to do with the foods we eat. Instead, it’s about our relationship with everything that isn’t food, like life and joy and pain and grief — it goes deep.
As you learn about the types of emotional eating, you will also learn ways to use your intuition and psychology to overcome these triggers. And the best part is that dieting is not required, and it’s actually not even encouraged!
Also, I happen to have videos that go along with a lot of these, so you can dive deeper if you want. Here we go!
Let’s start with one of the most surprising types of emotional eating:
1. Hedonic Eating — the most surprising type of emotional eating
Hedonic eating is a special type of emotional eating because, instead of trying to avoid something bad, we eat to gain something good. Namely: pleasure. “Foodies” may resonate with this one.
When we don’t get enough joy from our lives outside of food, we will compulsively seek joy from food. This is hedonic eating. And the best way to stop is to focus on joy outside of food. Cultivate hobbies, put yourself out there and make new connections. Do whatever it takes to find your joy.
2. Avoidance Eating — the most common type of emotional eating
Avoidance eating is all about the avoidance of discomfort. And not the discomfort of a diet, but the emotional discomfort of life. Whether it’s dealing with rejection, depression, anxiety, loneliness, or all the above, the desire to eat when you aren’t hungry can, in my humble opinion, always be traced back to a feeling that we don’t want to feel.
This is where my tool to stopping compulsive eating — the Stop, Drop, & Feel — comes into play. It works by stopping yourself before a binge (more on this in the full article), dropping into your body, and feeling your feelings.
Although this may sound airy fairy, it has real world benefits — the most important benefit being emotional tolerance.
When we eat as a subconscious reaction to negative emotion, the Stop, Drop, & Feel helps you develop tolerance for those emotions. I call this emotional tolerance. It helps you be the eye of the storm, and be still instead of compulsively reaching for food. It’s tough, but it works like a charm.
3. Boredom Eating — the most unsuspecting type of emotional eating
In the era of working from home, I think we’ve all had our share of eating when we’re bored. There’s just something about grazing the kitchen during the work day that’s difficult to shake…
And this is the essence of stopping boredom eating, actually! When we eat out of boredom, there’s usually something underneath that we’re trying to avoid, too. It’s not just that we’re bored of work, it’s that we’re procrastinating on a work project that scares us. So, it’s not boredom — it’s actually fear.
The best way to stop boredom eating is to put a finger on what you’re trying to avoid and then make room for your discomfort. Be willing to feel your fear and do it anyways. (Aka, do the Stop, Drop, & Feel.)
4. All-or-Nothing Eating
If you’re on a diet, you likely make promises to yourself. Perhaps you promise to eat nothing but green smoothies and chicken salads (with the dressing on the side). But on some days, you may “break down” and eat a chicken wing at 8pm… and then proceed to eat the entire 20-piece of chicken wings at 8:10pm.
All-or-nothing eating is a response to deprivation.
Green smoothies and chicken salads are NOT enough to sustain your daily activities!!! This creates food insecurity and it pushes your body into starvation mode. Then, when you taste the sweet taste of calories (which our body NEEDS to SURVIVE!) it’s no wonder that we eat everything in sight.
The cure for all-or-nothing eating is to find more balance. Follow your intuition. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and do the Stop, Drop, & Feel when you want to eat when you aren’t hungry. That’s all you need! (These are the Psycho-Spiritual Wellness eating guidelines, by the way.)
5. Blur Eating
Raise your hand if you’ve ever plowed through a bag of chips, only to realize what you’ve done after the deed has been done? I think we’ve all been there!
This is called “blur eating” and it can be difficult to stop because there’s no awareness. Fortunately, you can slowly but surely cultivate your awareness by using tools like the Stop, Drop, & Feel.
Unlike diets which are tools that are SUPPOSED TO help you lose weight (even though they never really work long-term, ever!!!) the Stop, Drop, & Feel is a tool for emotional awareness and emotional tolerance. And these are key skills for overcoming blur eating.
6. Guilty Eating
I’m referring to feeling guilty before we eat. I’m not talking about feeling guilty after eating (which is also a valid way to feel, but I talk about that in other articles.) I’m talking about feeling guilty before we eat.
The most common cause of feeling guilty before eating is the fear of wasting food. We don’t want to waste money, we don’t want to waste flavor, and we don’t want to scorn anyone in the world struggling with hunger.
But if you want to stop compulsive eating, it’s going to require wasting food sometimes, or at least taking it to-go. Make peace with it. And if you want to actually make a difference with people struggling with hunger, consider donating!
7. Rebellion Eating
For every restriction, there is an equal and opposite binge. The more we banish cupcakes from our diet and our cupboards, the more we will find ways to binge eat cupcakes, or any other starchy, sugary dessert!
(I have a brand new workbook on stopping sugar addiction the psycho-spiritual way, btw!)
Permission to Eat is critical for reaching a normal relationship with food. And when I say normal, I’m referring to the awesome, amazing goal eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. You know, GOALS.
Back when I was keto (and I was frustrated that I still wasn’t losing weight) I used to drool and daydream over bread. But once I stopped dieting and started eating bread freely, I stopped thinking about it! As a result, I stopped eating so much of it!
I eat less bread by allowing myself to eat bread than by following a keto diet.
If this just boggles your mind, or makes your mind do backflips, I think you’ll love my ebook called The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide to Stop Binge Eating which you can get for FREE below:
Got Omnia says
Your article is very good and impressive, I have read and re-read it many times and I like your writing style.
Kari Dahlgren says
Thank you so much!! 🙂