How Can An Emotional Eater Eat Healthily?

We all know there are foods that are “healthy”, but what is healthy for an emotional eater? One person says a burger is healthy and then two others say it’s really bad for you. A vegetarian would say it’s unhealthy, so would somebody following a low fat diet. But then a person who believes in Paleo says it’s perfect! It’s confusing. We need to figure out what is healthy for you!

These steps will help you figure out how to fuel your body and eat healthy.

1.     Create a list of foods you find nourishing and that you can stomach. I think all health plans can agree on the veggies –phew! But the rest of it is where we run into issues.

 Does your body feel good physically when you eat a burger? Does you feel morally okay with it? Is it a food that you find nourishing? Add it to the list.  Does dairy feel good in your body? For some this is a yes, and others they would say no right away. The other factor to keep in mind is if you enjoy it. If you were taught cottage cheese is a nourishing food and you can’t stand eating it, your body is not going to want to keep eating it. You will only eat it when you are trying to “eat healthy”. Take it off the list.


2.     Create a list of non-nourishing foods that you enjoy.  Yes, these are the candy, cakes and chips. We can all agree those are not “healthy” but they sure taste good! Notice when you are not on a diet, which foods you like. Write them all down. 


3.     Take the list of non-nourishing foods and divide them into high-risk foods and low risk categories. There may be non-healthy foods that your mouth loves. You can still eat these in moderation which I believe is 20 percent of the time. Do this without guilt, but make sure the specific food doesn’t trigger you. 

To give you an example my high trigger foods are brownies, ice cream and cookies. These foods would go on my list and I would know that when I am going through something emotional they wouldn't be most nourishing. I may not have them around because it would send me into a tailspin. When I feel more balanced I test it out and can bring them into my life if it feels good.My low risk list would include dark chocolate, chips, tarts, pies etc. I don't over eat these. What's on yours?


4. Once you have your lists focus on having a regular routine. This may be 3 meals and 2 snacks a day or 4 smaller meals. If you aren't sure try a few different routines out. These are not written in stone either. Let's learn who you are and works for you. Follow your own list of healthy foods and a realistic eating schedule. 

Chances are, over the years you have learned a lot about nutrition and can get do this. If you feel you need more help understanding what balanced meals look like, find a nutritionist that understands emotional eating. Before you hire them, ask them what there experience is with emotional eating. Follow your gut and make sure you feel comfortable with them. 




Natalie Shay is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach specializing in emotional eating. She struggled with her own weight for 20 years. She finally learned to stop dieting and lost 75 lbs. In 2007 she became a Registered Psychotherapist to help emotional eaters stop turning to food for comfort and lose weight without dieting. She helps support her clients and guides them to meet their goals to stop dieting and start living.
Natalie can be reached here