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  • Writer's pictureDr. Rachel Lemonik

What If I Told You That Emotional Eating Isn’t "Bad"

So many of us know the feeling of emotional eating. We know the feeling of searching for comfort that seems to only be found in the bag of popcorn, chips, candy, or cookies. We know the feeling of trying to resist it, to shut down thoughts of enjoyment of a food that we “don’t need” or “shouldn’t be eating.”

If this resonates with you, you are so far from alone. You are normal. And in fact, you are channeling one of our innate abilities to soothe ourselves through times of discomfort.

We are allowed to enjoy food. Actually, we are MEANT to enjoy food. There are literally pleasure receptors in the brain that detect when a food is delicious—riddle me how those would be there if food wasn’t meant to provide enjoyment?

Here’s a way to think about it:

If you told yourself you were going to walk 1 mile, but ended up walking 2 miles—would you be upset?

Or how about…

If you told yourself you only needed 1 paperclip for the stack of papers on your desk, but you actually used 2—would you feel guilty?

Food is just food, like paperclips are just paperclips. It has no moral value, and you are not less of a person for eating more of it, especially during times of discomfort and uncertainty.

So when the feeling to eat while combating emotions arises, cut yourself some slack.

  • Allow yourself to enjoy what you are eating; be mindful of the flavors, tastes, and comfort it provides

  • Acknowledge that you are eating for comfort, and that is 100% allowed

  • Remember that you don’t need to eat differently, or eat less, tomorrow because of emotional eating today

After allowing yourself to give into the feelings and eat, there are a few things to think about for

next time…

  • Did you feel better or worse afterwards? Temporarily, or noticeably increased stress levels that lasted past your fullness?

  • Did you engage in any other coping mechanisms while processing your emotions and feelings?

  • Are there other coping mechanisms you can use next time this feeling arises? (e.g. Call a friend, take a walk, journal, read a book, listen to a podcast; Make a therapy appointment; Talk to a dietitian)

  • What could be causing you to feel the need to do this? Is there something else going on?

The world has been flipped upside down and so few things feel normal. Cut yourself a break.

The adjustments and new feelings we experience every day are difficult and challenging for a multitude of reasons.

Remember that all we can do is try our best.

And, if that sometimes means eating more than we planned or, finding joy and comfort in food, that is nothing to be ashamed of. Eat your snack, take a deep breath, and move on.


Jennie Dockser, RD is a Registered Dietitian who provides individualized nutrition counseling and intuitive eating support to adolescents and adults. She is HAES (Health at Every Size) aligned and her goal is to help individuals redefine the way they see “health” and create more positive relationships with food and their bodies.

Learn more about Jennie at

(914) 488-4241


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