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How to Cope After an Episode of Emotional Overeating


I have a confession to make….

Last week, I majorly, totally, emotionally overate. Yep- even Emotional Eating Coaches lose their way now and again…but what I did after the fact is the most important part of this story, so read on to learn how to cope the next time you have an overeating episode…

The other day I had a particularly stressful day with the kids. Now that Summer is here and school is out, I have my 14-month-old and 4-year-old every day, all day. With only a few hours to work twice a week. The days have been mostly great and I have made a habit of staying mindful about how much I love my kiddos and how grateful I am to be able to spend lots of time with them while they are young. I get to watch them grow and learn new things every single day and I am eternally grateful for this.


However- spending all day, everyday with the kiddos can also be a bit exhausting and stressful. And by a bit, I mean a LOT. My 14-month-old has developed this new fun little habit of screaming at the top of her lungs randomly and for no apparent reason whatsoever. Also, my 4-year-old asks me probably 4,831 questions every single day, sometimes I’ll answer his question and he’ll ask me the EXACT same question two minutes later. It’s endearing, but also infuriating at the same time, parents- I know you know what I’m talking about (please say you do!).


On this particular day, I was trying to be “a good wife” and “good mom” by cooking dinner, getting the dishes done, having the house cleaned up and have my 4-year-old complete his summer workbook that I’d promised my husband I’d have him finish before summer was over.


I had visions of how everything was going to play out- my husband would walk in, notice the beautiful house, the happy children and the delicious dinner that was ready to come out of the oven and be ecstatic at my wifely abilities.


What happened was pretty much the exact opposite, the dinner burned in the oven, my 4-year-old was asking a billion questions about the work in his workbook (among many, many other things), and my lovely daughter was following me around screaming at the top of her lungs- for no reason at all. Just for funsies.


My husband walked in to see a frazzled, stressed, mess of a wife who was about to serve him burnt, gross, dinner with dishes in the sink, a 4-year-old still needing help on his unfinished workbook, and a daughter still screaming, now crying.


He came in with a smile on his face and lips pursed to give me a kiss, which I promptly ignored and demanded, “I could really use a little help here! I am trying to make dinner and get the kids taken care of and I am not a magical sorcerous who can do it all by myself, so perhaps you could lend a hand!”


He said nothing, and took the kids to the other room while I begrudgingly made the rest of the dinner and set it out. It tasted awful and I was so disappointed and felt embarrassed and guilty for my behavior towards my kids and husband.


After eating everything on my plate (without enjoying a single bite), I felt physically full but I went back for seconds and then headed straight for the pantry to grab a handful of sweets and soothe my aching ego and shot nerves. (My daughter seriously screams LOUD).


As I sat there eating my cookie and contemplating having three more, I finally came to reality and realized that I was physically and uncomfortably stuffed. I finally tuned in and said to myself- “I really want those other cookies, but I am going to put the cookies on hold and go take a shower. If I still want them when I’m done, I’ll eat them.”


I excused myself and went and took a long, hot shower. This allowed me to contemplate what the heck happened in that span of about 20 minutes that had triggered me to majorly overeat to the point of physical discomfort.


Here’s what I came up with.


Since food is a temporary distraction from unpleasant emotions, I realized that I needed to find out what emotions I was running from or what I was using food to “fill up” with. I realized that I had some expectations for how I thought the night was going to go, my husband was going to be so impressed at what a doting wife and caring mommy I was when he walked in. My kids were going to be nourished, my son would be smarter by the night’s end (having done his workbook and gotten brilliant answers to all of his questions). I would feel like a supermom, not to mention- I would have a Facebook-worthy dinner pic to share afterwards.


None of this happened. My husband ended up feeling resentful and hurt since I immediately rejected his loving smile and embrace by shouting orders at him, the dinner was burned because of my lack of attention to it since I was trying to do too many things at once, and my kids and husband would shove dinner down their throats with no real enjoyment or feeling of togetherness that family dinner is supposed to have.


I subconsciously numbed my disappointment with food without considering my true underlying needs first.


And those needs were to take a break from the stressful situation I was in by removing myself from it for a little while. I ended up taking care of my true needs, but only after I consumed way more food than my body actually needed. If I had asked my husband to take over with dinner and the kids for 10 minutes while I went into a quiet, scream-free room, my true needs would’ve been met and I wouldn’t have needed to overeat to dull my emotions in the first place.


Now, being an Emotional Eating Coach, I know and teach to my clients that the best way deal with an overeating episode is to get really really curious about it rather than judge and berate yourself (which seems to be the automatic response in our culture).


While I was in the shower, I used my physical feeling of discomfort from overeating to get really curious about why I continued to eat past the point of fullness and continue to reach for more food even after I realized that I was overeating. I asked myself,


“What’s really going on here?”

“What am I feeling, and why am I feeling that way?”


It was when I started getting really curious about my overeating episode that I realized that my nerves were shot from hearing my daughter screaming all day, and I was feeling annoyed by my son asking a billion questions all day (particularly about his workbook while I was trying to get dinner prepared and clean up the house). I also realized that I was disappointed about how the night turned out, vs. how I thought or imagined it should’ve gone and was worried deep down that my hubby thought I was a bad wife/mom.


In reality, my kids were just being kids, I shouldn’t have had my son doing his workbook while I was trying to get dinner ready and clean the house, and my husband loves me and thinks I’m a glorious wife and mother which is why he came home with a smile on his face wanting a hug and a kiss after a long day of not seeing me. He was obviously happy to be home with me and the kids.


Needless to say, by the time I finished my shower, I was waaay more clear on what had happened and I no longer had the desire to eat any food- let alone the rest of the cookies that I would’ve eaten had I not taken a moment for myself!


I had a chat with my husband later and he and I decided that if I ever felt that way again, that I would allow him to take the kids and finish dinner while I took a few minutes alone to collect myself. This way, I could come to dinner and eat mindfully and without the need to “fill up” on food when I really need something else entirely. You see, when the problem isn’t that you’re physically hungry, food will never solve it. So if physical hunger doesn’t tell you to eat, physical fullness won’t be able to tell you to stop eating because you’ll be looking to get something else out of eating that food can never provide you.

Your refrigerator holds food, it doesn’t hold comfort, relaxation, or happiness. Ending Emotional Eating is not about shaming yourself, it’s about pausing long enough to figure out what you REALLY need.


Good luck and tell me in the comments section how pausing to find out what you really need has helped you in times of overeating or having the desire to overeat. I can’t wait to hear from you!

PS- Want to take this a step further? Hundreds of women just like you have put a stop to 80% of their Emotional Eating habits…Ready to join them?? Click here to check out my “Stop Eating Your Emotions Crash Course” where you’ll learn how to stop Emotional Eating in under 90 minutes!


7 Responses to How to Cope After an Episode of Emotional Overeating

  1. Hi Maureen! I am so glad that you shared your over-eating experience with all of us! It was totally amazing because I definitely understood where you were coming from!I had an over-eating experience last Sunday.It was actually a binge! What happened with me was that I became overly hungry…starved! When I got home from church, I began eating and all of a sudden I went into a full blown binge! It happened so fast! Before I knew it I was out of control! Afterwards, I put on an exercise tape and exercised for 1 1/2 hours straight!( I reverted back to my old way of dealing with a binge) I was so mad at myself. When I finished my exercise, and calmed down some, I remembered what I had learned about “Learning( Finding Meaning) and Letting Go” I began to evaluate why I lost control and realized that I hadn’t eaten enough breakfast. Maybe I should have taken a snack with me to church just in case I got overly hungry. Maybe I should of had a glass of iced tea to help slow me down. I decided to forgive myself and let go of it, so that I could move on. I then waited till I was hungry again before I ate. Thank you, Maureen, for your honesty and allowing us to learn from your experience, too! I think the key here is to never give up…learn from our struggles and keep going!You did just that! You gave us a powerful example to follow! You go girl!!!!:)

    • Hi Therese, Thank YOU so much for sharing your experience with us as well! You did exactly what you should’ve done, and it sounds like you’ve gained a lot of valuable insight into your overeating experience- which is awesome! Give yourself some awknowlegment for taking that huge step in the right direction, it’s going to pay off BIG TIME in the future, just wait! Thanks for reading the blog- I’m so glad these techniques are working for you! 🙂

  2. Lol! I love reading your blog! I totally saw this whole scenario play out and even though I don’t have kids I found I could relate to the emotional turmoil and conflict. I have to saw, though, from another blog you posted I practiced what you had preached and it worked out great for me! A co worker makes these amazing cookies, he actually used to run a successful cookie business in NYC before moving to Austin. Anyways, he brought in a beautiful batch of Red Velvet cookies, soft, rich, everything you could ever hope for in a cookie. In the past left alone with these cookies after denying them all day I give in, a eat like a monster and next thing I know they are gone and I feel super uncomfortable, ashamed and feel like a failure:'( It’s like playing this crappy game of will power all day to the point your exhausted and just give in after hours of denying… This time before that happened I took your advice, when offered the cookie instead of trying to hold out as long as possible only to devour all remaining cookies, I allowed myself two. I really want them and I let myself eat two and ya know what? I was satisfied all day and the box he stashes in my office were still there the next day. I ate the two in the morning with coffee and had no stress, emotional turmoil, or desire to have any more the rest of the day. I allowed myself a treat and enjoyed it. Thanks again for your great writings, insight, and sharing, Keep up the inspiring work!

    • Jacob- I am so happy to hear that my techniques helped you avoid unnecessary guilt and turmoil about eating some cookies!! Good for you for trying it out. Those cookies sound amazing! 🙂

  3. Therese and Maureen: reading this was like (Deja vu) for me. This is ME almost every signal day… I’m going to try this technique..

    • Amy, you are not alone! So many of us can relate. I would love for you to stop by and let us know how the technique worked for you! Thanks for reading 🙂

      • Every day I learn something new about myself! Sense I have been implementing the “Undieting” techniques, I didn’t realize how much I was eating emotionally rather than eating mindfully! Several situations came up this week where I had to stop and think about why I was wanting to eat when I wasn’t hungry! I am so grateful for all that Maureen taught me about hunger cues and eating whatever I want. My husband & I went to a Catfish restaurant last night, where they serve fried catfish. In the past, fried catfish was definitely a no-no food, and not on my diet. I would avoid these types of restaurants like the plague! Well, I ate the catfish with all the trimmings, and stopped when I was satisfied. It tasted sooo good! I was completely satisfied with 1 fish fillet, and 1 serving of coleslaw, pinto beans, and hushpuppy. I left the restaurant feeling great! I definitely was not hungry anymore! I felt nourished and comfortable! I just want to encourage all of you, that this way of eating REALLY WORKS! Don’t give up! It just takes a little time to relearn new habits!

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