The following blog post is from AZVFF 2017 presenter, Becka Kelley.

The following blog post is from AZVFF 2017 presenter, Becka Kelley.

Becka is a Health Psychology Coach in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more about Becka at

Problem or Symptom?


There are many of us who would say we have an emotional eating problem. We believe it is the source of our ill-health and emotional distress. So we may attempt to use self-discipline, willpower, and shame as motivators and strategies to eliminate our emotional eating problem, which often fail.


What if it wasn’t true?  What if emotional eating wasn’t the problem, but actually a strategy to address a different problem?  Let’s look at an example:



If we spoke to the woman in this picture, she may say she has an emotional eating problem. She eats too many croissants!  She must stop!  I would ask her, why do you feel compelled to eat croissants? I imagine some possible answers could be that eating croissants provides her calm, convenience, and pleasure. So the “problem” is not the eating, it’s more likely to be that she is in need of some support, boundary setting skills, recharge time, and/or a source of joy & pleasure. A sign this may be true for you is if you hear thoughts in your head like, “I do so much for everyone else. I’m going to eat this for me. I deserve this.”  We are using emotional eating as a tool for self-nurturing, self-soothing, and self-regulation. This is why we fail when we try to stop eating. We just eliminated our coping tool and now have no way to meet our needs!


What if instead of putting all of our attention into willpower, we put some energy into meeting the needs our emotional eating symptom is trying to address?  There are four questions we can ask ourselves that support us in getting clarity about why we are emotional eating and what we can do to address our true hunger:


1. What are my feelings/sensations?
2. What are they communicating to me?
3. What do I want to be experiencing?
4. How can I nourish my true hunger?

I will explore these four questions in my next blog posts. To sign up for my newsletter to receive the blog posts please visit


A note: Sometimes identifying the root cause behind our emotional eating can be complex and intense and the path may be best traveled with a guide. For example, after brave and vulnerable introspection, many women have realized they use being overweight as physical protection from unwanted male attention. Often these women have sexual abuse in their past. They see the weight as making them unattractive which creates a sense of safety they desperately need.  Exploring the purpose of our emotional eating practice with a professional can be valuable at all times, and especially in circumstances such as these.