“Food can distract you from your pain, but food cannot take away your pain. In fact, overeating the wrong foods can create more pain.” – Karen Salmanohn. 

Are you an emotional eater?   

Do you find yourself using food to comfort yourself and alcohol to destress? 

There is a reason many movies have a scene where someone is drowning their sorrows in a bottle or the well-known tub of ice cream. While dining and drinks after work have become part of our business culture, I wonder if it is masking a need to hide or avoid our emotions.  

This week we explore why we turn to food rather than sit with the discomfort of our emotions. Learn why addressing this personal challenge could also impact your leadership.


Given the current uncertainty and change, many of us are likely experiencing a higher level of stress and anxiety. In addition to this, we’re also adjusting to new routines, which involve working from home and limited social interaction. Under these circumstances, it’s understandable that we’ll be experiencing heightened emotions, which for some of us can mean we’re more likely to turn to food as a source of comfort.


What is emotional eating?

Consciously and unconsciously, we connect feelings with food. Emotional eating means that you eat for reasons other than hunger. You may eat because you’re sad, depressed, stressed, or lonely. Or you may use food as a reward. Food can be soothing and distract you from what’s really bothering you. Emotional eating occurs when we use food to soothe or suppress negative emotions such as isolation, anger, fear, boredom, or stress. Major life events or, more commonly, the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating.


Comfort Food: Feeding the Hole

Negative emotions can lead to a feeling of agitation, emptiness or an emotional void. Food can be a way to fill that void, soothe tension and create a false sense of “fullness.” Whether the emotion is positive or negative, emotional eating is a challenge most of us will always face. We will most likely continue to celebrate using food and drink or be enticed by comfort food when faced with uncomfortable emotions.  

So why comfort food? I believe that comfort is not derived totally from the food but from the association with the food. We link food to beautiful memories and experiences that have us feel loved and cared for.  Generally speaking, it’s stress in some form or another that needs to be relieved. Comfort food is, therefore, defined as whatever foods make you feel reassured and supported. I found that my favourite indulgences are often the same meals I loved when I was a child, and it’s the subconscious feeling of safety that pulls me to certain food during times of insecurity or fear.

We have all experienced the many roles food can play in our life; as comfort, punishment, appeasement, celebration, obligation – and depending on the day or our mood, we may overeat, under-eat or eat unwisely. Whatever the role, our relationship with food has a lot to do with unresolved emotions, dysfunctional coping mechanisms and plain old bad habits. The most important thing to remember is that emotional eating isn’t a result of personal weakness or a lack of willpower. Instead, it’s a coping mechanism that has become a habit. 

While it may seem that the core problem is that you’re powerless over food, emotional eating stems from feeling powerless over your emotions. When we don’t feel capable of dealing with our feelings, we avoid them with food. Although allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary, the truth is that when you become mindful and emotionally literate to the feelings that trigger emotional eating, the discomfort subsides. 


Emotions Are Habits 

Emotional eating is a habit. It is the conditioned approach of expressing and dealing with the emotions you learned as a child. For many of us, the discomfort emotions evoke stand in the way of our success. Suppose you habitually avoid dealing with change, conflict and crisis in your personal life. You are likely avoiding dealing with these uncomfortable emotions you face while building your business. The key is learning to distinguish between your body’s need for nourishment and your mind’s need to eat because of conditioned habits and patterns developed over time.

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” – Andrew J. Bernstein. 

Healthy leaders work to be self-aware and develop mastery of their thoughts and emotions. These leaders have cultivated the ability to use every circumstance as an opportunity for growth and change. As a leader, it is essential to be aware of your habitual ways of being and thinking. 

To live an unstoppable life, explore your emotions and learn to shift your responses and patterns around food. Join the Mindset Mastery Mastermind to connect with other leaders committed to mastering their emotions in the face of uncertainty and change.