I Feel, Therefore I Eat: How Society Conditions Us to Eat Our Emotions (And What


I Feel, Therefore I Eat

How Society Conditions Us to Eat Our Emotions (And What to Do About It)

By J.A. Thomas

Copyright 2016 J.A. Thomas

All Rights Reserved


If you eat when you are not hungry, you are not alone. If you eat when you are bored, sad, angry, depressed, anxious, and/or happy, you are far from alone. In truth, emotional eating (also known as stress eating) has become an epidemic in America. I struggle with it, and so do most people I know. I started to question the deeper roots of emotional eating as part of my research for this book. I wanted to know where I learned this behavior and how it has become so commonplace in our daily lives as a society. I began to realize that we learn to view food in certain ways from a very young age. Our families, our schools, our communities all play a role in our emotional connection to food. When we overeat or eat for the wrong reasons, we tend to blame ourselves, beat ourselves up, and feel a deep sense of shame. The goal of this eBook is to show you all the reasons why your struggles with emotional eating are actually not your fault as much as you believe them to be. I want to show you how our society contributes to this problem. Why does it matter? You cannot solve a problem you do not understand, and you must understand it from its very deepest roots. Only then can you begin to conquer the problem of emotional eating.

This eBook is a companion book to the Mini-Course and Workbook I wrote for my health coaching clients. The workbook’s title is: Stop Emotional Eating Forever: A 3-Step Blueprint for Permanent Weight Loss. The mini-course/workbook contains exercises and in-depth questions for journaling and self-coaching to help you analyze and understand the deeper root causes of your personal eating habits and food-related struggles. It presents three simple but specific steps you must take to understand your emotional eating habits and then helps you to reset your relationship with food to a much healthier place. Once you achieve a healthier emotional relationship with food, permanent weight loss naturally follows. If you are interested in purchasing the PDF workbook (printable format so that you can write and journal in the workbook), it is available for purchase here. Or if you prefer to type the exact web address into your web browser, type https://gum.co/apzGE into the browser search bar at the top of your web browser to reach the sales page for the workbook.

I Feel, Therefore I Eat

Part One: What Our Parents Taught Us About Food Matters More Than We Thought

Where does our relationship with food begin? Have you ever asked yourself this question? It begins during childhood in our families of origin. Our parents teach us how to eat. They teach us how to use a fork, a spoon, and when we are old enough, a knife. They choose our food for us throughout childhood. Our mothers and/or our fathers (and in some cases our grandparents) influence our food choices and habits heavily from the time we are toddlers. We watch what they eat and how they eat, and we mimic them. We figure out which candy bars or sweet cereals or ice cream flavors they allow us to have and when they allow us to have them. As obvious as this all sounds, have you ever stopped to ponder the massive impact your parents have had on your beliefs, habits, and emotions regarding food?

Let’s look at some simple examples. In your childhood, you are routinely rewarded with food when you behave properly or achieve good grades. You come home with an excellent report card, and your parents take you to your favorite pizza place to celebrate. You win a soccer game for your team, and you are rewarded with your favorite candy bar or ice cream flavor. These situations happen daily in families, and they are not inherently wrong. But they do hardwire certain food-related beliefs and habits into our brains. We learn that food is a reward. Now take a moment to fast-forward from your childhood memories into your current adult life and ask yourself whether you routinely use food as a reward. I doubt it took you more than two seconds to answer that question. Of course you do! We all do! We learned that particular behavior at a very young age. Our parents were not trying to harm us. They meant well. In fact, they learned the same pattern from their own parents. Being a parent is the hardest job on earth, and I would never fault parents for rewarding their children. But as a society coping with a devastating obesity epidemic in both adults and children, we do need to re-evaluate whether using food as a reward is the smartest parental choice.

Take a few moments to think about your food-related habits and beliefs as an adult. If you want, write some notes in a journal. Then reflect on your childhood and the specific food experiences associated with your early years. Was food a reward in your family? What types of food were considered to be ‘reward food?’ Was food ever withheld as a form of punishment? Did your family sit down for family dinner every night, or was everyone off on their own? Did your parents teach you healthy eating? Were your parents obese? Did your family suffer from lack of adequate food because of financial struggles? Did your parents cook food, or did your family eat out or eat frozen dinners frequently? Take as long as you need to reflect on the specific food patterns, beliefs and habits you learned as a child. Becoming aware of these patterns will be extremely helpful as you work toward a healthier relationship with food in your adult life. You will be much gentler and kinder to yourself as you slowly begin to realize that your struggles with emotional eating have complex roots that extend back to your earliest years. This struggle truly is not all your fault!

Part Two: How Our Society Influences Our Relationship With Food

Now that we have discussed the extremely significant role your family of origin has played in your food-related issues, it is time to turn our attention to the larger societal and cultural influences in our lives and how they impact our food choices and behaviors. In Part One, I asked you to reflect on your childhood and the impact your parents (or parental figures) had on your relationship with food. Your family exists as part of the larger whole of society, and the dynamics in your family have always been affected by larger, broader cultural and societal attitudes and behaviors. Every ethnic group has its specific, unique food traditions. Every religion also practices certain food-focused rituals. Food is literally everywhere. We are heavily influenced by our ethnic and religious backgrounds.

But I think it is most important to focus on the broader cultural dynamics that we all learn, rather than on specific religious or ethnic beliefs. If you have ever questioned why emotional eating, stress eating, and overeating are so problematic for our culture, just stop for a moment and look at the culture itself. Why do we entwine eating and emotions so intricately with such disastrous consequences for our health and wellbeing? Where does this emotional aspect of our food relationship originate? Why do so many people struggle with emotional eating? Take a long, deep look at our society and the messages it sends us about food. Let me explain.

Have you ever been to a party that did not serve food? Have you ever been to a wedding reception that did not include a meal? Even funerals feed us! Do you see where I am going with this? We eat when we celebrate, and we eat when we grieve. Every emotional experience in our lives includes a meal, whether we want it to or not. Is it therefore in any way surprising that we struggle with emotional eating?! Of course not! Everything about our society orbits around food like the earth around the sun. Just as we learned certain food habits and beliefs from our parents, we also absorb and integrate many food behaviors from our broader culture. Not only does every party include food, but the food tends to be the unhealthiest possible food. How many parties have you been to where salads and smoothies are the party food? I suspect the answer is zero. Our society subconsciously teaches us not only to eat every time we are celebrating something but to eat the worst possible food for our health. We don’t even think about it. We go to a party, and we expect pizza and burgers, chips and beer, cake and ice cream. If somebody offered us a kale salad, we would probably assume it was a prank (and we would most likely be right).

Parties have their place, and celebrating with friends and family is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But when we have a society weighed down by obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it’s probably time to start asking ourselves some tough questions about the food we eat when we celebrate. When we learn to associate junk food with parties and happy moments in our lives, then we tend to feed ourselves that same food at home when we celebrate getting through a tough day at work. We learn to reward ourselves with food, and we learn that any decent celebration mandates unhealthy junk food and lots of it. We are programmed to think this way by our culture, and few of us ever become aware of these larger cultural influences on the way we eat. Instead we tend to blame ourselves for emotional eating and then proceed to punish ourselves with self-shaming and self-loathing. Every funeral includes a meal. Is it really any wonder then that you turn to food for comfort when you feel sad? Do you see the patterns here? Our families and our society teach us to eat with every emotion, be it positive or negative, and then we wonder why we cannot stop eating our emotions.

Conclusion: What to Do About It

Emotional eating, stress eating, and overeating are complex problems within our very complex society. Solutions to cultural problems begin with individuals and families waking up and recognizing the problem. We have to start with admitting that emotional eating cannot be blamed on the individual person exclusively. Yes, each person is responsible for his/her eating habits and choices. But each person also lives his/her life within the larger context of family and society, and the powerful influences of families and of the larger culture must be recognized as major contributors to the problem.

If you have been shaming yourself and hating yourself every time you overeat or eat for emotional reasons, I want you to stop. I want you to stop blaming yourself as if you created these issues all by yourself because you did not. Your family and your society played significant roles in your emotional relationship with food. Recognition and acceptance of that fact are important first steps in your healing process.

If you choose to purchase the Stop Emotional Eating Forever workbook, you will work through a series of exercises and questions which will help you reach a much deeper understanding of your emotional eating struggles, how they began, the patterns and habits you may have learned in childhood, how your cultural experiences have influenced your food beliefs, and simple but specific tips for overcoming emotional eating. You will also set personal goals to improve your health and heal your emotional relationship with food.

I want you to know that you are already well on your way to a healthier food mindset. Simply by becoming aware of the problem, naming it, and seeking to understand its roots and origins in your life, you have already made tremendous progress. We cannot solve a problem we do not fully understand, and just by seeking to understand why you eat emotionally, you are miles ahead of those who search for superficial quick fixes. Emotional eating is not a superficial problem, so it cannot be expected to have superficial solutions.

Healing your emotional relationship with food is a journey that requires patience and commitment. It requires you to look deep within your heart, to ask yourself some painful questions, to revisit your childhood and the habits/beliefs your family taught you, and to understand how our society contributes to the problem. Most of all, your healing process requires you to extend kindness and compassion to yourself instead of self-shaming and self-loathing. Stop punishing yourself, and start loving yourself.

I wish you well on your journey as you seek to reset your emotional relationship with food and reclaim your health.

I Feel, Therefore I Eat: How Society Conditions Us to Eat Our Emotions (And What

Do you struggle with emotional eating, overeating, and/or stress eating? The truth is that emotional eating has become an epidemic in our society. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you eat when you feel sad, angry, happy, depressed, or bored? Where, when, and how did you learn to associate emotions with eating? This short eBook makes a compelling case that our struggles with emotional eating actually begin when we are children. We learn certain food-related beliefs and habits from our parents (or parental figures), and whether we are aware of it or not, we carry those eating behaviors into our adult lives. We also learn to eat emotionally from our larger society and culture. We eat at weddings, and we eat at funerals. We celebrate with food, and we grieve with food. Is it truly any surprise then that we struggle with emotional eating in our private moments? This short eBook will help the reader to understand the roots and origins of his/her food struggles. The goal is for the reader to gain a much deeper understanding of the massive influence our families and our society have on our relationship with food. If you have been blaming and shaming yourself for your emotional eating issues, this book will help you to see that it truly is not all your fault. As you begin to understand the root causes, you are then empowered to make lasting changes in your relationship with food, develop a healthy and balanced emotional connection with food, and conquer unhealthy emotional eating for good.

  • ISBN: 9781311366597
  • Author: J.A. Thomas
  • Published: 2016-01-27 19:20:06
  • Words: 2157
I Feel, Therefore I Eat: How Society Conditions Us to Eat Our Emotions (And What I Feel, Therefore I Eat: How Society Conditions Us to Eat Our Emotions (And What