Tips for Women on Overcoming Emotional Eating

Back in June of 2011 I was interviewed by a reported from from Yahoo Health, named Jaleh Weber.  The topic was:  Tips for Women on Overcoming Emotional Eating,  Interview with Psychotherapist Natalia Gian Buchanan, M.S., LPC

Here it is reprinted for my blog.

Many women turn to food when they are feeling depressed, anxious or are experiencing any type of emotional discomfort. Unfortunately emotional eating doesn't make those feelings go away permanently and doesn't solve any problems that may exist. Instead it can lead to poor health and a lowered sense of self-esteem. To help understand where emotional eating stems from for women and for tips on overcoming emotional eating, I have interviewed psychotherapist Natalia Gian Buchanan, M.S., LPC.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. 

"I am a licensed professional counselor in private practice.  I currently reside in the wonderful city of Austin, TX.  I work primarily with individuals that moderate their feelings with food.  In other words, those who use food to soothe an emotion and not to nourish their bodies. In my free time I enjoy swimming, reading, and yoga."

Where does emotional eating for women stem from? 

"It’s different for everyone.  For some people it starts very young.  People will often have memories of themselves being a young child and soothing themselves with chips or candy when they were feeling sad/mad/glad or scared.  For other people they learn later in life that eating helps change the emotion they are feeling.  What do I mean by that?  Simply by eating you can change the way you’re feeling.  Usually, the food takes you away from uncomfortable emotions and thoughts.  But it’s only temporary.  It lasts only as long as you’ve got the donuts in your mouth.  Once you’re done with the donut (or the box), the feeling you were feeling before is back plus the guilt of eating something that’s not good for you.  That often makes people want to eat again and the emotional eating cycle starts all over again."

What are some tips for women on overcoming emotional eating? 

"Learn to tolerate your emotions.  It’s surprising but many of us don’t know what it actually feels like to be sad or even happy for that matter!  You must be thinking, of course I know what it feels like to be sad!  But I’m talking about what it REALLY FEELS like in your BODY.  What happens when you’re scared?  Do you feel a tightness in your chest?  Does your stomach flip?  What does it feel like in your body when you’re sad?  Does your stomach tighten? Does your throat swell up?  Does your jaw ache?  Once you become really acquainted with feelings you begin to learn they are nothing to run from.  You can tolerate them.  You don’t need food to change them.  They are transient and won’t kill you…but the emotional eating eventually might. 

I often recommend the book, Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth to my clients when they are first beginning to learn to tolerate their feelings.  I think it’s really well written and a good jumping off point."

What type of professional help is available for women that are having a difficult time overcoming emotional eating? 

"There are several different options.  Licensed Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Psychologists and Psychiatrists all work with those who struggle with emotional eating.  If you see a mental health professional, you could attend individual session or group sessions.  Both can be very powerful mediums for recovery."

Thank you Natalia for doing the interview on tips for overcoming emotional eating. For more information on Natalia or her work you can check out her website at