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I Think I Need Some Ice Cream

“I think I need some ice cream to cheer me up.”

I believe that …
🙌 Emotional eating is normal.
🙌 Emotional eating is healthy.
🙇‍♂️ Emotional eating can be problematic.

Huh? Aren’t those conflicting statements?

Let’s get curious!

Let’s start with what we should NOT say to our kids (or ourselves for that matter) if they were to say something like this.

🚫 “Jonny/Suzie ice cream isn’t healthy. You shouldn’t eat junk food to cheer you up.”
🚫 “You shouldn’t use food to cheer you up.”
🚫 “Ok this time, but we need to be careful about emotional eating.”

These might sound like teaching moments but in fact, these contribute to a poor relationship with food.

Here’s what we/our kids internalize, “I did something wrong by eating to cheer myself up. Whenever I use food to cheer myself up I should feel bad about it.”

That’s really not helpful. Not a healthy way to think about food.

What might be a better way to approach this?

Get curious!

  • Start by acknowledging that you also sometimes use food as a way to cheer yourself up! Normalize it.
  • “I’m glad you listened to your body and what it needed.”
  • Share specific examples of foods that you also find soothing.
  • Share examples of other ways that you cope with your emotions with kindness (another intuitive eating principle) not involving food.
  • Ask some open-ended conversational questions about other ways they cope with their emotions at different times.

Even if emotional eating has become a genuine problem with your child or yourself, telling them/yourself that you should not eat for emotional reasons is probably going to make it worse.

Again, get curious! Normalize it, but at the same time explore/discuss ADDITIONAL ways that we can cope with our emotions. When it comes to our kids, they learn extremely well by example. Model coping with your emotions with food, movement, music, hobbies, conversation, affection, Netflixing, etc.

P.S. Coping with your emotions with food is no worse or better than something else! It’s a problem when it’s the primary or only coping mechanism.