8 Tips for Emotional Eaters


Hi Lisa,

Just reading your post – the body builder inside felt empowered – but then I slipped back into my reality of being a single working mom with 2 boys, 4 and 13 and having about 5% personal time, no emotional support, no help from any family, fathers included, and limited funds.

I dream of accomplishing what you have, but to be honest food is my support, and when I need a boost that’s where I go, and I don’t want to let that go. Mentally I see no reason to, since I am all alone; if I did what would I have?  Do you have any words of wisdom to get past that hurtle?

Also, working out is so painfully hard it makes me want to quit. I purchased a 90 day px90 type deal and I can’t get passed the first 2 weeks. I do exercise regularly but not intense enough to make significant change. I am 42, 5’4 1/2 and I weigh 160 lbs. I know I can change but I just don’t know how to get past my weaknesses.

Also, could you reveal your workout regiment when you went from size 12 to size 5?

– Monica


Dear Monica,

Thank you for reading my blog.  You have one of the toughest jobs on Earth – being a single mom.  It can be difficult making time for your own health because you are so crazy busy with everything else!  I commend you for your efforts of juggling work, family and regular stuff like laundry and bills.  It sounds like you are stuck in a rut, are overwhelmed, and lacking the motivation required to stick with fitness.  Before you can get out of that awful mental place, you first need to realize a basic truth:

Food is fuel for your body.  Food is not your friend.

Food is Fuel

Right now you are a house divided; you say that you want to change and are already exercising consistently, but you are sabotaging your own efforts by emotional eating.   You said point blank that “food is your support and you don’t want to let that go,” but you must if you want to push past this hurdle and achieve the healthy weight you desire.

Emotional eating is part habit, part chemistry.  The good news about habits is that they are learned, so you can replace bad habits with new, better behaviors.  This requires self-discipline, which is something that is achieved by consistently choosing whole foods over junk, even when you’ve had a bad day, and exercising 3-5 days per week, even when you don’t feel like it.  (I’ll give you some tips in a minute.)

Let’s look at the chemistry part now.

You are currently stressed out.  Stress increases the levels of the hormone cortisol in your body, which in turn increases your appetite, slows your metabolism, and tells your body to store fat.  (A trifecta of bad news.)

Not only are you stressed, you are feeling depressed and alone.  A lot of times we crave comfort foods that have sugar in them because they give us a temporary serotonin rush, but when the sugar high wears off, you’re more depressed than before.

As a woman in your 40’s you are also dealing with reduced levels of estrogen production as you head towards menopause, and you are beginning to lose muscle mass at a rate of 5% per decade, which means you’re burning 100 fewer calories a day.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up, it just means you have to have some tools in place to deal with this head on.  Here are some strategies to help you tackle all these issues:

8 Tips for Emotional Eaters 

  1. madamenoire.com

    See your doctor.  You might need to get your hormone levels checked out.  Your doctor might recommend estrogen replacement.  Sometimes hormone changes can also throw your thyroid out of whack, which can also lead to weight gain.  If nothing else, a visit with the doctor will rule out any medical problems.

  2. Reach Out.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone – a friend, a family member, a co-worker.  Just venting can make you feel better.  Nobody near?  Search the web for Single Mom support groups.  Check Facebook, parenting websites and blogs.  Local churches, synagogues, mom’s clubs and the YMCA might have groups you could join as well.
  3. Eat Clean.  Chose whole natural foods over processed foods, which have added salt, sugar and fat you don’t need and can leave you feeling sluggish.  Aim to eat six times per day with a balance of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and some healthy fats to keep your blood sugar balanced all day and feeling full.
  4. Boost Your Mood with these foods:  Your brain needs Omega-3 to function properly.  One of the best ways to get this is to eat salmon.  Magnesium suppresses the release of cortisol, but a lot of women are not getting the recommended dosage.  Try eating spinach and almonds, which are packed with it.

  5. Empty Your Pantry.  You can’t eat chocolate if it’s not in your house.  Why tempt yourself?
  6. Create New Habits.  Eating when you are stressed out is a habit you fell into.  Habits can be changed.  Come up with some different things that make you feel happy.  Does yoga help?  Or a hot bubble bath?  When I’m really stressed out I take a walk or write in my journal.  Sometimes just getting all of that garbage out of my head and onto paper makes my problems seem more manageable.  The main point is to just soothe yourself with something other than food.
  7. Exercise.  Exercise reduces stress, releases serotonin and gets more oxygen flowing through your system.  To slow down natural muscle loss, incorporate strength training 2-3 times per week into your routine.  Do your workout first thing in the morning, while the kids are still sleeping.  Not only will you get it out of the way, you will also get a little peace and quiet to center yourself and start your day feeling like you accomplished something.
  8. Set a fun yet challenging fitness goal for yourself.  It sounds like videos aren’t working for you, so pick something bold and interesting to you.  This will help keep you motivated on days when you’re just not feeling it.  Like running?  Sign up for a 5k.  Like mud?  Try a Spartan Run.  Or try doing something completely out of your comfort zone.  When I needed to lose 50 lbs I signed up for a bodybuilding bikini competition.  You can bet your a** I stuck to my meal plan and showed up to the gym every day, because the thought of standing on stage in a bikini and NOT looking good scared me.  (Fear is a great motivator.)



Back to your letter:  You said you were all alone.  You are not all alone, you have two sons!  And they are watching you.  They are currently learning through your actions that food is a substitute for handling your problems, and that it’s okay to quit when things get hard.  Is that what you really want to teach them?  Doubt it.


You said you know you can change but don’t know how to get past your weaknesses.  Strength is not given; it is earned by consistently doing hard things.  You’re doing that already every day being a single working mom.   If you can do that, surely you have what it takes to eat your vegetables and do some sit ups, right?

You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are.  

Look back on all the things you accomplished in your life, big and small.  No one handed those achievements to you; you earned them!  You’ve dealt with other difficulties in the past, and you can deal with the current ones too.  You don’t need junk food as a crutch.

When You Want to Quit READ THIS:  What Would You Tell A Friend Who Wants to Quit?


I hope that helps!  Here are some other posts I’ve written you may find helpful:

You can do this!  Hang in there!


ShesLosingIt.com (c) 2014 Lisa Traugott.  All rights reserved.  No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.

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