How diets play a role in emotional eating isn’t something that’s well understood by many women who struggle with emotional eating. But if you want to get out of the cycle of yo-yo dieting and bingeing and restricting, then understanding how diets can be doing you harm is important.

Written by Jenn Hand, Holistic Nutritionist, Board Certified Health Coach, NBC-HWC, Emotional Eating Coach

Do Diets Play a Role in Emotional Eating?

In a word, yes. Diets play a role in emotional eating.

When I was stuck in the throes of dieting/bingeing, I was convinced that dieting was the solution.

If only I could stick to a diet, then all my food issues would be solved. I realized over time that dieting was actually the main problem. Dieting never addresses the underlying reasons why we eat or turn to food.

So when we do find “success” on a diet for 30 days, it ends and we think: well now what?!

All of our patterns and habits are still there, never addressed or explored when we are on a diet. 

Dieting & Emotions: How They’re Connected

How does a bad diet affect you emotionally?

Dieting affects us mentally and emotionally because we often blame ourselves.

We berate ourselves for not having enough willpower, punish ourselves for not eating what we think we “should,” and stay stuck in feelings of self-criticism. This can bring up feelings of despair and angst, as we emotionally recover from being stuck in the diet/binge cycle. 

Does dieting affect your mood?

When I was dieting, I was definitely a less happy person. Because I was so hell bent on following rules, adhering to strict guidelines and exercising to make up for anything I ate “extra,” I missed social gatherings, didn’t always see friends, and felt stuck in my own little obsessive world of food. As I worked to let go of dieting and be more “normal” around food, my moods drastically improved. 

Can changing your diet make you emotional?

Food does affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally, so changing how we eat can definitely cause emotions to arise. There are also a lot of emotional ups and downs with dieting: we have this thrill and hope when we begin a diet, the feel of promise for the future and excitement over change. This is followed by the lows of “falling off” the wagon, despair and a feeling of failure and hopelessness.

woman reading - dieting impacts mood and that impacts emotional eating

Is depression a side effect of dieting?

Not everyone experiences depression, but it can happen if you’re severely restricting what you eat on a diet. Having a reduced calorie allotment throughout the day can lower your energy, diminish your mood and impact your brain function (our bodies need fuel to thrive!)

What main emotions are linked with dieting?

When I was in the throes of dieting, I mainly felt anxious, angst, fear, and hopelessness. I’ve worked with thousands of women who have felt all of these feelings as a side effect of dieting. While we often think the answer is another diet, in reality, dieting ends up causing so much physical and emotional turmoil within us. 

What is the connection between eating and emotions?

Food can give us a temporary high if we eat emotionally.

Since we usually eat sugar or high carb foods when we want to relieve a challenging feeling, it gives us a temporary dopamine rush that feels good. Long term, though, the problem that we ate over is still there and the food is only a short term “fix.”

Why is losing weight so hard mentally?

Mentally, we’ve been trained to expect instant results.

We live in a society that wants instant gratification. So when we are working to lose weight, if we don’t see results in a few days or weeks, we end up giving up and get discouraged. The reality is that holistic and sustainable weight loss takes months or years.

Read More:

🌷How to Not “Give In” to Emotional Eating

🌷How to Stop Emotional Eating

Work with a Emotional Eating & Holistic Nutrition Coach

Overcome Bingeing and Emotional Eating, and Break Up with Yo-yo Dieting

Working with a emotional eating coach and holistic nutritionist can help you get free from the frustrating binge and restrict cycle and stop yo-yo dieting.

You don’t have to be obsessed with food or have a million rules around eating to find your natural weight and learn to love your body. Ready to actually see a lasting change and experience true freedom?

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About the Author: 

Jenn Hand has been helping women like you become normal eaters since 2015.

She’s worked with thousands of women, helping them to balance their bodies, end bingeing, stop obsessing over food, and start feeling amazing again.  As a board-certified health coach and holistic nutritionist, Jenn knows how to support you in making real positive changes that last.

Her articles have been published on Mind Body Green, Tiny Buddha, Thrive Global and other local and global media platforms. She’s the author of How to Be a Normal Eater and the creator of The Normal Eater’s Club program. Listen to Jenn’s advice and tips on the Cake Doesn’t Count Podcast, or read more of her articles for free on the Food Freedom Blog.

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