Cookie + Kate | Emotionally Healthy Eating (Healthy + Whole Series)

As part of our Healthy & Whole series, we’ve been delving into some of the more serious sides of eating, like guilt and judgement. It’s a huge honor to have some achingly honest words today from one of our favorite food bloggers, Kate of Cookie + Kate. Here, Kate shares about emotional eating, something that hits close to home here and may for many of you. We’re deeply grateful to Kate for sharing this with us, and for her gorgeous recipes that are a constant inspiration. (Pictured above is  Greek Farro and Chickpea Salad from Cookie + Kate.)  

Hi there. I’m Kate and I’m a recovering binge eater. I’ve never said that in a public space before so I’m a little nervous about it. Here’s the deal: I have asked far more of food than food has ever been able to provide.

I’m not sure when the binge eating started, but it definitely got worse in college. Back then, I thought I knew what healthy food was (Yoplait, right?). I spent far too much energy tallying up everything I ate during the day and beating myself up for not eating better. Then when I was 19, a good friend of mine passed away right before Christmas. That is when things got ugly, and no, I don’t want to talk about it.

I’m still a totally imperfect person who feels out of control at times.  After years of self reflection and general “growing up,” I’ve learned to rein in the urge to swallow my feelings. I have a few insights to share on the matter in case anyone wants to hear them. Here we go:

1) I learned to slow down. Slowing down is the best thing I can do when I’m feeling anxious and staring down at something tempting. I remind myself to put down the fork and breathe. At that point, I tend to regain some much-needed clarity and control.

2) I learned to recognize my feelings. I’ve never been one of those girls who’s super in-tune with that stuff. Even hearing the word “feelings” makes my skin crawl. Regardless, I’ve realized that my binge eating is really just a symptom of unresolved anxiety. Binge eating is my brain’s way of distracting me from the real issue at hand. Now I try to confront the issue itself or find a healthier way to cope.

3) I’ve gotten better at accepting myself for who I am. This is always a work in progress, but I’m well aware that I am an emotional eater, among other less-than-ideal qualities. I can do what I can to improve my habits, but hating myself is not helpful.

4) I’ve also accepted that it is ok to find comfort in food. To a point. There’s a big difference between feeling anxious and eating a snack (sometimes a snack makes me feel better!) or eating an entire bag of chips (eating a bag of chips makes me feel so much worse!). I’ve accepted that it is ok to eat a little more when hormones are in flux and to escape in a really fantastic piece of chocolate when need be. Sometimes I have an overwhelming urge to eat a whole lot, which is also ok. I just chomp away on a big-ass salad instead of that bag of chips.

5) I got a dog and went on a million walks. My dog is probably the best thing that is ever happened to me. She is the sweetest, most loving companion a girl could ask for. It’s hard to feel lonely when she’s around, and she makes me smile when I’m sad. She also makes me take her on an hour-long walk every day, which is every bit as good for her as it is for me. It helps me clear my head. Yoga helps me calm down, too, even when I don’t recognize that I need to calm down. Exercise is important. Balance is everything.

Like I said, I’m still figuring all this out. Maybe healthy eating habits are just something we all have to learn the hard way. I’d love to hear how you may have learned to deal. I’d also like to add that if anyone out there is feeling trapped, it is perfectly ok and totally admirable to get help.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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12 Comments

  1. Comfort eating is such a difficult thing – there is such a fine line between enjoying your food and overdoing it. I think that it is something that we all struggle with, but don’t talk about – either because we feel embarrassed, or guilty or think that no one will understand… so thank you for sharing. It’s reassuring to know that others out there struggle too.

  2. I have never been a good person with my emotions too, however I am on the fence with eating for emotions. When I am extremely sad or stressed i will not eat for days; I seem to only want to eat if I want comfort or am happy.
    Your tips are great, I know I need to open up more too.

  3. Super post. I think emotional eating’s impossible to avoid and actually not something I’d want to avoid altogether! Food is so much more than just fuel (at least for me!) and I completely agree that at times it’s ok to find comfort in it. Slowing down and recognizing feelings are big ones or me.

  4. Kate, I really appreciate your honesty in writing this piece. Emotional eating is something that so many of us struggle with. Eating typically has to do with a lot more than just the food, and that is where things get tricky. For me, calling a friend or sipping on a cup of tea and reading a book are sometimes just what I need rather than turning to food. Listening to my body and giving it what it needs at that exact moment are the best ways to to cope with emotions.

  5. Kate, that was really impressive. I think it actually takes a lot to be genuine in a public space even though we say we do it all the time. Your points 1 & 2 although specific to your context were really relatable…especially the bit about taking a breath. It seems so simple but it isn’t. To take a breath may be but to create positive action from it isn’t as easy. I would add that something that helps me is once I’ve taken that breath to ask myself if I am acting in line with my beliefs and values. If I believe that food exists for nourishment, fuel and fulfillment, then is eating what is in front of me going to be in line with that belief? A small thing again, but I think it has helped me. So great to read your thoughts. Cheers, Zoe.

  6. Bravo Kate, your honesty lets others know that we all struggle with food in one way or another and your steps are perfect. I always tell people balance is the key to eating happily and healthy. + your salad looks amazing. xo Amy

  7. Love your honesty Kate and can so relate to this (although I’m pretty sure I’ve not yet reached recovery stage yet…) I think working out why you seek comfort from food is such an important part of the process and also giving yourself permission sometimes to indulge and then not beat yourself up about it. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  8. I so admire you, Kate – I’ve always loved your blog and recipes and photos, but even moreso now for sharing this. Emotional binge eating is so complex and scary, and it’s comforting to know that it is something that can be managed and overcome. Thank you!

  9. I am an emotional eater. Most of the time when I eat, it isn’t because I’m hungry. I feel like I am “filling a void” I hate saying that because still have yet to determine what my void has been all these years. When I am hungry, well look out because that is when it it the hardest to for me to make good decisions, I want convenience & taste overload. I feel like I am in a vicious cycle that I may never be able to get out of. It’s so sad that for the majority of my life I have had to dislike the way I look & feel. What a waste of a good life.

  10. This post has stuck with me for days. Your words are so real and relatable. My parents had a strict ‘no candy or junk food in the house’ rule when I was a kid, but a job well done was always rewarded with a treat. I’ve tried for years to overcome the emotions I have tied to treats and food in general but its a battle I fight with myself everyday.

  11. I really enjoyed this post and your honesty is so challenging Kate! It’s a comfort to know others feel the way I have felt before and that the feelings that seem to take over me at times are in a weird way normal, or at least common. Thank you for sharing your tips, I will be using them.

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