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Dana Magee Speaks on Treating Emotional Eating in the Smart Women Series

What is emotional eating? I recently spoke at a Smart Women series at Anne Arundel Medical Center, alongside two other practitioners in the eating disorder community: Ann Caldwell and Dr. Ramona Seidel. The topic of the evening was “Conquering Emotional Eating.”

My portion of the presentation was, of course, REBEL Dieting. The reason for this is that dieting can start off as something very innocent, but it becomes a slippery slope that can grow into a full-fledged eating disorder. The diet industry is constantly pumping our society full of products and diet plans, but the problem is that diets do not work! Dieting only addresses the WHAT of eating, and the measure of success and failure only lies in the measure of weight.

So if not a diet, then what? How do we treat emotional eating, compulsive eating, binge eating? That is why we encourage our clients to REBEL:


The REBEL Manifesto

Not only focusing on the WHAT of eating, because after all our body needs energy and nutrients to power its organ systems, but also the WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW of eating.

I like to describe the WHEN and the WHY with the concept of intuitive eating. This concept is centered around eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. Seems pretty simple, right? But what if for the last 5,10, 20 years you have been following diet plan after plan that tells you what and how much to eat regardless of if you are hungry or not? We lose touch with this and end up ping ponging back and forth on either end of the spectrum of being overly hungry or overly full. We also fall into the middle and eat when we are neither hungry nor full, but neutral.

treating emotional eating by using hunger scale

Intuitive Eating: Eating when hungry, and stopping when full

So WHY are we eating? Mostly, it is out of emotion whether positive or negative emotions. The first step in all of this is to become aware. Keeping a log like this can be very helpful. Unlike what you may be used to there only numbers on here are rating hunger and fullness. No grams of carb or fat or calories.

treating emotional eating with REBEL Food Log

Food Log with Hunger and Satiety Scale

Next we touch on the WHERE and HOW of eating. This is best described by the concept of Mindful Eating. This concept boils down to being present with the food, tasting the food. The where may be in the car, working at the desk, eating over the sink, walking through the kitchen or eating in bed. The problem is that most of these areas we are not paying any attention to what we are eating, if we are enjoying what we are eating, if we are hungry or full. Eating at the table with others is a great way of bringing more mindfulness to the meal.

treating emotional eating by eating at table

WHERE of Eating: Try eating at the table!

HOW are we eating? Distractions such as computers, TVs, phones, tablets, or email keep us from being present as well. We may look down at our plate, which is now empty, and decide we must be full or maybe even that we need more since we didn’t even remember experiencing that meal. But what if we were full when we were ¾ of the way finished? Mindfulness allows us to notice our hunger cues so we can eat intuitively.

In what ways can you make your way towards more intuitive and mindful eating? IS it keeping a food log with the hunger scale? Is it with eating dinner at the table tonight? Exiting out of our email account during your lunch?

For more information on the REBEL approach, take a look at our workbook Taste the Sweet Rebellion.  This book is provided free of charge to our clients who mention this blog.

If you are interested in learning more about the REBEL Approach, please call (240) 670-4675 or click here to schedule an appointment with one of our REBEL Dietitians! 

Note: This blog was edited and reposted on February 7, 2020.