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Jaclyn Mestel, MSW, PSW, t.s., Psychotherapist
Post by: / January 30, 2024

Emotions, Food and the Connection Between Them

If you do a google search, this kind of title would probably take you to a blog about how “you

are what you eat.” Someone would have probably written something like “if you want to feel

healthy, eat clean”.


I am definitely NOT that person and this is definitely NOT that blog!!!


This blog will take you in a very different direction because unless you are rolling your food in

mud, I believe that there is no such thing as “clean” eating. This blog won’t even address the

ridiculous messages diet culture has given us about food. Instead, I will let you in on a little

secret-your body knows what it wants and what it needs-you just have to slow down enough

to hear it. Sometimes that may be “healthy” food, sometimes that be may be “unhealthy” food

(okay fine I did just throw diet culture in). IT DOESN’T MATTER!!!!!! What matters is, what is

your body trying to say to you in this moment? What does it need? What does it feel? What

does it want? Are you listening?Can you hear it?


Our bodies are the home of our emotions. At times, emotions can feel super overwhelming. In

those moments, people often turn toward food or away from food. Both of those behaviours

can have a numbing effect which is unconsciously what you are probably going for. I get it-

emotions can feel scary. However, emotions are the bodies way of communicating to you and if

you choose to engage in some kind of numbing behaviour, you wont hear what is trying to be



Imagine a little child with very big feelings (you either have one of those, know one of those,

have seen one of those, or used to be one of those!). That child with big feelings is asking for

help to learn how to regulate. Often, (and I am guilty of this too) we will give a child a snack to

distract them away from the feelings (or maybe help us get out of that super distressing

moment with a screaming kid!). The food will probably help distract the child, may even

temporarily calm them. However, they didn’t just learn how to be with their feelings. They

learned that food can help take the feelings away.


On a nurturing level, this makes sense. When a new born baby cries, we provide that baby with

milk to soothe them. So when an adult cries, or feels very intense feelings, that inner child is

remembering that being nurtured, cared for, attuned to and loved can come from food. At

times, it is the opposite. The inner child remembers feeling unsafe when they needed co-

regulation and so food becomes something they avoid.


Now that we understand a little bit about food and emotions-what can we do about it!? First,

you don’t have to do anything about it. This is here as a support but there are many different

ways to choose to have a relationship with you body, your emotions and food.


Should you choose to try and decode what your body is telling you, here are some suggestions:


1-Hunger doesn’t always look like a rumbling stomach. It can look like brain fog, exhaustion, a

head ache etc. When you notice that you body is sending you these signals, let it know that

you hear it and you will do something about it. This starts to create trust between you and your

body. If there is trust, like any healthy relationship, there is room for emotions.


2- Your body doesn’t care what time it is or if you just ate or if you already had bread today

(hello diet culture again). If it is giving you a hunger signal, it is trying to get your attention. Let’s

look at this like a sneeze or a yawn. Imagine you sneezed at 11am but then at 11:20am you

need to sneeze again. You probably won’t tell you body “no you can’t sneeze, you just sneezed

20 minutes ago!” So, why would we do that with hunger? If you have to sneeze, sneeze, if

you’re hungry, eat, if you need to cry, cry. Again, this is a trust building exercise between you

and your body.


3-If you find yourself shaming your body “I look awful in that picture” or “I gained so much

weight” or “I can’t have that cookie” (insert any food here that diet culture made you believe is

bad for you) STOP, PAUSE, REFLECT. What is going on inside that is getting projected onto

your body? Is shame coming from somewhere else?


4- Connection is a way to feel safe. If you are feeling isolated, alone, rejected, etc, see if there

is a way to get yourself connected. This can be by texting a friend, going to a class, joining a

Facebook community, lying with a pet. If you feel connected, you are less likely to shame your

body and deny it what it is asking for.


5- Unlearn all the lies and rules diet culture has told you. The only one who really knows what

you need is YOU!


If you are still here, I imagine it is because there is a curiosity on how to unpack your

relationship with your body and your emotions. I am proud of you for making this relationship

an important one.


I have a favourite quote which reads “And I said to my body softly, I want to be your friend. It

took a long breathe and replied, I have been waiting my whole life for this.”


I will end by speaking to that inner child -the one who is crying, upset, angry, doing their thing

and feeling their feelings. I see you, you are not doing anything wrong.

Keep going.