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© 2019 Alpine Nutrition

  • Amanda Bullat RDN

Diet Culture Myth: Emotional eating will lead to unhealthy weight gain


Truth: Oh, there's so much to unpack here!


This myth is deeply rooted in the weight stigma, fat-phobic beliefs of our culture. The idea that weight gain is unhealthy pathologizes people in larger size bodies and assumes that they must eat emotionally or they wouldn't be the size that they are.


We know from the research that healthy bodies come in all sizes and in many cases being in a larger body is associated with lower mortality rates.


About that word health. This myth makes the assumption that everyone defines health the same way and part of that assumption includes watching your weight (aka controlling weight through restrictive dieting).


It promotes weight management as a requirement to be healthy - a belief that also wreaks of weight stigma and fat-phobia.


Additionally, this myth does not allow for the possibility that using food to cope with emotions may be the safest, most accessible tool you have to survive difficult feelings and hard times.


As I share with my clients, food serves a purpose in your emotional coping toolbox. And it doesn't need to be the only tool.


Many of us have subtle ways of coping with the difficulties of life that we don't even realize. No matter how seemingly inconsequential they are (washing dishes, chopping produce, house cleaning, taking the dog outside for fresh air, caring for house plants, to name a few from my clients), it's important to acknowledge their effectiveness in helping you cope with life's difficulties. Having a variety of tools to cope with difficult feelings is essential because the feelings and situations can be unique, requiring flexibility in how you can deal with them.


And finally, let's not forget that all humans eat emotionally from time to time!


Think of eating a piece of cake to celebrate a wedding or birthday. Sharing an elaborate meal with family and friends during the holidays. And enjoying a bowl of ice-cream on the first hot day of summer.


Our culture tends to give these happy emotional times a free pass on the emotional eating finger-wagging. But in reality, no one instance of emotional eating is better or worse for your health. In fact, I'd argue, if you're not participating in emotional eating, what further damage are you doing to your mental health by isolating yourself from these fun times or suppressing your less-than-fun emotions during difficult times?


To learn more about diet-culture-related health myths, download the free Get Nourished Guide. Want to dig even deeper? Schedule a free 20-minute discovery call!