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  • Tammi Imel

Emotional Eating Keeps Therapists from Accessing Deeper Emotions

An article recently published in Counseling Today addressed the difficulty clinicians have in assessing clients nutritionally: most clinicians simply don't. Unless a therapist specifically is contacted to work with a known eating disorder or emotional eating, eating patterns may not arise in the initial assessment of a client or in therapy. This is problematic!

Viewing eating behaviors through a psychodynamic perspective (a psychodynamic lens views a client's personal history, childhood, and early relationships as a basis for many issues we see in therapy), emotional eating can be taught early by simply repeating patterns observed in a client's family of origin. Unfortunately, eating patterns and nutrition are often seen as the role of physicians or nutritionists to address.

Sadly and often, emotional eating becomes the first chemical of choice when we suffer abuse or neglect as a child. Eating triggers feel good chemicals in the body and brain - just as any life propogating behavior does (think sex). When we lack emotional safety and regulation, we will turn to what creates similar feelings and put that behavior on repeat.

Eunice Melakayil, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oklahoma City who is the Clinical Director of Serenity Found and who was interviewed by Counseling Today, says the "Am I Hungry?" Mindfulness eating program "to be a universal resource for clients who struggle in their relationship with food."

Addressing emotional eating allows for a deeper understanding and for a more complete picture of how we cope psychologically. The shame associated with emotional eating often keeps clients from speaking up to their therapists. I encourage you to talk to your therapist about emotional eating or over eating if that is an issue for you.

The shame cycle can then be addressed and interventions can help. Get the most out of your therapy experience by addressing emotional eating and other issues that society judges or jokes about. You're only accountable to yourself, and honesty with a trusted therapist can help address concerns from all facets of life, even if the therapist does not bring the issue up first, or it is not discussed early on. 💗

Excerpts and topic based on "Fast Food Frenzy: Treating Emotional Eating", Counseling Today, volume 65, number 10, pages 31-35.

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