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Episode 86: Signs You May Be an Emotional Eater with Jessica Procini

Brief summary of show:

How do you know if you’re an emotional eater?

Have you leaned on food to help you get through an emotion, time in your time, or something else?

Do you turn to food in happy and sad moments? Or when unwinding after a long day?

We’re talking about emotional eating on the podcast this week, with my guest Jessica Procini.

Jessica Procini is on a mission to help high-achieving women heal the roots of their emotional eating so they can use food as a nourishing asset rather than a self-destructive way to cope, soothe and attempt to escape their busy, stressful lives.

She created Escape From Emotional Eating®, a unique process grounded in a decade of research, a background in Psychology of Eating, Transformational Coaching methods, and her own personal emotional eating journey because Overeaters Anonymous didn’t resonate with her and the 932 hours she spent in therapy never helped her end her fight with food.

She knew there needed to be a different kind of support... one that got to the roots of emotional eating.

Now 100% free from her compulsions with food, Jessica helps other high-achieving women get to the roots of their emotional eating through her year-long programs, retreats, keynotes, and workshops.

As a sought-after thought leader, Jessica’s work has received multiple awards from the Institute of Psychology of Eating and has been featured in noteworthy media outlets such as ABC, CBS, and MindBodyGreen.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [1:35] Why we fight with food

  • [4:55] What is emotional eating

  • [7:50] Is emotional eating ever “okay”?

  • [8:55] The four roots of emotional eating

  • [12:50] The correlation between mental health and emotional eating

  • [15:00] Tips if you’re struggling with emotional eating

  • [20:00] Creating space in your home and at your table for mealtime

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Jessica

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Do you eat to nourish your body or when you feel like you need to reward yourself or maybe escape from the world? We are attacking emotional eating on the podcast today.

[00:00:11] Natalie: Hi everyone. It's Natalie. I admit it. I am so guilty of this. How often do you come home from a really long day and what you feel like is salty potato chips or a bowl of ice cream?

[00:00:23] Something that just, Oh, it sounds so yummy. Well, that's called emotional eating and I do it all the time. Most of us do. We, we have a hard day and we reach for the chocolate chip cookie or whatever it is that we know isn't really good for us, but we do it because we're trying to. Other need or we're just tired.

[00:00:42] So let's talk about this today. Let's talk about emotional eating. Jessica Sini is on a mission to help high achieving women heal the roots of their emotional eating so they can use food as a nourishing asset rather than a self-destructive way to cope, sooth, and attempt to escape their busy, stressful lives.

[00:01:03] Yep, that's just about all of us. She created escape from Emotional Eating, a unique process, grounded in a decade of research, a background in psychology of eating transformational coaching methods and her own emotional eating journey. And it is a long one you're gonna hear about.

[00:01:20] I wanna remind you before we get. Started sign up for my newsletter. I've got a lot of great things coming. You can jump onto my website, natalie, or you can click in the show notes to get that. I wanna start now with emotional eating with Jessica Pro.

[00:01:35] Jessica, so good to have you on today. Why is it, let's just get right into it that we fight with food?

[00:01:42] Jessica: I really believe that we haven't really been taught everything that is underneath our relationship with food. I believe that we've been so trained and ingrained to. Think about our relationship with food from this limited perspective of what are you eating and how are you exercising?

[00:02:05] And there's just so many other pieces to the puzzle that I do believe people are starting to discover, but is really a part of what ending this fight is really about.

[00:02:19] Natalie: Go backwards a little bit. Why is this important to you? Um, what's your story with food and emotional?

[00:02:26] Jessica: So looking at me from the outside, someone would assume.

[00:02:32] They would assume, I've never had issues with food. They would assume that I didn't have hundreds of pounds to lose, and from the outside it would kind of appear that everything is perfect. But the truth is, is that for many, many years of my life, food was the way that I would. When I was stressed, I would eat.

[00:02:59] When I was anxious, I would eat. When I was overwhelmed, I would eat. Even when I was overjoyed, I would. , and this was a pattern that started when I was actually really young. My first memories of emotional eating are from when I was like 6, 7, 8, and then where it started to become more and more of a real like Achilles heel.

[00:03:25] A real weakness of mine was when. I got older and life got busier and more complicated and food was no longer an efficient way for me to cope with just like my overwhelming, busy and stressful life. Um, so it really started with. Myself and my own journey. I, I never really set out to, you know, start a business or programs around this.

[00:03:54] It was more like, I gotta get this under control for myself. And then along the way, realizing that a lot of what I was learning that. Truly set me free from emotional eating. Wasn't being talked about. I, I hadn't learned it from the years I had spent in therapy or I had gone through nutrition school and practically bate my way through that, and we never addressed emotional eating or overeating.

[00:04:24] So kind of like getting to this side of like, Kind of like, what's, what's wrong with me? I know all this information about nutrition and health. I know what I should be doing. I just can't do it. Um, was really the jumping off point of not only my own healing, but really the creation of everything with escape from emotional eating to the discovery of the four roots of emotional eating and, and everything that everyone sees today.

[00:04:55] Well, you

[00:04:56] Natalie: just mentioned the four roots of emotional eating, and that was one of the first questions I, I wanted to ask you is for someone who's listening, thinking, Well, am I an emotional eater if I grab that candy bar or if I like to sit and eat chips while I watch tv, or you know, what, what defines emotional eating?

[00:05:14] I know I definitely. Emotionally. I know, I mean, I think most people in some ways do because of our society and the way we gratify our, our kids even like, Hey, you did a great job. Let's go get ice cream. Or, Hey, you, you know, and we, we reward ourselves sometimes, which isn't all that bad. But I, I go on and on about this cuz I know passionately about it too and I struggle with it.

[00:05:39] So let's go to those four routes. Tell me what they are and how someone can identify if that might.

[00:05:45] Jessica: Yes. Actually, before we get into the four roots, let me just define like what is emotional eating, because there's a lot of things out on the internet about it, and I just wanna be really clear and really direct that emotional eating is using food for a purpose other than physical nourishment.

[00:06:07] In other words, you're using food to change how you feel. Or not feel the feelings that you're feeling. So it really doesn't have anything to do with what you're eating, but really has everything to do with why you're eating. And a lot of people, you know, get upset when I say that or, or say like using food for a purpose other than nourishment because they'll say, Well, I'm an emotional person and people are emotional beings and we should have emotions.

[00:06:42] And it's, yes, that is true, but we. Our emotions, particularly in relationship with food, to have more of a backseat, not a front seat. We don't want our emotions driving the bus and we don't want them fueling compulsive, unhealthy behaviors. And there is a spectrum, right? Like. I was never the type of person who could eat 10 bags of potato chips.

[00:07:13] And actually, assuming that I had to be at that extreme to kind of qualify as an emotional eater, actually kept me in the emotional eating cycle for a lot longer than I needed to be because I didn't realize. That there was kind of like this middle ground or these people like myself who were really successful, very driven, didn't have a lot of weight to lose, but were definitely using food as a crutch.

[00:07:42] So I kind of just wanna set the record straight of like, What is emotional eating and what are we talking about first?

[00:07:50] Natalie: Is it ever, okay, like I, I wanna get to the roots, but when you said emotional eating is eating for something other than nourishment, Is it ever okay, you know, 10% of the time, 20% of the time to be like, I'm gonna have a nice dessert.

[00:08:05] Not for nourishment, but because I enjoy it.

[00:08:08] Jessica: Yeah. I wish answering that question was simple and black and white, but emotional eating isn't simple and it's not black and white and it's actually multilayered and, and, and there's just so many pieces to it. Um, I, I will say that I am a big fan of dessert.

[00:08:31] Whenever I hold retreats or am eating with my clients, we have dessert because it's important to have that aspect of our meal experience, but also know where is that point of satiation, you know, and where do we feel like we have to override it just to enjoy something.

[00:08:54] So that's where like the four roots come in because for myself, I had spent years and years and years and years in therapy and it wasn't touching my relationship with food.

[00:09:07] And like I said, I had gone through nutrition school and like we were just kind of like scraping the surface. So, When I started to really investigate my own relationship with food and then started working with people in their relationship with food, I started to identify patterns. Patterns that we all had in common.

[00:09:32] That would kind of bottom out in this emotional eating experience of, I can't believe I just ate all that. I, I know I shouldn't do that. Um, and that's really what the Four Roots became and are today. So when people think about the Four Roots, they kind of assume that it's things like, Oh, you're not getting, or you're not drinking enough water, or you're eating too much sugar.

[00:09:58] But that's not what they are. They're much deeper than that. So for example, one of the four roots is hypervigilance, and that is this feeling of like, you always have to be on the go, go, go. Busy, busy, busy. Do do, do. And where we will use food as a way to. Oh, calm down after a really stressful day. So in my work it's about like getting to the roots, identifying which one is activated for you, and then how to shift out of it and build healthier ways to manage difficult energies and emotions.

[00:10:41] Natalie: Great. Okay, so you, you mentioned the first one. What are hyper

[00:10:46] Jessica: vigilance? Yes. Uh, the next one is fear. the next one is self abnegation. So self abnegation is when you sacrifice yourself to avoid ruffling anyone else's feathers. Similar, similar, yet different to people pleasing. Um, but the key here is in the self-sacrifice aspect of the self negation.

[00:11:15] Um, and then the fourth route is self-loathing. .

[00:11:19] So, self-loathing, um, is probably something a lot of people do, but no one really talks about. Self-loathing is, can show up as, you know, being really hard on yourself. It can show up as feeling like whatever you do, it's just never enough.

[00:11:42] Again, show up as you know, looking in the mirror and just ripping yourself apart for what you see. Um, it, it is something that a lot of high achieving people really struggle with. Um, some people think that self-loathing is a motivator, right? It's like, Oh, well, you know, I'm so hard on myself and that supports me in being good at what I do.

[00:12:08] But in truth, it's. Kind of always like knocking you down and never really allowing you to feel good feelings.

[00:12:19] Natalie: Yeah, yeah.




[00:12:53] Natalie: Do you think in this state of our world where we see mental illness issues more than ever, that there are more people struggling with emotional.

[00:13:03] Jessica: I believe that emotional eating is masking a lot of mental health issues.

[00:13:12] Um, I think it is. It is delaying people's ability to really get the true support that they need. Um, I think it is a. That people are like trying to cope with some of their inner world and inner experiences, but it isn't really efficient at it. Um, and what I know just from doing this work now for 11 years and just really.

[00:13:41] Being and recovering from emotional eating myself is that when emotional eating is no longer in the picture, when it's, when it's a pattern, we're no longer willing to engage in, there is such an acceleration of getting our physical, mental, and emotional needs met in a really healthy way. So we can kind of see.

[00:14:07] Like emotional eating is just this like major static on a radio station that's like really almost like making it really hard to hear like the messages and the signs and the signals that are really going on in our body. So to answer your question, yes, I think with everything that's gone on in the past couple of years, it's risen, uh, an awareness around emotional eating.

[00:14:35] But I do believe that we still have a long way to go just because emotional eating is so socialized in our culture. that, like I said, we have a really, we have a ways to go.

[00:14:48] Natalie: Yeah. Let's, let's give people, um, some tips. They might not be, um, struggling in a really severe way, but, you know, I, I, I know from what you do, they might not realize that they have a problem.

[00:15:03] so let's give them some tips if you can help people first. You've mentioned ways to identify it. What are some ways to start dealing with the issue?

[00:15:10] Jessica: Yes. Well, one thing, um, that I didn't mention before was that I do have a quiz that'll, that someone can take. Can anyone who's resonating with what I'm saying, they can take that quiz and it will identify which of the four route is activated for them.

[00:15:30] And then they will get a starter kit of tools and steps to walk through like a workbook to start working with whatever route is is prevalent for them. So that website is inner work dot. That's inner work, do me. But if you're not interested in the quiz and you just want some tips here in this recording, I'm gonna give you a few.

[00:15:55] So the first thing, and I'm sure everybody's heard this before, so this isn't anything new, is that when you're eating, my invitation and recommendation is that you need three things, a table, a plate, and a. Table plate chair. What this does is that having a ritual of sitting down somewhere. To eat helps be free from distractions.

[00:16:26] It helps be present with the food. And if you've had a sense of what's going on in your relationship with food not necessarily being normal, then it's going to really open your eyes and so that you could really be fully present to your eating experience and hear those little voices in your head that say I'm full or.

[00:16:50] Come on. It's just a couple more bites. Just keep eating. Um, so that just, uh, amplifies the awareness by, trying not to multitask when we eat to being fully present. The other thing, uh, especially for people who are really busy, and I always tell this to my clients, is that it takes you 15 minutes to eat.

[00:17:15] You get to choose whether that 15 minutes is nourishing and restorative, or that 15 minutes is just another way to feel like your hair is on fire. The choice is yours. It's gonna take the same amount of time. And this is also a reminder for the people who often get into scenarios of, I don't have enough time to eat lunch, or I don't have enough time to eat breakfast, and will often multitask.

[00:17:44] This is to support you. And it's, and just that reminder, it's just 15 minutes. If we have time to go to the bathroom, brush our teeth in the morning or during the day, then we have time to eat. It's about just about taking that time and knowing that nobody's gonna die. Nothing is going to blow up if you step away for 15 minutes and nothing will be lost, and it will all be there for you when you return.

[00:18:15] So I would say starting with those two things can. Really help you be willing to look more deeply at your relationship with food, and then maybe you'll be ready for those next steps of taking that quiz and kind of peeling back the layers of what really is at the root of what's going on. .

[00:18:36] Natalie: it's such great advice and I know for a lot of people it's foreign.

[00:18:40] It's like, Oh, but I'd like to come home and turn on my favorite show and sit and eat a nice dinner. Slowly. But it, that is a habit. Just like all of these other things you've talked about. And you know, we try really hard and past episodes, you will hear me and my guests talk about family dinner. Around the table, not at the tv, not on the run or in the car or fast food.

[00:19:03] That is a commitment and it's not easy for busy families, busy people, but I also talk a lot about modeling and if we want our kids to not have, um, these same issues around food, we actually have to model. And sit at the table, and I'm guilty completely. I'm sitting at my desk right now, which is where I often eat lunch, so I'm gonna commit I I know you're like, Don't do that.

[00:19:28] Natalie know, and I'm looking at your four pillars. And I'm like, Oh my goodness. All of these, like, I'm like, I'm so busy. I'm so busy and I've, I stop saying that to myself. We're all busy. We're all busy people. So to stop first saying that to myself and to commit, I can take 15 minutes to just sit and enjoy a meal and think about the meal while I'm eating it and what it is and how it's nourishing me, and how awesome it is that I have the ability to sit and enjoy all of those different.

[00:20:02] Jessica: Yeah, and I really recommend like making. , whatever mealtime looks like for someone enjoyable. So like for me, I love having fresh flowers on my kitchen table. Another thing is that, like in my home, we, we don't put things on the table like, um, like. Papers and knickknacks and like there isn't clutter on the table because actually when I was really struggling in my relationship with food, I didn't even have a kitchen table.

[00:20:37] I would eat every, meal on the couch. Hmm, because I opted to get another couch in my small Philadelphia apartment, um, rather than investing in a kitchen table, which is just so symbolic to like where I was in my relationship with food. Um, but, you know, creating a sacred space for eating, and it doesn't necessarily have to be at the table, but even if it's just in another area of your office or.

[00:21:08] Another area, you know, just to kind of change state so that you are not doing, but you're really allowing yourself to receive. That's what eating is. It's a receiving experience and I feel like our culture is so caught up in the productivity and produce and put out and go and do that. We, we've like forgotten quite literally how to.

[00:21:37] Receive like some of the basic things like food or even sleep or even water. And when we start to lose touch with those basics, we really, what was ultimately happening is we're losing touch with ourselves and your children will pick up on what you're putting down. In other words, if they see you, eating over the, uh, kitchen sink and not sitting down to eat, or they see you stress eating or saying, Oh, I just need, you know, I just need a cookie, or whatever it may be.

[00:22:14] They're. They're going to pick up on that, whether you realize it or not, because they're like little sponges. So I really believe that if we want to heal, the future generations relationships with food, we have to first start with ourselves.

[00:22:31] Natalie: Yeah. We have to be so real about it and kind of re unwind things, as I like to say, and change those.

[00:22:40] And that's not easy. I'm gonna do this, Jessica. I, I am going to commit to this as starting tonight and let everybody know how I'm doing it. And I hope that those listening, um, will at least try, um, try it for a week, try to sit down and have a breakfast. Wow. Not on the run. We're so used to that. As you said this.

[00:23:00] Go, go, go society, have a breakfast, sit at lunch with a coworker. Enjoy each other and receive. I love that word in Receiv. That food, that, that's a beautiful way to look at things. Um, okay. I've learned a lot and I know you have a lot more. Um, if, for people who are interested in learning more, you mentioned the quiz, but where can people find you?

[00:23:22] Mm-hmm. .

[00:23:23] Jessica: Yeah. I would really recommend First stop would be going over to inner because there's just so much goodness there and I'm always curious to hear. Like what people's results are from the quiz. It's something that I've only really shared with my clients, and I'm just starting to share it with other people in my inner circle.

[00:23:46] So I always love hearing what's there, and there's an abundance of resources associated with that. And then home base is really escape from emotional I am rarely on social media, so, um, you know, that's probably not the best way to get in contact with me. Um, yeah, so I would say start with inner worked at me and go from there.

[00:24:15] Natalie: Super. Well, thank you so much for your time today. It's lovely to meet you and learn from you and, uh, I'll best you. Thank

[00:24:23] Jessica: you.

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