All posts by Isabel

When the world feels scary, remember this about your food and weight…

When we’re filled with fear, anxiety or feel out of control in our lives—when the challenge of uncertainty strikes,

we may find ourselves trying to seek control in habitual ways—reverting back to old beliefs and storylines that give us a mission, that give us something “to do” in the midst of a frightening situation.

Food thoughts, poor body image, or diet-related fantasies may come up while we sit inside, waiting restlessly for an uncertain future. 

Our subconscious tells us: “if I can get this under control, I’ll have something to look forward to…I’ll be okay…I’ll feel safe and secure.” 

The pursuit of thinness offers a false sense of security in insecure times…and we so easily forget the costs and consequences of such pursuits.

Notice if this desire to get your food or weight “under control” is coming up for you during these difficult times.

Ask yourself, is this really a road you want to go down given your past experiences on this roller coaster?

And consider…

How else might you take care of yourself (physically AND emotionally) throughout the chaos? 

Where can you surrender what you can’t control,
and relax back into this present moment

No, That’s Not Emotional Eating

There are two primary reasons that people confuse “binge eating” …that is, eating in reaction to dieting or diet mentality

with “emotional eating” …that is, eating for pleasure, soothing or comfort. 

If you’re not sure about the difference between “emotional eating” and “binge eating” you may want to review Video #2 of my video series here before moving on with this post.

#1. The first reason that binge eating is often confused with emotional eating, is that our will power—and thus, our ability to diet or resist food—diminishes when we’re stressed or managing difficult feelings. 

If we’re dieting or using will power to hold ourselves back from eating, we’re more likely to “crack” or “fall off the wagon” (aka binge eat) when difficult feelings come up. 

This is not the same thing as “emotional eating” per se—which has nothing to do with will power or restriction. On the contrary, this is binge eating (i.e. a rebellion against dieting) that’s been brought to the surface early, because our ability to resist food has been compromised by stress.

To be clear, dieting (or diet mentality) is still the “real culprit” in this example. “Falling off the wagon” is pretty inevitable if you’re using will power to suppress your true desires around food…difficult feelings only speed the inevitable process along.  

#2. The second reason that people confuse binge eating with emotional eating—is that emotional eating can easily “trigger” a binge…if we’re still struggling with diet-mentality around our emotional eating choices. 

If we think emotional eating is “wrong” or “bad,” or if our emotional eating urges come in conflict with what we think we’re “supposed” to eat—we will easily succumb to “falling-off-the-wagon” eating when we “slip” at the hands of an emotional urge. 

In other words—what could be a cupcake or two when we’re bored, turns into a sheet of cupcakes + whatever’s in the kitchen sink because “I’ve already screwed up…better get it in now and start again tomorrow!” 

In other words, emotional eating can turn into a binge the moment we judge our emotional eating as “not okay” or deem ourselves “off the wagon.”   

To learn more about the difference between “emotional eating” and “binge eating,” check out this podcast interview I did with Health At Every Size warrior, Julie Duffy Dillon

It’s a great episode—especially for anyone who’s ever identified as an “emotional eater” or who struggles with the question: “I’m not dieting, but still bingeing—what’s up with that?!” 

Check out this episode here

Understanding Physical vs. Emotional Satiation in Diet Recovery

There are two primary types of satiation that non-dieters (aka “normal” eaters) typically aim for when they eat: 

Physical Satiation & Emotional Satiation. 

Physical Satiation is the result of having all of your biological needs met around food—especially, but not limited to, your caloric and macronutrient needs.

Of course, it should go without saying that our physical needs demand a substantially greater amount of food than what diet culture would have you believe is “normal.”

It’s not uncommon for magazines and blogs to share “healthy meal plans” that are roughly equivalent to what would be considered a starvation diet fifty years ago, or roughly half of what the average woman truly needs in a day…more on this here.

Our physical needs may also be greater than what our initial attempts at Intuitive Eating would have us believe is “normal” …especially if you’re not emotionally comfortable with a wide spectrum of fullness levels, as is the case with many dieters and diet-binge cyclers when they begin their recovery process. 

On that note, it’s worth mentioning that physical satiation and fullness are NOT the same things. 

Sometimes we need to get very full (even beyond the point of “comfort”) to meet our physical satiation needs. 

This can be the case at any point in our recovery (e.g. “I was sick and lost my appetite and now it’s come back with a vengeance”), however, it’s especially common for folks in early diet recovery who may be restoring a long-term energy deficit. 

You can read more about the difference between fullness and satiation on the blog here

Emotional Satiation, on the other hand—which is nearly as important as physical satiation in healing our relationship with food—is achieved through the pursuit of pleasure in a meal—the feeling that we’ve gotten something delicious, enjoyable, and emotionally nourishing. 

Relaxation around food—including the belief that what (and how much) we’re eating is safe, acceptable, and won’t be taken away in the future—is a key ingredient to achieving Emotional Satiation.

Of course, relaxation around food is easily disrupted by body image concerns, health-related anxieties, or diet-related trauma—

which is why full legalization of food (both physical and emotional legalization), as well as consistent body image work and anxiety management, are key ingredients to long-term diet-binge recovery.   

In case you missed it, I speak about the critically important role of anxiety management in this important podcast interview. You don’t want to miss it.  

Lastly, it’s worth noting that “perfect” satiation in either of these areas is not really a thing. 

Satiation is a relatively gray area to shoot for—not an exact line in the sand—however, if we’re chronically unsatisfied in either of these areas, we’re likely to struggle in our relationship with food. 

Something to chew on… 

Want more Diet-Binge Recovery insights from me? Check out my FREE video training series at

+ sign up for my free guide: How To Not Eat Cake…really fast, standing up, when nobody’s looking.

Still Binge Eating? Check for Unintentional or Accidental Restriction

If you’ve watched my video training series, you’ve likely heard me say:

Binge eating is a reaction to deprivation around food—either physical OR emotional.

Today I’d like to add to this definition:

Binge eating is a reaction to deprivation—either physical, emotional OR unintentional.

Let me explain…

A while back I was talking to a Master Class client who was struggling with binges at night.

She was very confused as she kept saying to me, “I’m not restricting anymore—I eat whatever I want—why is this still happening?”

Her immediate assumption was that she must be emotionally restricting in some way because she was 100% certain that she was not physically restricting her food for weight control anymore.

Unsure what was going on—I asked her to share more information about what she was eating on the days of these binges, and it became very clear that she was not getting enough food during the day, and especially not enough carbs.

She suffered from a gluten allergy, and was regularly skipping starch at her meals when a gluten-free alternative was not available…not because of diet-mentality, but because she was afraid it would make her sick.

Because she had a true weight-neutral desire not to feel sick after she ate, she did not consider it restrictive to ask for “no bun” with her burger or to get a salad for lunch instead of a sandwich.

That being said, she was not *replacing* the glutinous starch she wanted to avoid with a gluten-free alternative. As a result, she was regularly (accidentally) undernourished around carbohydrates, leading to binges later in the day…often on starchy foods or sweets (including glutinous foods).

This is a perfect example of what I call “Accidental” or “Unintentional” Restriction—that is, physical under-nourishment that happens without a weight-controlling motivation and/or without the person’s conscious intent.

This client thought she was making an empowered, Health-At-Every-Size choice to avoid gluten for the sake of her health (which is totally possible!), however, she was NOT making sure to replace those glutinous items with other starchy-carb options, which are *critical* to our health and satiation around food.

While gluten may be “optional” for those who have a medical reason to avoid it—carbs are NOT optional…unless you want to put your health at risk and feel chronically unsatisfied and crazy around food. Most people need ample opportunities for starch (and fat and protein) at most, if not all, of their meals.

(And if you have health concerns about carbs for medical or blood sugar reasons, read this.)

You’d be surprised how often I run into “accidental” or “unintentional” restriction when helping folks transition to Intuitive Eating.

Other common ways that people “accidentally” restrict are by…

  • waiting too long to eat in the name of “waiting for hunger” (this often goes hand-in-hand with the hunger-and-fullness diet).
  • Undershooting fullness/satiation for any number of reasons (e.g. because fullness is emotionally uncomfortable or because you think you *should* be stopping at a lesser, more “polite” level of fullness.)
  • eating snacks instead of meals, because you’re not “in the mood” for a full meal. While there’s obviously nothing wrong with eating snacks—missing full meals, or regularly eating snacks in lieu of meals, can become problematic pretty quickly. This is the most common way I see people accidentally restrict when transitioning to Intuitive Eating—more on this here.
  • not getting enough of the major macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs) at their meals because you’re avoiding a particular food for medical or ethical reasons (for instance, gluten-free folks missing carbs, vegetarian folks not getting enough protein/fat, etc.)
  • not getting enough of all the major macronutrients (or simply not getting enough food during the day), because of busy schedules, convenience, etc.

This all to say, if you don’t think you’re restricting but you’re struggling with big “ups and downs” around food—check in with yourself about some of these common areas of Unintentional Restriction before making the assumption that you must be struggling with “emotional restriction” alone.

Want to learn more about the impacts of physical and emotional restriction on binge eating? Check out my video training series here.