Transcript: Emotional Eating: Why It Happens and How To Stop It

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Emotional Eating: Why It Happens and How To Stop It and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

With the many stressors in our lives, it is hardly surprising that many of us find comfort in food and struggle with emotional eating.

I feel that the media has a lot to answer for with the typical images of women they portray. Any time I glance over at a magazine whilst shopping, they’re full of images of beautiful and gorgeous women! Many of the women I speak with suffer because they feel they don’t measure up!

As a new mum, this can be highly challenging as you adapt to life with your baby and the changes to your body during and after your pregnancy.

I am delighted to be speaking with Jillian Lama in this week’s episode. Jillian is a certified life and weight loss coach and she teaches women how to end emotional eating and lose excess weight eating foods they love.

Now on to the interview.

Helen Thompson: Hi Jillian, it’s lovely to have you on First Time Mum’s Chat. I’ve been excited about this because we’re talking about a completely different approach to nutrition with mums.

Jillian Lama: Thank you so much for having me, Helen. So I am a life and weight loss coach. I help women end emotional eating and lose excess weight, eating the foods that they love. And so it’s really important that we end the war with food. That’s one of my big kind of sticking points is that we have to stop calling food good or bad, toxic, poisonous, even the foods that maybe we want to be eating less of, or we just kind of steering away from to be labeling food as good or bad often ends up with us labeling ourselves as now I am good or bad based off of what I eat. And it just creates a lot of shame. Often we throw in the towel and we think, oh, screw it, I’ve already been bad today eating this chocolate chip cookie. I might as well eat some more. Who cares now, I’ve already ruined my diet.

And so we have a lot of this all or nothing thinking that can really wreck havoc on the way that we think about food, the way that we think about ourselves and create more problems than are necessary, especially as a new mom, going through this postpartum phase, getting used to life with a baby and your body in a different shape and just really learning how to be nicer to ourselves. So a lot of what I do is around self-love, self-talk and really changing the way that we think about things like food, exercise, water, our body nutrition, that sort of thing.

Helen Thompson: Yeah ’cause I know so many moms, when they’ve given birth, they worry that they’re fat and they compare themselves to other people and I guess that’s where emotional disorders come in because they think, oh, well my friend down the street has taken off so much weight after her baby, and I’m still really plump.

Jillian Lama: Yeah and often they start before that. So even in terms of, well, I’m thin so I can eat whatever I want. We have these thoughts that we learn and we pick up as kids or I’m chubby or I’m overweight. And so I shouldn’t be eating this. I should be eating that. A lot of what we should or shouldn’t do.

And then a lot of us, especially here in the US, I hear the excuse of, oh, baby wants a cupcake, baby wants donuts and we use this excuse of baby wants these foods and these treats, and it’s kind of like, well, I’m gonna gain weight anyways, so who cares, I’ll just eat whatever I want.

And so if you’re used to having restricted in the past, you might also see pregnancy as a time where you can relax and eat whatever you want and then now it’s, oh, well now I’ve gotta lose weight, now we have to restrict, now we have to cut out entire food groups and whether it’s, I have to cut out all processed foods or all fat or all carbs or sugar, we go to these big extremes rather than looking at the small, simple things that we need to start to change.

And so everybody’s story is gonna be a little bit different. Everyone’s gonna have, a different kind of factor as to what really creates this. But really what I see as emotional eating is anytime we’re reaching for food and we’re not truly hungry. And so a lot of times I’ve heard suggestions from in, especially the postpartum phase from doulas and well-meaning nurses and doctors to say, well, eat whenever the baby eats.

And while that’s not a bad rule of thumb and we wanna make sure that we are still nourishing our bodies, we also don’t need to eat just because the baby is eating. Like if the baby’s eating at 2:00 AM and you’re not hungry, you don’t need to eat. So I see emotional eating as anytime we are eating for needs and desires that are outside of physical hunger.

And that could be because we enjoy the food because it tastes so good because, well, I’ve been bad. Especially around the holidays, it’s things like, I only get this food once a year. I don’t wanna miss out. It’s the holidays. We have a lot of different thoughts depending on, the time of year, what situation we’re in, who we’re around.

It could be that it’s free. Somebody else is paying for it. You better get your money’s worth. You just have a lot of thoughts around food and what it means to waste it or to use it properly or what’s good. So that’s really what I help women tune into and start to identify and release some of the stories that actually make it harder to lose weight.

And that’s the thing is we think that these might help us, but in reality, they just cripple us and they make it harder to release the weight in a way that feels good and natural for your body.

Helen Thompson: Would I be right in saying, you mentioned just now, babies need a donut or babies need this or babies need that. When you’re pregnant, certain moms have cravings for things. Do you think they have cravings because they’re emotionally wanting to think, oh my baby needs that or my baby doesn’t or do or do you think that the cravings are a more natural approach to pregnancy.

Jillian Lama: Yeah. So I see cravings from two perspectives. So one being the kind of emotional justification of, I really want this cupcake, I can justify eating the cupcake because I’m pregnant and I get to eat whatever I want now. And so now, oh, it’s not me it’s the baby that wants it, right. So it’s kind of this playful way of trying to just excuse and justify. Again, eating the food when really it’s, oh, if I want a cupcake, I need to just own and be okay with eating the cupcake. The problem is that we have decided that that’s bad and that’s a bad thing.

And especially if you’re trying to lose weight or you want to lose weight, will you absolutely should not be eating cupcakes. Of course, that’s crazy talk, when in all reality it just sets you up to overeat or over indulge. And so what I teach is that, well, we need to allow some of these foods. If you really like cupcakes, let’s plan it and let’s eat it intentionally.

And if you wanna eat a cupcake every day, every other day, do it. Let’s start to eat it, instead of behind our own back and trying to justify it. Actually be intentional with it and then get to the point where you might be thinking, okay, well maybe I could eat one every other week or every other day.

And then maybe you start to just kind of cut back and you just decide, oh, you know what, today? I don’t think I need one. Or, you know, when we decrease the restriction, we decrease the binging and the overeating, the emotional eating. Then the other piece of the cravings is we will have cravings based off of our body’s physiological needs. So if I’m trying to cut carbs, for example, or cut fat, my body will send out cravings for more energy, like high energy, quick energy foods. So high energy foods are gonna be foods higher in fat. Quick energy foods are gonna be foods higher in sugar and simple carbs. So it is more natural and more common that if you are postpartum and you are actively trying to restrict and cut back on what you are eating or if you are in pregnancy and you are worried about gaining weight, it could be that you are contributing to the cravings because of what you think is good or bad, right or wrong. I should be eating this, I shouldn’t be eating that. Now, if you have gestational diabetes or things like that, I’m not talking about those things where you are trying to adjust your eating for medical reasons. That’s a separate issue altogether, but we still wanna be working with our psychology as well as with our bodies when it comes to weight loss.

Helen Thompson: If you think you’ve got an eating disorder, are there any triggers that you should look out for?

Jillian Lama: So I, I think one of the biggest ones is really looking at our food rules and really looking at what do I think I can, and can’t eat in order to lose weight. So if you were to poll most people across the world, there is going to be a list of, well, I can’t eat these foods and still lose weight. So we wanna be aware of how many foods are on this list. How extreme is it? How extreme are we getting in terms of, well, I can only rice, chicken and broccoli. We have some very baseline or I kind of figure very hardcore diet rules in terms of I can’t eat this, can’t eat that. And when it starts to interfere with your regular life. So when we’re making any kind of desires to get healthy, to get fit, to change our habits, we look at changing our lifestyle.

But when now all of a sudden, I can’t go out to eat because I need to lose weight or I am afraid of gaining the weight back, or if it’s, I can’t go on date night or I don’t wanna go out with the girls and my girlfriends, because I’m afraid that if I eat off plan or if I eat out of habit, now I’m gonna gain the weight back or I’m not gonna be able to lose weight.

So we wanna look at how is this impacting and affecting just your social lifestyle and aspects of friendships and if you’re with a partner, a spouse, something like that. So those are some key things to look out for. And again, even just being mindful and aware of any time we’re reaching for food, especially late afternoon, evening, and we’re not hungry and we’re looking to unwind, relax, de-stress, those are some big ones where we can be emotionally eating and we don’t necessarily have an eating disorder, but we are emotionally eating because we’re looking for food to create a state change in our emotions. And so it’s just a very simple habit that our brains learned was that food creates relaxation. Food creates peace, comfort, calm. It creates this desired state that want to be in, and this happens often at night and we just have this thought error, that food is what creates it, rather than looking at how do I create this, internally.

Helen Thompson: Yeah and bringing that back to the mother, who’s just had a baby and she’s thinking, oh right, well, I’ve gotta eat this for the baby or the baby needs this or I better not eat that because I’ll be putting on weight. She has to think about the baby’s point of view and thinking, oh, well, the baby might need a bit of carbohydrate or the baby might need a bit of protein or the baby might need a bit of sugar. I’m bringing it back more to the baby side for the mom who may want to lose the weight, but yet she’s also got to consider the baby as well. And if she’s breastfeeding, what the baby needs to eat. How would you work on that situation?

Jillian Lama: Yeah. So what I often recommend is that we start with a baseline of, at every meal, you’re eating carbs, fat protein, and a vegetable. And it doesn’t mean that you have to have big, giant portions of it, but we wanna make sure we’re getting in some of each of those things. So making sure babies getting the ma macro and micronutrients. we can look at switching up the different types of meat, the different types of protein sources, different types of carbohydrates that you’re getting in.

So some nights might be pasta, might be rice, might be bread, might be a potato. Let’s vary things up throughout the week and make sure that we’re getting in what we need. So that’s kind of the foundation around what to eat but what you should be eating is food that you enjoy, food that you like and recognizing that you might have some food aversions while you’re pregnant, or even after that, you just wanna be aware of. Don’t force yourself to eat foods and really starting to eat when you’re hungry and stop at satisfied. We don’t have to change what you’re eating as much as we want to be looking at why are you reaching for food? Because if I keep reaching for food, because it’s 10:00 PM and the baby’s fussy and not crying, and I just need a break and I just wanna relax, but I think the candy bar is what’s doing it, or I think the ice cream is what’s gonna do it for me, that’s where we wanna just be on the lookout and starting to identify some of these patterns.

So we see it the most come into play is I need a break, I need some time to myself and I can justify that by having a snack or having a meal. So really just tuning into our true hunger, that’s how we’re gonna lose the weight is by eating when we’re hungry and stopping at satisfied, not overeating, not eating because it tastes so good. Not cleaning our plate because we don’t wanna waste the food, not eating because it’s free and it’s in the break room once you’ve gone back to work, if that’s what you end up doing. We wanna just be really aware of all those excuses and justifications that get us to eat and where it’s socially acceptable or you should eat when it’s served or around the holidays here in the US I know a big, common thing is when people offer you food or they tell you, oh, I made this just for you. And it feels almost like this guilt trip of, well, you should eat this, it would be rude not to have some of this. So that’s what we wanna be aware and mindful of and then for the, what we’re eating.

That that’s not as important in all honesty as why we’re eating it. But really just making sure that we are getting in everything macro related, so carbs, fat, protein, veggies and the veggies provide the fiber, so that’s gonna help with just getting everything in your system, working smoothly. And that’s really what we. What we wanna be going for is, how do we create this balanced relationship with food where I can have a piece of pizza one night, but I’m also pairing it with a vegetable or a side salad and making sure I’ve gotten in some good protein that day. And the other piece too then would be also not just looking day to day or at single meals, but also now looking at a week. So I don’t have to worry so much about what I’m eating at dinner, if my lunch was super on par. If I’m having stir fry veggies with chicken and some avocado, and I feel like really good with that. Well then it’s okay if dinner might be more of a relaxed casual meal or we go out or I want a hamburger, or French fries or something that maybe is often portrayed as being a less healthy food.

You know, really look at well, what are you getting in the week? What are you getting, throughout the whole day? We don’t have to get so focused and worried about each individual meal.

Helen Thompson: And it’s shifting and it’s being able to change and knowing how to change your disorder into something positive, as you’ve just said, would you agree with that? Whether it’s because you’re pregnant or you’re not pregnant, you’ve changed it into something positive. You’re saying right, okay, I’m not reaching for this food because I’m hungry, I’m reaching for this food because I’ve gotta have something else instead.

Jillian Lama: Right, so now we can actually start to solve for, if you’re eating food because you’re stressed or if you’re eating food because maybe you’re tired or you’re bored or you’re lonely, or you’re feeling these other emotions. Now we can start to solve for those emotions and food doesn’t solve emotions. Food only solves hunger. So when we start to recognize and lean into that, now we actually don’t have to be so worried and hung up about food and be so dramatic about what we can and can’t eat because now we’re actually gonna solve the right problem, which is that I am stressed out by, whatever is going on throughout the day, or is because I feel overwhelmed by taking care of a newborn and thoughts about, maybe going back to work or dealing with in-laws or, just new dynamics within the family and within the household.

So that’s really freeing for us because we can take all of the emphasis off of the food and really start to look at, all right how do I change this? And now know, ultimately what we wanna look at is how do I create a life that I want, right. It’s not just about the body and the weight loss. It’s how do I have a life that I enjoy and a life that lights me up? How do I feel good in my body? How do I have more energy? How do I, have consistent habits and feel good about maintaining those habits where I don’t need to try to con myself, force myself, willpower my way to do these things.

Helen Thompson: Yes, it’s giving yourself things that you can do. For me, if I’m feeling that I want to eat, I might decide, and I’ve had my coffee and I’ve had my cupcake, I might say right, well I’ll go out for a bike ride. So that way I’d be energizing myself and then after the bike ride, I might say to myself, okay, well, I’ve had my exercise, I might go and have another cupcake or something. But I’d always make sure that I energize my body and have some form of exercise or done something before I have it. So it’s not like emotional eating.

Jillian Lama: Yeah and I think that’s a great way because we don’t necessarily want to just distract ourselves from the emotion, but it is helpful. I notice that if I have an urge to eat something sweet after lunch, for example, and my day maybe feels kind of relaxing or I don’t have another meeting to get to, or there’s not a lot going on. It’s actually better for me to kind of get out of the zone of the food, right. If I go for a walk, if I go out to the backyard, if I kind of move, if I go run an errand even, or, you know, by kind of changing up that routine and that habit and just kind of making that space a lot of times, then I’ll forget about it.

I might come back to the house, maybe 30 minutes, 20 minutes later and there could still be that desire, but a lot of times we’ve allowed that the initial cortisol in our bodies to wear off, and then we just kind of move on with our day. So we wanna kind of take the focus off of the food to where we’re not just thinking about it all the time.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think that’s the key, especially with the mom, who’s overwhelmed and who’s over tired and is just so stressed cuz the baby’s crying and their baby’s doing this and all they wanna do is to go to the ice cream tub but in fact they’re not hungry as you say, they’re just tired and overwhelmed and they just need to have a breather. And that’s very hard for a mom who’s overwhelmed and tired and exhausted. They’ve gotta have something to encourage them not to be so tired.

Jillian Lama: It’s a great example. We’ll reach for food and we’re looking for relief, is ultimately what we’re looking for. Let me take this break, let me give myself an excuse to sit down and to not judge myself. A lot of times the criticism comes from ourselves, especially if we’ve got a little one we’re taking care of. Maybe we feel, there’s dishes in the sink and there’s laundry to fold and there’s these other things to do around the house.

And I really shouldn’t be taking a break. I can’t take a break, but I can justify that break, well, if I’m eating. If I’m having a snack, if I’m having lunch and so really looking at yeah, what is it that we’re really craving beyond just the food? Is it a peaceful night in? Is it having an hour to yourself where maybe there’s a partner, spouse, family member, babysitter, somebody who can come, even if it’s just a small amount of time each day and be there with the baby and you have some time. You can take a shower, you can go for a walk, you wanna go get your nails done, or you wanna get a massage, if you wanna go do these other things. Looking at how can you still support your own recovery and really recognize that your body is still trying to get back to where it was previously. The labor and delivery, especially if you have a natural delivery, it can be very hard on your body. And so really having that compassion with yourself too, to know that, it’s not right or wrong. Your journey is your own and you’ve got to learn and identify what feels best for you. So I had my son November 4th, so he’s a little over 13 months old now.

And I had a lot of back labor. So he was in the right position but then when my water broke, he flipped and he was face up and so then every time I had a contraction, like hours later, he was just going straight into my back, hour after hour. And it was the most painful thing I have ever experienced.

And I had really great doula and midwife there who were helping me. And she would literally massage my back between contractions and then my husband would take over and then they would switch and they were so good. I would say after delivery, I had probably a massage every week for at least six weeks just to try to work things back in. I went and saw a chiropractor, I did some physical therapy, really making sure that my hips were aligned and that everything’s kind of getting back to normal and I still noticed some lower back pain, even with moderate weights and walking and exercise, really looking at what can I do to get back into shape.

It’s a year later and I still trying to figure this out, I’m still working on these pieces and there’s no right or wrong. It’s just, we’ve gotta look at what we’re dealing with right now and make sure that we can ask for what we want and ask for what we need.

Helen Thompson: And that’s something that you do to help moms to give them that support for their emotional eating or their emotional wellbeing or whatever it may be. You’ve got a lot of experience in that area because you’ve sort of gone through it yourself.

Jillian Lama: Yeah, absolutely. So for years I was emotionally eating just because of chronic dieting, past diet rules, a lot of thoughts about what I should and shouldn’t eat and ultimately my emotionally eating stemmed from a lot of negative self-talk and criticism. Well, I should be further along, I should be making more money, I should have a different title, I should be thinner, I should be faster, I should look a certain way. All of these shoulds and expectations and things that were going unmet, unmet.

And even though it wasn’t a constant criticism all day long. It was this soft, subtle voice that just floated underneath the surface and under the radar. And so I didn’t pick up on it for a while because I kept trying to solve the food problem or I didn’t think there was anything emotionally going on. And I just didn’t realize how subconscious all of that shame and judgment and criticism was and so when I could actually start to dig into and peel that away, that’s when all of this started to come into place and I could really start to see how just changing my circumstance, never changed the emotional eating.

I kept thinking, well, it’s my job. I just need a new job. So I’d get a new job. And then I would still be emotionally eating. So then I’d be, well, now I just need to be in my business full time. Once I just am starting my business, then that that’ll be it. Get into the business full time, still emotionally eating. And I realized it’s because there’s still this negative talk that I never learned how to change. And that’s ultimately what can be holding us back. It might be that your kids have a meltdown in the supermarket, it could be that you have an argument with your spouse or you get a mean email from a client or a boss or somebody.

It could just be your own self-talk and how you are criticizing or judging or comparing yourself. And so really starting to identify where is this coming from and how do we start to change this? So getting to the root of why we’re emotionally eating and starting to shift this pattern and seeing this as, not just an issue or a problem with yourself, but how do you see this now as a gift? Because you can start to see these other areas of your life that you can work on. Cause when I work on my self talk and how I think about myself, I show up as a different person, I have a better marriage, I am a better mom. I have these other things where it has that ripple effect.

But yeah, that’s exactly what I do with clients, is really help them identify what’s holding them back with food, with weight, with body image. A lot of times we have a lot of drama about the scale and about the number and what we’re letting that number mean about ourselves. So really starting to let go of some of those rules or ideas that just hold us back and don’t actually help us create what we want in life.

Helen Thompson: And it’s the stigma that people have these days that you’ve got to be slim, or you’ve gotta be fat and if you’re fat, people say, oh, you are fat. And you may be fat because of medical reasons or it’s just who you are and I think it’s important to accept yourself for who you are, whether you’ve had a baby or you haven’t had a baby, or you’re a plump mom well, so be it, it’s who you are. And I think that’s so important to also accept who you are.

Jillian Lama: Absolutely, yeah.

Helen Thompson: We’ve talked about so many different topics here on emotional eating. I could sit here and talk to you all day about it, but before I close, have you got any final tips that you’d like to add?

Jillian Lama: Yeah, absolutely. So I would say two of the most underrated, fat burning things are gonna be drinking water. So here in the US, I recommend you drink half your body weight in ounces of water every single day. So we wanna look at, are you drinking at least one liter of water every day as your minimum baseline?

From there we’re gonna go up to, okay, can I drink a liter and a half? Can I get up to two liters and we wanna work in increments, right? So it’s not gonna be all at once. You’re not gonna go from drinking a hundred milliliters to a liter, right. How do we start to slowly increase what we’re drinking to get to this baseline of one liter every day?

And then from there we can increase, but when our bodies are hydrated, our systems are going to be running and functioning more efficiently. We have more energy, we have less cravings, we have less food urges. And then when our bodies can function properly now it can devote resources and time and energy to the weight loss process.

But when it’s just trying to keep you alive, because it’s dehydrated, it’s not gonna be able to focus on that. So water is often one of those things that we shirk off as being like, yeah. Yeah, I know, but it’s not glamorous and sexy and tell me something, I don’t know and we really wanna focus on water.

And then sleep and sleep I know is gonna be one of those things that is going to be hard to dictate because of the baby. And so it’s really looking at how can you get as best of quality sleep as possible. Can you take naps? Can you get some help with sleep training your baby? If you need help with the baby sleep, once we get the baby baby to sleep, then we can work on and often get our sleep in line. So really just recognizing that, if you’re in those first couple of months sleep might be kind of elusive. It might be kind of sporadic and that’s okay don’t stress about it. Just look at what you can control. I may not be able to control everything, but I can control certain aspects and I can try to foster good sleeping conditions for my son. I can make sure that when he goes to bed at eight, that I’m not staying up until midnight. That I am going to bed, at 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM.

And then okay, I can focus on my hunger and only when I’m hungry, I can focus on drinking more water. I can focus on really digging into what are all those food rules that I keep thinking I need in order to lose these weight, how do I have a better self concept and a better body image?

You know, there are gonna be things that we can control throughout this process and throughout this journey But that’s the other thing too, is that, a smaller size, a lower weight does not fix a broken self concept. So we have to start to change the way that we think about ourselves now in the body that you have today and continue to change it as we lose the weight.

So that’s the biggest thing is that we’ve got to bring the mindset work into weight loss if we want to make it lasting and sustainable.

Helen Thompson: Having a quiet time and just meditating when your baby is asleep and thinking about where you are at and putting yourself into place, I think is important and you are mentioning self care, giving yourself some selfcare to think right, well, why am I feeling this way? What’s going on inside of me would probably help.

Jillian Lama: Absolutely. Yes.

Helen Thompson: Okay. So how can my audience find out about you?

Jillian Lama: Yeah. So, so you can find me online. I am at So that’s the website and you can find me on Facebook and Instagram. So my name just Jillian Lama, you can also search body you crave and there’s a Facebook page and a Facebook community, like an online community as well as a podcast called Body You Crave. So that’s an easy word or phrase to search. And you’ll get the website and everything, all the links there.

Helen Thompson: Thank you. I’ve actually listened to your podcast. It’s very informative. So thank you so much for this chat. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and I’ve actually learned a lot from you too. So thank you for being a part of First Time Mum’s Chat. I’ve really enjoyed having you on the show.

Jillian Lama: Yes. Thank you, Helen. This was wonderful.