I always ask women who struggle with emotional eating if they practice self-care.

I ask this question because I know life is stressful; stress inhibits weight loss, it’s terrible for your health in the long run, and it doesn’t feel great in the immediate sense.  I ask this question because I want to know if my clients are doing anything (other than eating) to reduce their stress levels.

The answer is always no, and when I ask why, I get a myriad of explanations. I’m too busy. I have to take care of my kids. I don’t have money. I don’t have time. I don’t have energy.

What I hear is: I’m overwhelmed. I can’t wrap my mind around what self-care even looks like. My priorities are second to everyone else’s priorities. It’s never even occurred to me to take care of myself.

You know the flight attendant spiel about putting on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you? That applies here.

You have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of others well. Your kids, your spouse, your boss, and your friends all get a subpar version of you if you’re taking care of them before you take care of yourself.

And that’s only ONE problem.

The other problem—and the one I most often address with my clients—is that when you’re not taking care of yourself your subconscious will try to take care of you...with food. Food can make us feel happy. It can comfort us in our sadness. It can numb our loneliness. Food is a good friend in the moment, but it’s a toxic relationship in the long run. It keeps us from dealing with the root of the issue and it has seriously negative implications for our health.

Most people get obsessed with the eating part of emotional eating. They think if they could just stop eating, the problem would be solved. What they miss is the emotional part. When we go through life never tending to how we feel and never pursuing how we want to feel, our emotional needs don’t get met. When our physical needs—like food, water, and sleep—aren’t met, our bodies freak out. When our emotional needs aren’t met, we also freak out. It may look like you’re just eating a bag of candy or a box of cereal, but it’s actually a freakout.

You need to put your oxygen mask on first, otherwise you’re going to keep finding yourself in the fridge.

So what does it look like to put your oxygen mask on before helping those around you?

The short answer is: figure out how you want to feel, identify what’s standing in the way of you feeling that way, and do more of the things that make you feel good.

The long answer is: it takes knowledge, time and effort, and I’ve developed a program to help you get all three of these things. It starts with a free emotions and eating assessment. Click here to schedule yours.