Emotional eating has an inherently negative connotation. We all do it—even those of us who think we don’t do it. Most of us never talk about it, and if we do talk about it, we talk about it as a bad thing that needs to stop.

I fear our priorities are a bit muddied when it come to this.

We want to stop emotional eating because we fear weight gain.

We want to stop emotional eating because women are not supposed to eat so much.

We want to stop emotional eating because it’s not healthy.

And in all of this desire for it to stop, we forget to tend to our hearts.

Whenever I talk about emotional eating as a matter of the heart, I imagine my clients thinking who has time for matters of the heart when we’ve got my waistline to worry about?  Sooner or later they all come around to the fact that so long as we have have unmet emotional needs, we’re going to eat to meet them, and this is not a bad thing.

Eating to meet our emotional needs keeps us from going crazy, so it would be prudent to embrace our emotional eating.

When I first started teaching about embracing emotional eating, I skirted around the issue. I knew my clients wanted to put an end to their emotional eating, but I didn’t foresee them buying into the idea of embracing emotional eating. I didn’t see them sitting down with a pint of ice cream and savoring every bite in an attempt to appreciate the good vibes food can provide. But the more I tried to skirt around the issue, the longer it took them to mend their relationship with food.

I know it’s weird. I know it’s counterintuitive. But if you’re going to let emotions drive you to eat, you should make the most of it. Stop scarfing m&ms down in the car on the way home from the grocery store. Keep the car in park in the grocery store parking lot, turn on your favorite music and eat them one by one. Notice the taste and texture of the peanuts or the almonds or whatever your filling-of-choice is. Savor it.

I’m not telling you to eat junk food. I’m telling you that if you do eat junk food, you should at least take the time to enjoy it.

Enjoying it has some great perks for your mental and physical health…

You’ll get the full experience of whatever good feeling that food gives you.

You’ll be satisfied sooner because your brain will actually have time to catch up with your body and it will realize you’re satisfied.

You’ll have thought about it enough to deliberately choose to indulge for the sake of your sanity, so you’ll be way less inclined to feel guilty/stressed about it (especially because—if you did it right—you’ll feel great and have eaten less of it than you normally would).

In my last two blog posts (see here and here), I’ve emphasized the importance of pausing, and here I am doing it again. If you’re ever to understand your emotional eating, you do have to embrace it. How can you get to know something you’re always at odds with? And embracing emotional eating requires that you pause long enough to full experience what’s going on.

I’ll admit it sounds a little nuts. It’s a “shameful” habit everyone wants to get rid of and no one wants to talk about, but bringing it into the light has just the benefits you need to start to make some changes.