“I eat my feelings.”

“I eat my feelings.”

Filed Under: Emotional Eating

19 May 2023 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

“I eat my feelings.”

I hear this so often. I used to struggle with this myself. My clients carry such shame and guilt about eating emotionally, as if they are inadequate in some way. Emotional eating is a way to distract ourselves from unpleasant feelings. It is also a way to numb more difficult emotions. It’s a normal human response, yet diet culture leads us to believe that when we eat emotionally, it’s because we lack willpower and control. That emotional eating is a sign of weakness.

Let’s look at the role of food in our lives. Food is emotional. We celebrate with food, we connect with food, we mourn with food. We need food for our survival. Food is a source of pleasure for our senses and fuel for our bodies. From the day we are born, food becomes a source of comfort. What do we give a crying baby? For the most part, milk – yet it’s possible the baby needs a nappy change or a hug.

When I eventually stopped dieting and started healing my relationship with food, I had no idea whether what I was feeling was physical hunger or anxiety. I was completely disconnected from my body and my emotions. I just remember feeling bad most of the time. It took time and awareness to name the emotion and identify hunger.

As I started identifying emotions, I realised that most of the time I was eating because of anxiety or frustration.

What is the one skill that helped me?


There is great healing power in awareness. Like me, many of my clients are physically and emotionally unaware. It’s not obvious to us that we are turning to food to cope, we just judge ourselves as weak and lacking willpower. For many of us, we don’t know why we are eating and there are uncomfortable feelings that have not yet been uncovered, we don’t recognise what is going on for us. We think we are deliberately sabotaging ourselves.

Understanding what we are feeling and listening to our emotions can heal our relationship with food but first we need to get in touch with our feelings. Recognising an emotion and understanding why we overeat requires awareness and takes practice. I have a very simple tool you can use to help you connect with what you might be feeling.

The tool I used to get in touch with my emotions was this question:

Am I feeling mad, sad, bad or glad?

My answer was mostly bad.

As I dug deeper with bad, I uncovered anxiety and fear of judgement, to name a few. I realised that pleasant emotions also led to me to overeat – excitement and anticipation.

Eventually I was able to expand my emotional vocabulary and label the emotions. So how does labelling emotions help to overcome emotional eating?  We are telling ourselves the truth. We own our behaviour instead of eating behind our backs and beating ourselves up.

Awareness is the first step. It could be that you become aware of anxiety or that you are worrying or stressed. When you notice something is happening you could say to yourself  in a gentle tone, “anxiety is here” or “I am stress eating.”

The nature of life is that we will all experience unpleasant feelings. Avoiding these feelings will give us some temporary relief but it won’t solve the problem. If you struggle with emotional eating, can you remove the judgement about it and start getting curious about how you are feeling?  Check in with yourself and see what it is you are needing? To offer yourself some tender words like you would to your best friend. Something like “what do you need sweetheart?” or “this is hard but we’ll take it one step at a time.”

May we find the courage to be with our emotions.


✨ I am offering a brand new workshop: How to Handle Emotional Eating. Find out more details here.

✨ Interested in working with me? Book a free 30-minute session.

“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

Karen L, Denver, USA

“I felt hopeless and helpless in my daily struggle with mindless eating for many years. Then I found Xen which is exactly what I needed! My decision to work with her helped me to finally repair my relationship with food. It's changing my life for the better, one day at a time. Now I have control over the food, instead of it having control over me, which is the way it should be. I highly recommend Xen to anyone who has a desire to overcome similar food struggles. Xen, thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Karen J, Colorado, USA

“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

Sweta Vikram, New York, USA

“Working with Xenia was amazing. She armed me with a bunch of tools to help me through difficult times. Xenia is the kind of person who really cares for helping you in the long run. Her work will forever have an impact in my life.”

Daniela Velásquez, Ottawa, Canada

“Working with Xen was a game changer for me. After working together for a few months my relationship with food radically changed. I no longer felt like a failure. I now have the tools to nourish my body with foods that feel good in my body. I don’t feel guilty about eating cake or chocolate, I also don’t overeat cake and chocolate. I no longer feel the need to exercise to compensate for my eating. I feel much more free around eating and I am more accepting of my body. Xen has a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to coaching and really supports you in the process.”

Rachel, Dublin, Ireland

“Working with Xen has been very empowering. Her approach is so refreshing from the usual. I have learned that I am in charge and that I get to choose what I put in my body and how to move my body in a way that I like! I get to make my own choices. It’s so liberating. Once you get a taste of freedom with food, there is no turning back to old ways! Thanks Xen for guiding me along the way to freedom.”

Heather B, Cork. Ireland

“This is the answer for those of you that struggle with food and all that surrounds it. Xenia said that I could make peace with food and it seemed at the time like an impossible dream. Turns out it isn’t. I recommend Xen and the mindful eating / intuitive eating approach unreservedly. If you have any questions about my experience, please get in touch. Thank you Xen. My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”

Michelle, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Xenia was a walking, living, breathing example of what can be done. I laughed and cried my way through a short course in this fascinating and invigorating programme with her, and have gained a designer tote full of coping skills that go way beyond containing kilogrammes. I feel infinitely lighter. I am doing this for me and, yes, you can do this for you too! And believe me, I’m cynical!”

Diana, Vancouver, Canada

“I don’t obsess about food like I used to. I am thinking differently about food and feeling so much more relaxed around all types of food. It’s wonderful to have pleasure and satisfaction from eating.”

Sarah, Illinois, USA

“I learned a new way of thinking about food. I have learned that food is not the enemy and that it can actually be enjoyed with no guilt.”

Sandy, London, United Kingdom

Certified by The Life Coach School Certified and Trained by The Original Intuitive Eating Pro Professional Member of The Center for Mindful Eating