Eating… How Women Connect to Food

With Thanksgiving approaching next week (not joking, it’s coming!), I thought I would share some reflections on food as a woman and a therapist for women. Often, it is a sensitive topic as sub-cultures have taught us that what we eat affects much more than how we look and feel; it also affects our value and self-worth (faulty thinking but saved for another blog). Yet, if we all believe we should choose behaviors to improve our self-confidence why do we end up in relationships with food that seem more subjective, emotionally based and ever changing? Here are some thoughts I have:

Food Connects to Emotions (the old ones). I’ll be the first to share I hate Thanksgiving food. Hate it. I could tell you all the factual reasons: 1) the turkey ends up dry each and every year; 2) everything seems processed; 3) my stomach hurts afterward and so on and so forth. But, the real reasons are my emotional reasons – I don’t have fond feelings about the holiday like most folks. I didn’t get to celebrate it with family until my early 20s, and the traditions around it for me involved stress and emotional angst. I bet if that was not the case for me I’d be gobbling up that congealed, canned cranberry like the rest of you guys.

Food Connects to Control. Whether it’s restricting or binging I have learned that us women often connect our eating habits to our own feeling of personal regulation and power. Since I am not a nutritionist or dietician, I won’t delve too much beyond the basics. However, personal experience, relationships with all types of women, and many clients continue to show me that when eating habits significantly change we can take a closer look at areas of our life that feel too rigid or too chaotic. And, when we are intentional with confronting feelings of control and committing to effective change, our food can often re-regulate.

Food Connects to Comfort. One thing I love about working with women and food is the exploration of what it is that food (or the absence thereof) replaces. When we feel stress, crisis, loss, depression, trauma etc., our appetite can change for that week or that lifetime. Why is that? And how does the feeling of “filling up” or “emptying out” replace our emotional or relational needs? Our work in therapy would involve exploration and resolution on how to find comfort in ways that are gratifying, sustainable and healthy.

I share these thoughts for all women approaching the holidays – how do we feel about the abundance of delicious food this holiday season? Who or what are we reminded of? What good and bad feelings come up before and after eating? Can we temporarily increase our eating while maintaining self-love and self-respect? I wish you all a joyous and “full” Thanksgiving holiday!


“As a professional in the fitness industry I have found that doctors, dietitians, nurses and personal fitness trainers receive little to no training in mental health issues around emotional eating.  Instead, we often coach our clients in their problematic thinking patterns, using our authority to intensify feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, fear and perfectionism to improve compliance.  Women who seek out dietary help should also recognize their strong emotions coupled with eating and seek adjunct services with a competent therapist”

-Kyla Bauer, Founder of We Are Food, We Are Food Blog


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