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Emotional Eating Solutions: 3 Tips for High-achievers Who Overeat

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Many smart women struggle with their weight and many busy, successful professional women resort to food to cope with the stress, uncertainty, and other emotions that occur in a full, high-pressure life.

Unfortunately, for many, these battles with food become vicious cycles that look something like this:

“Fresh starts” and plans that don’t work or don’t last, followed by feelings of defeat and inadequacy, followed by overeating and a period of trying to generate motivation (again), followed by another “fresh start.”

This vicious cycle leaves women feeling bad about themselves and ineffective. It also often leads to weight gain instead of weight loss.

If you are a high-achiever—a woman who is successful in many areas of her life who finds herself stuck in this cycle—there is a way out.

Here are three tips to start breaking the yo-yo diet emotional eating cycle:

  • Let go of the belief that you are alone and the only one struggling like this. If you are caught in this cycle with food and overeating, you’re in some great company. One of the most self-defeating actions you can take is to continue to struggle alone, heaping on self-blame and even shame. Find someone to talk to. Open your eyes to the possibility of support. Ask other women what they do when they struggle. Consider investing in yourself the same way you invest in your career and your family and your home and pursuing emotional eating solutions that can help you.

  • Take control of perfectionism. You’re human and you’ll never be perfect. Perfectionism or all-or-nothing thinking is common among women who expect a lot of themselves. It can get you stuck in a pattern where making a poor choice is interpreted as “blowing it.” Women trying to lose weight fall for this all the time. Instead of continuing forward and allowing the next choice to be a better one, the tendency is to cash in all your chips and start down a road of overeating because you’re upset with yourself and you “failed.” Plan for imperfection. Train your mind to notice your progress and not just your missteps.

  • Stop relying on willpower. This is a biggie. You are a high-achiever. You probably have a lot of willpower and stick-to-it-ness in other areas of your life. You may be lost in a mindset of beating yourself up over this cycle you are stuck in. If so, you probably tell yourself things like:

  • “What’s wrong with me that I can’t get a grip on this?”
  • “This should be easy.”
  • “I’m just not trying hard enough.”
  • “This is an embarrassment and I need to stop being lazy and just take a tough line with myself.”

If you are still feeling stuck, read my first two tips again. The truth is that you’re stuck because your method isn’t effective. You’re missing something. Start with compassion for yourself for how big and deep and exhausting this struggle is. Try holding yourself in the same positive mental light that you’d hold a dear friend.

Take a deep breath and allow yourself to treat this issue as a legitimate problem. Allow yourself to respect that you are in a tough spot. Instead of blaming yourself, give yourself permission to take the situation seriously.

Now ask yourself what you need that you don’t have that could help. You may be tempted to choose some kind of judgment (“I’m lazy”), but instead, focus on identifying the outside resource or concept that could help (“I'm overloaded and I'm at a loss about how to feel better without overeating. I need some new tools.”).

I find that high-achievers who are stuck in this overeating cycle hesitate (or don’t even think to) ask for:

  • Help with finding motivation
  • Help with creating time for themselves
  • Help with accountability
  • Help developing new skills and strategies
  • Help with getting to the root of what’s triggering their overeating
  • Help. Period.

Approaching the problem with respect and allowing yourself the resources you need to be effective can make a world of difference.

Are you stuck? Are you tired of spinning your wheels and feeling like you are wasting your energy? What small change could you start making today? Leave a comment and share your thoughts

The above could have had my name on it, wonderfully written giving me much food for thought....it will begin for me by my treating myself like a dear friend. I'll be banded Decd 10th and there's a little voice that keeps whispering "what if I fail again"...my response will be "You're safe and secure and I have your back...Just try your best and rem you don't have to be perfect". wvsweetspot God Bless!

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Omg i have read this and in in tears..... I have been struggling for the past 6 month and haven't lost anything I had gain 10 pounds. I feel terrible but after reading this I have energy to start putting some energy back and finish what i started. Thanks

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I had step in and stop the over eating in only 2 days I lost 2.6 pounds I'm back on track I will not let my self go or leave the stress interfere!...... lets go ....


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Carolyn, Great job getting back on track. Our success will never be in a straight line---but rather a process. It's all about the journey and taking care of ourselves. Congrats and rem. to reward yourself for each milestone. We are bigger than the stress we feel each day. Keep on keeping on! Effie

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