A Special Guest Author Article ~ By Author, Dr, Kevin T Coughlin on “Eating Without Emotions.”

A Special Guest Author Article ~ By Author, Dr, Kevin T Coughlin on “Eating Without Emotions.”

Welcome Recovery Friends and Readers,

Today we have a fantastic Guest Author and Featured Article about Eating Disorder. We all know addiction is addiction no matter the type. But I find there can be different components to the behaviors and habits to each addiction, and I have not shared much about my eating habits and seeming to switch addictions. After I stopped gambling and began treatment and recovery? I too started using food as a comfort and ‘escape’ from the stress of giving up gambling and alcohol abuse. Thankfully, it did not turn into a full-blown addiction or eating disorder.

So let’s learn more about it by this wonderful article shared by my dear friend and fellow author, Rev. Kev.!


Learning to Eat Without Emotions

Man eating a Lemon
(Contributed by:  Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin Ph.D., Editor in Chief, Addicted Minds & Associates )


There is an emotional element to all food addictions. Most who suffer from eating disorders cope with overwhelming emotions of depression, guilt, and shame. They feel that they are less than, not good enough, faulty, they don’t measure up, and are ashamed of how they look and feel. Low self-esteem and a constant need for validation and love are always there. [1]

Compulsive overeating typically begins in childhood; when eating patterns are usually formed for boys and girls; although, girl’s challenges can be quite different at times. [2] Food is used as a way of blocking out painful emotions, instead of dealing with stressful situations in effective and healthy ways. Some compulsive overeaters use body fat as a protection from former sexual abuse situations, feeling that the excess fat makes them less attractive and, therefore, less likely to be abused in the future. [3]

In most cases dieting only exacerbates the condition. Dieting can lead to feelings of deprivation, further binging, continued feelings of guilt, shame, and depression. This becomes an unending cycle until the emotional reasons for bingeing can be resolved. In addition to the emotional element, there may also be a physiological addictive element. [4]

Food addiction can be similar to substance abuse and alcoholism in some ways. Fats, flour, and refined sugar become what alcohol is to the alcoholic, or heroin is to the substance abuser. When a compulsive overeater eats foods in this group, the addict sets off the phenomenon of craving. They will also experience the mental obsession of addiction, just like an alcoholic or substance abuser. [5]

The compulsive overeater can experience withdrawals when attempting to cut down on foods that trigger cravings; just like a substance abuser or alcoholic experiences withdrawals. Some individuals can have minor to severe physical problems, and self-loathing which can lead to self-abuse.

Signs of compulsive overeating can be: [6]

  • Preoccupied with food, your body, and your weight.
  • To relieve worry or stress, you compulsively overeat.
  • You never leave any food on the plate.
  • You have feelings of guilt during and after eating.
  • Eating at a rapid pace.
  • Because of shame and embarrassment, you often eat alone.
  • You can never eat just one of your favorite treats.
  • When the diet ends, the binging begins.
  • You’re aware that eating patterns are abnormal.
  • You have a history of weight fluctuations.
  • You no longer participate in activities because of embarrassment about weight.
  • Dieting has never worked out for you.
  • Continuing to binge eat, even after feeling sick.
  • Anxiety while eating.
  • Drifting off in thought or worry while eating.
  • Drastic mood swings including depression.
  • Overeating and eating way too fast..

Man Eating a Dohnut

Compulsive overeaters consume food to numb out emotions and feelings. Sugars, salts, carbs anything that boosts their serotonin norepinephrine combination in the brain and the physical act of eating distracts them from the issue that they are trying to avoid. Just like a substance abuser or an alcoholic picks up a drink or a drug to numb out their problems. [7]

A certain level of euphoria comes from thinking about food, smelling food, and eating food; thoughts and euphoria associated with food turn into an obsession. Some individuals plan their schedule around food and eating. Food addiction comes with physical, mental and emotional cravings that develop over time.

Some people will obsess about food at all hours of the day and night. They have a preoccupation with food and are often binging or dieting uncontrollably. They are dishonest about their eating habits, hide food, and eat in secret.

Food Addiction and substance abuse, and alcoholism have some similarities:

  1. Numbing feelings
  2. Stuffing feelings
  3. Escaping feelings
  4. Self-fulfilling prophecy
  5. Out of control
  6. Unresolved past issues: trauma, grief, and loss, PTSD
  7. Following cycles
  8. Simple biology says that cortisol, the stress hormone will flood into your body with stress, which makes you crave carbohydrates, sugar, and fatty foods. Food is soothing due to the chemical changes it creates in your body.
  9. Tune Out: distracts from emotional problems.
  10. Beliefs: The belief that food helps relieve pain
  11. Convenience: Vending machines, eating out, and fast food
  12. Entertainment: boredom is a challenge for people.
  13. Good Vibes: Emotional linkage to childhood.

Stress can increase levels of cortisol; excessive levels brought on by stress cause many problems in the body. One of the problems is that it creates cravings for salty and sweet foods. Often we meet with friends for social support over food, usually unhealthy food. Boredom and nervousness leads to eating when not really hungry. Bad habits that have carried over from childhood, where coping skills were not developed lead to individuals who are uncomfortable with confrontation who will often stuff emotions and eat rather than communicate. Direct communication and problem-solving skills are a challenge for many people today.

Different types of brain chemicals involved in food addictions: serotonin and endorphin are the main two; however, there are others that play key roles. Serotonin promotes relaxation, peacefulness, and a decrease in anxiety. It is mostly in the part of the brain that regulates eating, sleeping, aggression, drinking and sex. Ninety percent is located in the stomach.

Endorphins are the body’s natural morphine; they make us feel good. For some people, eating sugars, starches, or fats cause the release of endorphins which relieves discomfort. Certain endorphins also can stimulate eating. If you eat sugar, and your body releases beta-endorphin, you will want to eat more sugar. That second helping of sugar will release more beta-endorphin and stimulate more eating, and so on and on. Sugar may trigger the release of endorphins, which in turn will make eating sugar a pleasure.

In the brain, dopamine: functions as a neurotransmitter, (similar to adrenaline) a chemical released by nerve cells they, in turn, send signals to other nerve cells. There are different dopamine systems in the brain, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Many of the foods that we favor can elevate our dopamine levels just by sight.

Tips to overcome compulsive overeating? [8]

  • Keep a daily food journal.
  • Cage your stress.
  • Check yourself; are you really hungry.
  • Find support networks.
  • Don’t give in to boredom.
  • Don’t set yourself up for temptations.
  • Don’t deprive yourself.
  • Eat healthy snacks.
  • Learn from mistakes and past experiences.

How do we know when to seek help or advice from professionals, is a question many have asked: If you’ve tried self-help; however, still can’t control emotional eating, consider therapy or counseling with a mental health professional. Therapy can help you understand why you do what you do so that you can change. If you have a problem, it’s time to learn to eat without emotions.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

In what ways have you learned to effectively manage your emotions? What activities work well for you?

About the Author: Reverend Dr., Provincial Superintendent Kevin T. Coughlin PhD., is an International Certified Master Addictions Coach, specializing in Drug & Alcohol abuse addiction recovery & family recovery coach, gambling addiction, Life coaching, Christian Coaching, Case Management, Prevention & Relapse Prevention, Lama, Ethics, Spirituality, Sexual Addiction, Anger Management, Domestic Violence Advocacy, Interventionist & Life Recovery Coach, Licensed & Ordained Minister. He is Founder & the Spiritual Director of New Beginning Ministry, Inc., a residential addiction recovery program. He is an instructor at The Addictions Academy and the President and CEO of Phase II Christian Coaching, LLC.


He has been awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Counseling, Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling, and Doctorates Degrees PhD, DCC, DDVCA, DLC, DD, and is a Board Certified by DIT Seminary IN Christian counseling. He is an Associate Professor at Dayspring Christian University and a Board Member and has been approved by the Board for a year of study to be consecrated a Bishop at the Florida Conference next year.


[1]: http://www.psychologistanywhereanytime.com/addiction_psychologist/psychologist_addiction_food.htm
[2]: http://www.timberlineknolls.com/eating-disorder/binge-eating/signs-effects/
[3]: http://whyeat.net/about-disorders/compulsive-overeating/
[4]: Compulsive Overeating – Articles on compulsive overeating, including what causes binge eating disorder and how to stop it. (Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center)
[5]: Binge Eating Disorder: A New Diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (PDF) – An overview of binge eating disorder, including basic facts and symptoms. (National Eating Disorders Association)
[6]: Binge Eating Disorder – Written for teens, this article describes the symptoms, causes, effects, and treatment of binge eating disorder. (Nemours Foundation)
[7]: What is Binge Eating Disorder? – Diagnostic criteria and summary of binge eating disorder, including the signs, symptoms, and underlying causes. (SomethingFishy.org)
[8]: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047342?pg=2 Tips to get your weight-loss efforts back on track.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.


By Rev. Dr. Kevin T Coughlin, Author . . . .