Behavioral approach and emotional weight

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

At a time when society is gradually beginning to understand the nonsense that diets represent, it is necessary to ask the right questions: can we eat based on “calorie counting” and a balanced diet?

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

Does our diet have any meaning if it is cut off from our bodily needs but also from our desires and the pleasure of eating?

Clearly no!

If we persist in wanting to swallow kilos of calories and not food, finishing our meals with fruit and yogurt to get our quota, we risk a long battle with our weight and slipping into eating disorders.

Of course I’m not saying that balanced diet, associations, and choice of foods are not important, but rather that we should not neglect our way of eating and our relationship with food. In my opinion, in a weight loss process, learning to understand your “eating behavior” and adjusting it as well as trying to improve the way you eat represents at least 50% of the work!


Our eating behavior is influenced by many factors

Genetics, our hunger/satiety regulation system (and whether we listen to it or not), our way of eating (notably the speed at which we eat), psychological factors, notably poor management of stress and emotions but also self-image, socio-cultural factors, our environment, etc. It will therefore be necessary to positively modify our eating behavior to work on the factors that can be modified.

Precisely, if we are particularly interested in the management of stress and emotions, many people are in difficulty and have not developed a “toolbox” to learn how to manage them.

Their main emotional management tool can then focus on food. This usually manifests itself through eating foods to calm an emotional overflow or a particular emotion. Often this food is consumed almost automatically, sometimes compulsively, without being really present and without pleasure. In itself, occasionally using food to manage stress, loneliness, anxiety, fatigue… is not problematic… as long as it is not our only management tool. Who has never attacked a famous, well-known creamy ice cream to occupy a depressed evening?

to eat an ice cream

When the unpleasant emotion increases, or drags on, and our toolbox for managing stress/emotions is empty, the temptation of the fridge door can quickly become automatic.

So if one or more unpleasant emotions (stress for example) systematically generate the consumption of food, this will inevitably lead to weight gain and disruption in our body. We will perceive this attitude of compensation as essential to our management of stress/emotions. This will also have the side effect of adding guilt to the emotions perceived as negative. The risk is to accumulate “emotional” pounds.

A process of dietary rebalancing (at best) or at worst a diet will allow neither to achieve long-term weight loss. Just like a smoker who wants to quit, it is essential to develop new resources to manage stress/emotions differently. If diet control is considered as a priority with the goal of weight loss, the automatic eating response will return at the slightest opportunity. Willpower and motivation will allow you to “keep” this behavior at bay for a while, but this will only be temporary. Clearly, the first approach should not be a dietary rebalancing (when it comes to food intake guided by emotions of course!) but rather a behavioral approach.

Rather than proposing yet another food control strategy, it is therefore much more relevant to work on 3 axes

  • Question your relationship with food and your way of eating and seek to improve them! Many readings are very helpful on this theme, in particular the books of the well-known DR APFELDORFER (“Eating in peace”, “losing weight is in the head” and others).
  • Using tips to force yourself to take the time to eat and be more attentive to feelings of hunger and satiety (through hunger and satiety scale exercises) are “life projects” as we could call them which can be initiated with a dietitian and which are very enriching because we cannot learn to regulate ourselves better without starting by listening to ourselves better…
  • Working (if we can call it work) to rediscover pleasure in food (sometimes this involves making a list of popular foods and reintroducing them into the diet when they are no longer present) as well as seeking to find meaning in our diet . It is often necessary to make it more qualitative than quantitative at this time. It can also be interesting to visit more local producers to reconsider food as a whole, from seed to plate.
  • And above all, above all, seek to develop a toolbox for the stress and/or emotions that put us in difficulty (we must understand by management tool: any activity that allows us to feel better afterwards than before). This is where the combination of behavioral dietetics support and approaches such as sophrology, hypnosis, mindfulness meditation, cardiac coherence and others all have their place.

For comprehensive and truly effective care, it is therefore necessary as a person who recognizes these issues to be supported by a professional with several strings to their bow or by complementary professions. It is also essential to have a global behavioral approach to then be supplemented by advice on a balanced diet if necessary but which must be seen as complementary and not a priority (otherwise it would be counterproductive).