by Sona DeLurgio, PsyD, LMFT

Enjoying that brownie – YES! Savoring the creamy mac n’ cheese – YES! Delighting in the juicy

peach – YES!

We do enjoy food. We’re supposed to, it’s one of the pleasures of life.

Yet sometimes our eating doesn’t bring pleasure but becomes more of a villain. You might fear

you enjoy food too much, indulge too much, or just feel out of control with your eating. Then

comes the vicious cycle of guilt which pulls you right into emotional eating.

This is not fun anymore. This is painful and exhausting!

Digging deep to learn why you feel like food controls your life

You may have been battling food and body image issues for years. And if you’ve felt caught in

this battle for too long, please know there is a way through and out of it….

Get to know your true hungers, desires and longings.

So, you may notice this doesn’t sound like a plan to change your behaviors. It’s a plan to know

yourself . I say this many times, but it’s worth repeating:

Self-awareness is always the most valuable tool you have.

If your eating feels out of control to you, it could be a sign that there is something you are

avoiding feeling, experiencing or doing. You may use eating or starving to soothe painful and

difficult emotions, and play out your deep needs for connection. By getting to know what

underlies emotional eating, you can open up new ways to take care of yourself and heal the

hunger within.

Early childhood roots to emotional eating

In taking a look at your life experiences and relationships, you will notice certain patterns.

– Did you learn and come to expect that your feelings or needs were not significant or

valued enough to warrant a response from a loved one?

– Was your experience attended to and recognized in your life?

Giving yourself some time to reflect on these questions, journal about your experiences, and

talk to trusted others can begin a process of uncovering and understanding what underlies your

difficulty in allowing a particular feeling or need.

Once you get to know there are deep needs, you can start to really get to know them. And,

once you know them, you can work towards ways of meeting those needs directly rather than

keeping them hidden by emotional eating (as well as other self-sabotaging behaviors that keep

feelings and needs at bay).

Exploring Your own True Hungers, Desires & Longings when eating feels out of control

Here are some questions to help you explore what could lie deep beneath your emotional

eating and other self-sabotaging behaviors.

What am I hungry for?

This goes beyond the type of food you are craving. This is more about an experience you

deeply need. Think about something you are longing to experience but are missing. Possibly

wishing for more real connection with others, wanting to be seen and known but deathly afraid

of that, wanting to be sure you matter, wishing you could just stop depending fully on yourself

and start allowing others to care for you.

These are just a few possibilities which may resonate with you. They do for many of my clients.

But keep asking yourself because there are likely different and unique experiences you are

deeply needing.

Who do I need?

Has someone been just out of your reach and you are really hungry for connection? Either

because they have pulled away or because you can’t fully let them in? Ask and honestly answer

this for yourself.

Who am I waiting for?

This question is about tapping into what is old and long-held for you. Often people longed for a

certain kind of relationship with a parent (or someone significant in their lives) but that longing

was left unmet. A parent (or other) may have disappointed and never been that person you

wished. Sometimes, this sticks with you and you unconsciously are “waiting” for that person to

come around and be able to connect with you in that way you’ve always wished. This kind of

waiting can leave you stuck in a lot of repeated disappointments and hurt. Know this deep

longing because it has its own path of healing.

Who am I?

You may feel like you are a bit lost in having a true sense of who you truly are. You know your

roles in life, and the tasks you do, but to truly know who you are leaves you feeling empty and


What am I afraid of?

This question explores the deep fears that come with being you. Typically, these fears are

about lack of safety or security, not being loved, being alone, not mattering, etc. Your answers

here will be very personal and unique to you. Once you can know your fears, you can really

make a solid plan to know what you need and how to meet those needs.

Am I OK having an appetite (for life, love, sex, connections, etc)?

This may sound like a strange question, but sometimes you may really struggle with being ok to

“want” or “need.” Do you feel you can comfortably and knowingly have cravings and appetites

for pleasures? Do you feel like you are deserving of these needs? Can you allow yourself to

“feed” these appetites?

Once you have worked through these exploring questions and have gotten some clarity, you

are freer to find new and healthy ways to take care of yourself and break out of the vicious

cycle of emotional eating.

And when you have gotten to know your true hungers, desires, and longings, you can

wholeheartedly take on the amazing things that come when you know you are being fully,

deeply, and genuinely you .

And if you would like some support and guidance to dig deep as you’re exploring these

questions for yourself, please give me a call. I’d be glad to help.

Sona DeLurgio, Psy.D, LMFT is a Psychoanalyst and Marriage & Family Therapist in Westlake

Village, CA. She loves helping people who have gotten lost in their struggles with food, body,

relationships, or trauma to find themselves and discover their freedom to live a true, authentic,

and connected life. She can be reached at (626) 836-2023. Or you can learn more at