Help patients overcome the fears that lead to emotional eating

Anxiety and Weight Gain

We Help patients overcome fears that lead to emotional eating

By Heather Hamilton, PhD. | ©2022Break

Fears are often the root cause of emotional eating, We help our clients address and normalize fears to be successful in reaching & sustaining their weight and wellness goals.

Fears Develop from Past Experience

Patients can overcome fears that lead to emotional eating. We give fears significance and importance by how we interpreted (thought) and processed (emotion) what we experienced at that time. For example, let’s say while were growing up we learned to be afraid of, or highly sensitive to perceived or actual rejection. It makes sense that as we mature, we might become apprehensive in situations where we feel vulnerable, and afraid of losing the affection or attention of potential partners or friends.

Defensive Strategies

If there’s a specific place we feel vulnerable but can’t avoid, we may engage in preemptive defense strategies to keep ourselves safe. These places may be the cafeteria at school or work, sporting events, a meeting held at church, or the local coffee shop – anywhere people are likely to engage us in conversation. For some us, a strategy is to wear earbuds or headphones, hold a tablet or phone in front of us, and avoid all eye contact with anyone within a hundred yards. Two hundred yards feels even better.

Fears Influence Thoughts, Personality & Behavior

So what happens when a person we’ll call Sam, starts distancing everywhere they go; not just particular places? This avoidance becomes habitual and a comfortable pattern of behavior. Given enough time and repetition, this operating mode can lead to the development of an avoidant personality style. Sam believes (and emotionally invests) in the story/narrative that people are dangerous to their well-being. In time Sam may project and believe that the world isn’t safe; that staying put is the only “safe” option.

Sam dismisses prior dreams as mere fantasy and becomes convinced in the belief that he’s fine the way he is; he doesn’t need people. Then one day, following a terrible loss, Sam wakes up with the nagging feeling that life’s passing him by. He’s feeling empty, flat, and terribly disconnected from dreams. Looking around at other people, Sam feels disappointment. They appear to be living full lives; enjoying active social lives, adventures and community participation.

This story of Sam is truly sad, but Sam (in fact anyone with fears), can take steps to have what they want. It’s only our judgement and perception that gives credence to fears and creates emptiness, or the sense of loss, failure or defeat. We can normalize fears if we recognize them as an opportunity to change what we think and what we can do. Failure is a persistent fear that people cling to. They tell themselves that they can’t try anything new because they’re convinced they’ll fail. With this self-defeating view; they will in fact, fail. We manifest our personal views and thoughts because our brain doesn’t know the difference. Our brain simply goes with what its’ always known, and our emotions respond in kind. Negative emotional responses often lead to emotional eating, cravings for comfort food and ultimately, weight gain.

Failure Presented as Opportunity

Let’s step forward and take the view that “failure” of any kind simply presents the opportunity to review what happened. With objective analysis, this review can help us determine what we want and what we can do to make lasting and positive changes. We can break down our fears and actively re-frame them into tasks.   So, when a person hates their job; it’s likely that the situation is a poor match for their interests and passion. But, they can look at what they really want, and then take steps to create change. Our fears don’t need to determine how we view ourselves; we can simply make a list of things we can do differently.

Course Text Questions & Reflection

Recognition: In what aspect(s) of your life are fears most prevalent?


At some point we have to ask ourselves, “What is anxiety is doing for me and to me?”  Consider this statement:

Anxiety is not an emotional problem.

It’s a problem of perception, thought, and projection!

Examining Perceptions for Accuracy

When we take the perspective that our feelings are a direct result of our thoughts, and we dislike the pervasive anxiety we experience, then to reduce anxiety we’re challenged to examine our thoughts. Think about this for a few minutes. Our brain does not distinguish between what we perceive (or imagine) and what may be real or accurate now. Earlier it’s written that if we don’t take charge of our brain; we’re along for the ride. Our brain is always going to default to our perceptions until we train it for success. To reduce anxiety, we must be willing to challenge Bitching Betty (Inner Critic) and give up the self-defeating cycle of fear-based beliefs.

Skill Building for Resilience

Resistance: We can start anytime by answering the following questions:


  • How am I looking at this situation? – Perception


  • How am I judging it? – Thoughts from the past?


  • Why do I think things won’t turn out well? – Projection of past experience?


  • What am I adding to what’s actually being said or indicated?


  • What fears surface?  Rejection? Failure? Abandonment? Loss?


  • What’s actually happening or needs to be done?  Present thinking


  • Am I simply being asked to consider new information or try a different technique?


  • Is my character being challenged or I am internalizing or awfulizing needlessly?
In Closing

We hope you’ve enjoyed this short article. For more insights, and examples of how the BreakThrough! program addresses mental health disorders in recovery from obesity and t2 diabetes please see


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