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5 Imbalances in your body that lead to emotional eating

By Filipa Bellette
from Chris & Filly Functional Medicine

Are you struggling with eating all the things?! You’re an intelligent woman. You know what you “should” be eating to be healthy, but yet…out comes the cake and the ice cream and the chocolate and the chips!

Battling emotional eating, food addictions, binge-eating, starvation, feelings of shame and guilt around food choices, self/body-hatred, and OCD/anxious ‘healthy’ eating, is a constant battle for many women.

If this is you – I see you! I wanted to write this article especially for you, to give you more insight, understanding, and compassion about your beautiful self.

Emotional Eating: Not Just Psychology, But Also Physiology

Emotional eating is incredibly common. One survey showed that 83% of Australians who struggle with their weight emotionally eat. Another study showed that 27% of adults say they eat to manage stress, and 34% of those who report overeating or eating unhealthy foods state that they stress-eat out of habit.

Historically, emotional eating, food addictions, and eating disorders have sat in the realm of psychology – i.e. that eating behaviours all come back to the way you think and feel the way you were brought up, and the relationship you have with food. Historically many people have also argued that it comes back to a lack of willpower and motivation. While I 100% agree that all of these things influence eating patterns (and it’s an important factor I unravel with my clients), psychology or mindset is not the only influence.

Physiological imbalances – or body system burnout – also affect the way you eat, and sometimes in a very major way. This is something many people miss, when they are trying to create healthy eating habits. Even many therapists and coaches don’t understand the way physical imbalances sabotage your healthy eating intentions.

The Top 5 Body Imbalances I Have Seen Clinically That Cause Emotional Eating

  1. Sex Hormone Imbalances – Let’s start off with an easy one because I’m sure many women can agree that their eating habits go pear-shaped leading up to and/or during their period. Sugar cravings, carb munchies, salivating for salt and fatty and crunchy stuff. Ladies, am I right?! PMS binge-eating is not (I repeat NOT) normal. It is a sign that your sex hormones are imbalanced. Either you’re producing too much or too little oestrogen or progesterone, producing too much or too little of the sex hormones at the wrong time, or the ratio between the two is really off. Until your burned-out, the whacked-out cycle is balanced, you may lose control of your eating patterns every single month, as I recently saw with one of my clients, who was scoffing down a block of chocolate every day, a week leading up to her period. Clearing her oestrogen excess really did wonders, and now she is able to make healthy, conscious, loving food choices all through her cycle.
  2. Stress Hormone Imbalances – Hello hormones again! They really can make you feel cray-cray and out of control, if they are burned-out. Stress hormone imbalance occurs when cortisol and DHEA are depleted or out of ratio. It’s what I call ‘adrenal fatigue’. It can absolutely affect eating patterns because of the way cortisol interacts with blood sugar levels. Any time cortisol is acting dysfunctionally, it can cause a sharp rise and fall of your blood sugar levels, leading to sugar and carb cravings. People with adrenal fatigue often crave salt as well, because their body burns through minerals. And often adrenal fatigue leads to energy crashes, which can cause you to reach out to sugar and caffeine as a pick-me-up. This was definitely my case prior to restoring my adrenal function – always craving sugar, especially in times of stress or fatigue.
  3. Candida Overgrowth – Let’s chat about microbial pathogens. Candida is a fungal microbe, and is part of our normal flora, in small amounts. It is, however, opportunistic, and can quickly overgrow when given the right environment. Candida LOVES sugar, starchy carbs, gluten, and alcohol. When candida has taken over your microbiome, it literally sends signals up to your brain – “eat more sugar, eat more sugar, eat more sugar” – because it thrives on these foods. A few years back I had a client who tried so hard to eat healthy, yet by the end of the week, she couldn’t resist the call for sugar and carbs any longer, and would literally eat a week’s worth of calories in one day. We detected in her stool test that she had candida overgrowth, and within three days of treating her candida (yes three days!) she felt her brain fog lift, and she experienced for the first time in her life complete control over what she ate. It truly was amazing, and felt like a miracle to her!
  4. Dopamine Deficiency – Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is all about energy, joy, creativity, and motivation. When dopamine is low, it can absolutely destroy your motivation to stick to healthy eating goals. Low dopamine has also been associated with addictive-type tendencies (including full-blown OCD) and is something I see very often linked to food addictions. One Mumma we worked with in the past had been struggling with binge-eating/bulimia for 20+ years of her life. She thought it was just ‘her’. But when we addressed her low dopamine, her obsessive eating patterns slowly started disappearing. Life-changing!
  5. Vitamin B Deficiency (especially B6, B12 & folate) – If there was one supplement I just love to bits, it would be vitamin B’ They truly affect everything, especially mental health. I had a client who had addictive patterns run in her family, and for her, it was emotional eating when she felt stressed and anxious (which was happening very regularly). When we did her labs, she had a few imbalances going on – one thing that made a big difference to her mental health and eating patterns was restoring her vitamin B’s. Interestingly her mother also recovered from alcoholism, when restoring very deficient B’s. Imagine if her ancestors – who had struggled with addictions – had had functional medicine back then!

Join Me For a LIVE Emotional Eating Webclass

If you’ve tried to establish healthy eating patterns, but you just keep failing, there may be some serious imbalances in your body that are affecting your food choices. Ending your body burnout is a crucial step in gaining control of your eating habits, your health, your life, and essentially your happiness.

If you’d like to dive deeper into the imbalances in your body that lead to emotional eating (AND the root causes), I’d love to invite you to my LIVE webclass for Natural Medicine Week: “The ROOT CAUSE of Emotional Eating” Webclass.

I’d love you to join me live to get the most value. But I’ll also share the recording with all registrants if you can’t make the time.

Want to hear more from Filipa? Check out her video on how natural therapies can support gut health below.

More about the author

Filipa Bellette
Filipa Bellette
– Chris & Filly Functional Medicine

Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of multi award-winning health practice Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, specialising in Functional Medicine. She is also a PhD Scholar, writer & regularly featured in the media, such as, Forbes and Body+Soul.

Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burned-out clients in the past combined 20+ years. Their practice is best known for helping high-achieving parents with energy, mood and gut issues, end their body burnout…for good! They were recently awarded as Winner in the Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards 2022, Tasmanian State Winner & National Finalist for the Telstra Best of Business Awards 2022, and Highly Commended in the ATMS Natural Medicine Clinic of the Year Awards 2021.

Filipa’s own passion for helping parents, especially mums in their late 30’s & 40’s, have more energy, productivity and connection, came from her own personal experience of burnout, after juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.