Exposed: Emotional Attachment to Food

emotional attachment

Have you ever feared replacing a particular food in your eating? The resistance is likely from emotional attachment.

The dictionary defines emotional attachment meaning this way:

Emotional attachment refers to the feelings of closeness and affection that help sustain meaningful relationships over time.

However, many people use food to meet an emotional need; therefore, they resist changing their eating habits for fear of unmet needs.

If you suspect this may be an issue you are facing, here is how to confront it and begin to heal.

Emotional Attachment to Food: 2 Questions

Here are two questions to think about regarding an emotional attachment to food:

  1. What need do you believe that food is meeting in your life?
  2. Is there a better way to care for that need in a helpful and not hurtful way? 

Here is why you must consider that second point: God designed the human body to function with a particular fuel:

And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.”

Genesis 1:29

Later, He gave humanity permission to eat meat after the flood:

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”

– Genesis 9:3-4

These specific instructions are comparable to a car manufacturer telling you which type of fuel and oil your car requires.

Do you feel deprived if a car manufacturer tells you that you should put gasoline in your car, not kerosene?

Do you want to revolt because he tells you your car requires 10W30 oil and not 20W50?

Of course not. Why do you obey the manufacturer’s instructions without question?

You follow the car manufacturer’s instructions because you believe their words.

You believe the car manufacturer understands more about the car’s inner function than you do.

After all, you don’t know the engine parts, how they work together, or the physics behind the car’s operation.

Since the manufacturer understands the car’s technical aspects, you trust that he also knows which type of fuel will make the car function at its best.

So you follow his instructions without question. Logical, right?

Since the same principle applies to our cars and bodies, why do we often ignore God’s instructions about the foods we eat? Because of an emotional attachment to a particular food.

The enemy has preyed upon humankind’s emotional attachments to food since the beginning of time.

He often uses food as a vehicle to destroy us.

But God calls His people to wisdom. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says:

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

So while you can eat anything, you should be selective about your choices. The wisest thing to do is eat according to the Creator’s instructions.

If your heart is to follow God’s instructions in this area, I believe your first line of defense is to humble yourself and pray, asking for His daily help to make wise choices.

4 Signs of Unhealthy Emotional Attachment to Food

Here are four deceptive emotional attachments that people have to food and ways to handle them:

1. Food as Love: People feel they lack love in their lives, so they use food to comfort themselves.

The solution is to experience real love in the following ways:

Get excited about the work the Lord is doing within you to transform you into the image of His Son.

  • Love others. The Lord created us to live in community, which means joining with a local, fruit-bearing church to fellowship with other believers and use your Spiritual gifts to build up God’s kingdom.

2. Food as Escape: The person is experiencing emotional hurt from their past or present and uses food to numb themselves. Food becomes their emotional Novocaine.

The problem with this is that food may numb you from pain but also keeps you from experiencing joy.

The wisest thing to do is pour out your emotional pain to God and ask Him to heal you. You may take time to heal (just like a physical wound), but you will emerge stronger, healed, and whole.

You will be able to enjoy your whole life, not just settle for half a life (or less).

3. Food as Entertainment: You are bored with your life, and food has become something to do.

The solution is to connect with your purpose. The Lord created you for more than eating, right? He gave you unique talents and gifts to benefit others.

That is one of the reasons to connect with a local fellowship of believers through a church. You can discover your Spiritual gifts and use them or engage in outreach projects to meet community needs.

While entertainment has its place, you’ll end up with a meaningless life if your sole purpose is to seek amusement.

Make your life count since you only get one.

Pursue your purpose, and you’ll add passion to your life!

4. Food as Belonging: Ah, now this is one I struggled with big time. Food is a means to gather together socially, so there is pressure to eat the way other people around you eat.

If you don’t, other people may comment on it or even try to make you eat things you don’t want to. You fear standing out or rejection, so you give in to fit in.

The solution is to decide that you want to walk in wisdom in this area and follow the Creator’s instructions. You recognize that other people have the right to choose what they will or will not eat.

And so do you!

While you will not judge them, you will set boundaries regarding your health choices.

Others may try to tempt you because they feel guilty when you eat healthily.

However, others are responsible for managing their feelings, not you.

Your responsibility is to love people. But draw the line in practicing destructive behavior in a misguided attempt to make others love or accept you.

Find your value and identity in God, not in the opinions of others.

Whew! I know I’ve given you a lot to consider.

However, I believe that you will find it life-changing if you do this daily work of reviewing and resolving your emotional attachments to food!

Be Blessed with Health, Healing, and Wholeness,

Kimberly Taylor

Author of the Take Back Your Temple program

P.S. Do you struggle with overeating sugar? If so, you are not alone!

Overcoming sugar addiction was a key factor on my weight loss journey; I lost 85 pounds and dropped from a size 22 to an 8.

In our 14-day Sugar Detox Challenge online course (inside the Take Back Your Temple program), you’ll get the same success strategies and support to gain peace in your eating habits and achieve lasting weight loss.

Click here to learn more about the Take Back Your Temple program.

“Prayer for Weight Loss”

About the author 

Kimberly Taylor

Kimberly Taylor is a certified Christian life coach and has a heart to help others struggling with emotional eating and weight loss. Once 240 pounds and a size 22, she can testify of God’s goodness and healing power to overcome. She lost 85 pounds as a result of implementing techniques to overcome emotional eating and binge eating disorder.

Kim is the author of "The Take Back Your Temple Program," which teaches Christians how to take control of their weight God's way and the books "The Weight Loss Scriptures" and "The Weight Loss Prayers."

Kim has been featured in Prevention Magazine, Charisma Magazine and on CBN’s 'The 700 Club' television program.

  • Thank you, Kimberly. Your articles are always so helpful and I learn so much. This is no exception. I am working on breaking a carb-eating habit at night with God’s help. I am diabetic and have woken up from a deep sleep with my blood glucose levels too low. It is scary. So I eat 3 or 4 crackers with cheese or tuna, or a slice of toast with peanut butter on some nights before bed. The toast is what hurts me. I find it comforting to my fears but it is overkill. Even just one slice. Bleah.

    • Hi Gladys – I appreciate your feedback. One question you may want to ask yourself is, “Does the carb eating at night hijack your brain and turn into a binge?” Remember that our health habits are meant to serve US, not us serve them. So it is a legitimate choice to leave enough room in your eating plan for a small bedtime snack that helps keep your blood sugar stable but does not hijack your brain. Your goal is to create a win/win – a strategy that supports health with foods that you like. I am agreeing with you in prayer that the Lord give you wisdom in this matter!

  • I have come to a roadblock. To feel any of my emotions is overwhelming and scary, even so called “good” feelings. I binge on bags of chocolate— if it’s not in the house I go into robot mode to go to the store and buy it.
    I discovered that the problem is I don’t feel SAFE. if I feel anything except numb, I don’t feel safe.
    This is a stronger connection because growing up, one of the few times I felt safe was when my father was eating chocolate! He was like a different person.
    I just discovered this the other day that I put the two together. I know God Is supposed to be my REFUGE and make me feel safe.
    Besides memorizing scripture, how else can I make this real in my life— that I am safe in God?
    Ps. My father has been dead for decades. I think I should be over this by now

    I am terrified of my own feelings.

    • Hi Debbie – I am praying for you. May God’s perfect love cast out all fear! One of the first questions to examine is what led you to start a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? If you aren’t sure about that relationship, check this out: Knowing God Personally

      Next, before you feel safe going to God, you need to be sure you have a right view of who He is. For example, I didn’t go to God for years because I believed He was angry with me. Check that story here and how God changed my view: What is your God View

      Finally, the enemy’s trump card against mankind is fear of death. So on some level, he is making you believe you’ll die if you don’t numb your feelings. The only way to conquer that fear is to face it. Think about a child who is afraid of the Boogeyman under their bed. You can try to convince the child there is no Boogeyman with your words, but until you shine the light in the dark place where they believe the Boogeyman lives, they won’t believe you.

      So the only way you will conquer this is to pick a time when you will not buy the chocolate, but sit with your feelings instead. You are going to shine the light in the dark place. Pretend like you are investigator. You aren’t judging anything but you are gathering information. Keep a journal handy and write down any physical symptoms you are having and any thoughts that come up.

      Ask the Lord in prayer how long you should start with sitting with your feelings. Set a timer, let’s say for 30 minutes. Observe what happens with your feelings without judgement. Did you die or are you still breathing?

      If you died, well I am sorry. I will see you in Heaven 🙂 But if you survived, then the enemy is wrong. You experienced your feelings and yet you live!

      God doesn’t want you going through life numb. If you don’t feel anything, then how can you relate to anyone else’s feelings? We were meant to comfort others with the comfort we receive. So allow yourself to receive comfort from God and you will be a better friend or family member for those you love.


  • Thank you Kimberly;
    All of your articles, blogs, materials are so rich! I am feeling a little scattered because there is so much to take in. Everything so far hits me spot on. I feel like I have been thrown a lifesaver because I have wanted so much to have what you are offering. Keep being a blessing to me and I am sure so many others. Looking forward to someday posting my success story!

    Julie Olsen

  • Kimberly,

    I couldn’t sleep because I overate, an felt I needed to get up and journal. I can relate to the last post about having different food needs than others around me….it seems most of the time. The ONLY time my needs were similar was when I worked a very strict 12 step program. It was simpler to eat and get on with life then, but I had to leave that group because I couldn’t see why I still had so much anxiety and why my husband’s family gave me such a hard time about what worked with me.

    I can see that my main area of struggle is belonging. I get dirty looks from my mother in law if I bring my own food into the restaraunt of her nursing home or worse yet just don’t eat but have something to drink instead. Yet, I don’t respect my own boundaries with food as if I have a bad day with food I want to keep it simple the next day, yet my daughter and I will go out to breakfast and many times it’s not even enjoyable for me because the choices are so limited I’d rather not eat, then I watch my daughter eat and enjoy herself but she is so stuffed and can’t believe she ate all she did. I don’t want to enable her and yet to her food is love. I do love her and pray she can feel loved, but it is not easy for her as I raised her when I ate very strictly.

    I’m in a woman’s group at my church to heal past emotional hurts. I have breakfast before I go, but the women all like to eat during the 2.5 hour session. I find it distracting especially if I haven’t slept well the night before and I wound up eating some foods I wouldn’t normally eat at all, just because. I would never have done that if I were in the 12 step group. But I wouldn’t have stayed in a woman’s group that was like that either.

    i am attempting to live life without being sequestered into a group, or sequestering myself. I am an adult and am learning to act as such. Yet I struggle in part because of knowing a lot about the body, yet I need to heal and this is messy. In going back over my life, I am seeing ways that I’ve been very hurt and upset by key people in my life and handled it myself instead of going to God. I can only take care of myself and pray for others.

    I have used food to cushion me from: poor choices, or just choices, change, emotional abuse, responsibility as well. This goes deep. I’m so grateful that I can untangle this web here in TBYT. I pray today I don’t use food, instead go to God and put Him first.

  • Kimberly, thank you for your insightful posts. I have struggled with stress-induced overeating the last few years, but am discovering that it goes back to body image, teenage anorexia, hypoglycemia and hypothyroid, fear, and idolatry of food. In my teens I under-ate and was a skinny health nut who scorned others with less “self control”. As a young mother, I began eating more because my body was starved and I needed nourishment so badly for nursing and living life. This turned into emotional overeating, thinking that anytime I felt stress I must need food. The self control I thought I had was only superficial! I am not overweight but each meal is a battle for me. I do not feel I am doing much better on the outside but in my heart I am now much more aware of the problem and how to deal with the spiritual issues. Talking to my husband about these things has strengthened my marriage and my spiritual life is better because I depend so closely on God.

    I have a question about this post. You mentioned 4 emotional reasons we might overeat. These spoke to me for sure. But I am struggling with what to do about foods that my husband wants but are not the best for me. We eat fairly healthy, but I know with my digestive and thyroid issues I should not eat grains and certain other foods that he likes. He has graciously accepted a reduced amount of those foods, but I still prepare them and I sometimes eat them just because they are there and to find something else for myself means more stress. I believe stress has even more of a negative effect on my digestion than the foods I eat! I often scarf my food in the kitchen or sit down with rocks in my stomach because I’m so stressed trying not to binge.
    In order to eat in a way that would bring healing I would need to have those foods out of the house. My husband suggests lightening up my dietary rules instead of being concerned about what I eat. He has pointed out that I give food too much power in my life as though it had the ability to ruin or save me. Idolatry, plain and simple! He’s right about that, but food does have some effect.
    Basically, do you have any suggestions for this situation? How to balance cooking for my husband, cooking for my own health, and being flexible? How to avoid idolatry of food, whether healthy or unhealthy? How to treat the emotional and physical issues simultaneously?
    God bless you. You have been a great encouragement to me.

    • Hi Ashley, thank you for writing! The Lord created eating for nourishment and wants us to enjoy food. Otherwise, why would he have given us tastebuds? However, we eat must know which foods work best with our brain chemistry and which do not. We need foods that give us energy, strength, and healing to live our best life – for ourselves and our loved ones.

      You said, “I know with my digestive and thyroid issues I should not eat grains and certain other foods that he likes.”

      I believe I can relate to that because I have a wheat sensitivity. Eating wheat-based products make my sinus issues worse. Also, because of my past history with sugar addiction, I choose not to eat sugar as well.

      The way I explained that to my husband is that these foods are like allergies for me. They cause a negative reaction in my body. Because I do not want to have a reaction, I choose not to prepare and eat them.

      However, if my husband wants these things, then I don’t object to him buying or preparing them for himself. You may want to use the “allergy” example for your husband and ask him to prepare any grains that he wants so that they are not a temptation for you. In that way, you both win.

      Here is an article about an experience I had that is similar to what you described: Overcoming the Smell of Temptation.

    • I have the same issue with idolatry of sweets….My husband HATES me eating sweets…..but I eat them anyway….which causes alot of marital strife. I’m 100 pounds over weight. I weighed 141 when we started seeing each other at age 43……..I need help also.

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