Ep #12: Processing Negative Emotions Without Comfort Food

Before we jump into the main part of this episode, I’ll dive into what I eat and how to get healthy fats into your diet. A few weeks ago, I received a listener question about the science behind overcoming your weight set point. That was a great episode full of helpful information you’ll want to check out!

Then we’re going to talk about the emotions involved with traumatic life events and how they impact your diet. Feeling afraid and sad during overwhelming events is normal. You can feel isolated and lonely for long periods of time, and learning to process those feelings in a healthy way is essential. It’s not always something that we take the time to do properly.

I’d never experienced real grief before my daughter died. Without being taught how to feel your emotions, healing can be buffered by turning to comfort food as an escape. Stress in our life or tragic events can produce negative emotions, so we’ll talk about how to address those natural reactions in a way that doesn’t lead to overeating.


Listen To The Episode Here:


In Today’s Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • Ideas for quick, easy meals full of healthy fats (for both omnivorous and vegetarian diets).
  • How the emotions of losing my daughter, Vivienne, seven years ago impacted the way I treated myself and my body.
  • Practical ways to allow yourself to process grief.
  • Why we’re supposed to have negative and painful emotions, rather than suppress them.
  • What a feeling is, and how to embrace them without turning to comfort food.

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Showing 24 comments
  • Gretchen

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter. I have a daughter named Vivian (spelled differently than your Vivienne) and even though you focused on how losing Vivienne made you who you are today I still cried thinking of the enormity of your loss.

    Thank you for your podcast. I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot. I look forward to listening in the car every week.

    This week some of my favorite things you said were the parts about accepting/normalizing negative emotions (versus trying to escape or drown them – loved the pushing the ball under water story) and also about carrying around backpacks of emotion.

    Thank you!

    • Katrina

      You’re so welcome Gretchen! Give your Vivian a big hug for me. <3

  • Mariam

    Wow. What an episode. Thank you for sharing your story about Vivian. Cried all the way home.

    Question. It’s a pretty basic one and it’s been what you’ve been talking about all along…but I am having a very hard time with intense cravings. I’m doing 18 hour fasts (from 8pm to noon) 5 days a week plus struggling with low carb. I feel like I’m suffering at the end. Come time to eat, I am ravenous and want to eat carbs asap but I’ve been taking sticking to what I pack for lunch which is no-carb followed by Whole milk yogurt later in afternoon. When I get home I feel like I need to eat carbs or in going to lose it. I keep low carb foods stocked in the house but when I feel like this I don’t really want those foods – probably a sign I’m not really hungry. Any quick tips for distracting myself? I try water and walking but it doesn’t seem to pass. Thanks!

    • Katrina

      Aww, thanks for saying that Mariam. <3

      A couple questions for you - how long have you been low carb? I personally don't eat low carb because I just don't feel great on it (plus I'm vegetarian and low carb is hard if you don't eat meat!), but lots of people do feel great. I definitely ease my clients into fasting and dietary changes rather than changing lots of things all at once, mostly to avoid what it sounds like you're experiencing. I think I would pick one or the other to focus on. Either eat low carb but just 3 meals a day and no snacks, or let yourself have some carbs (through starchy veggies, fruit, and/or whole grains - no flour or sugar) accompanied by plenty of fat and do the 18 hr fasts. Then see how you feel and what your results are. Then tweak things as necessary. Keep me updated! 🙂

  • DD

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story on your most recent podcast. My heart ached for you but it was so inspiring. I have an unrelated question regarding ‘cheat’ meals and treats. Are these always unacceptable? If we plan to have a meal in which we let ourselve choose whatever we want simply for pleasure or to be social/try something new (special occasion, vacation dinner, new menu at fancy restaurant, etc), can this fit in to our plan of intentional eating or is it always a bad idea? I find I need these days every now and then to feel like a regular unrestricted human if that makes sense.

    • Katrina

      Totally makes sense DD! I prefer to call these “joy eats” because we never want to cheat on ourselves or anyone/thing else. Cheating breaks down your integrity. Joy eats are planned at least 24 hours in advance and are for one food. When you’re actively losing weight, you get one joy eat per week. The purpose of this is to make decisions from your rational, thinking brain and not out of desire or urges. So for instance, if you wanted dessert, you’d plan to eat an entree that was on your plan and pick out whichever dessert looked best. And then you’d be very mindful about stopping eating it when it wasn’t tasting that good anymore. I’ll definitely plan to do a podcast about this topic soon where I’ll give you more in depth information!

  • andrea

    Beautiful tribute to Vivienne. You are so brave and courageous. So proud of you for the work that you have done and continue to do to help others in so many ways. Happy Birthday!!!!

    • Katrina

      Thank you and love you!!! <3

  • Sue

    Katrina, where do I begin? First off, thank you for sharing your personal story with your listeners. What an incredible tribute to Vivienne. She made you who you are today.And I appreciated your message: It happened exactly as it was supposed to happen, because it did. Although I have never lost a child, my husband and I were unable to have children. It is an interesting kind of loss. Although there was not one defining moment of loss, at many points my heart felt shattered by the loss of what we would never have. On an up-note, we adopted a child (a 14-year old!!) which has been an incredible blessing in our life.

    Thank you for the gift of your podcast!! I have struggled with my weight for years and your message has been an awakening. I have tried so many diets and have known all along that the diets were not the problem…in fact, I think they all might have worked. It was me that was sabotaging my efforts. Thanks to you I now have an internal thought process ( I am in the early stages of developing this “muscle”) that is leading me to positive results. What I have learned from you is allowing me to put the breaks on my limbic system and recognize emotional reactivity. You are teaching me to change my thoughts. I love also your evidenced-based information.

    Thank you, thank you. You have found your calling, Katrina! I look forward to your next podcast. With a teenaged girl in the house my primitive brain is on overdrive! 😀

    • Katrina

      Thanks so much for you message Sue!

      And I’m so glad the podcast is helping you. It sounds like you are putting forth the massive action required to see lasting change. You should be really proud of yourself for that!

      Sending you so much love!!! <3

  • Emilie

    Loved this episode, thank you for your work. Would you care to share the name of the artisanal bean company that you like? The beans and rice sound so yummy, and I would love to know how you go about creating that meal in the Instant Pot.

    • Katrina

      Of course Emilie! It’s called Rancho Gordo. http://www.ranchogordo.com I actually always pre-soak dried beans overnight in a brine. The link to that recipe is here: Soaking beans in a brine. It makes them taste so amazing, in my opinion, and is super quick and easy. I usually either reference an Instant Pot facebook group I’m in for cooking times or use the table in Jill Nussinow’s book “The New Fast Food.” Hope that helps. And while you’re on Rancho Gordo’s website, get a bag of their popcorn for a joy eat every now and then. It’s unbelievably amazing!

  • LNO

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and I am so sorry for your loss. I of course was in tears but was amazed by your ability to calmly share. You obviously have done some hard work. I have read your blog post on this topic and it has been occupying my brain a lot lately. How we interpret our negative thoughts/feelings is so crucial to our well being; and it is a universal struggle in our human experience. Forgive me for diving deep for a moment but I have to ask some more questions. The backpack metaphor is interesting. My question though, is what about when there are too many negative thoughts/feeling? Think about children (or adults) with trauma or repetitive loss. Does the backpack just get heavier and heavier? Does it slow you down? Do you expend all your energy dragging it around so you are unable to do much else? Or what if there is one emotion so great and heavy that the bearer is pinned down by the backpack, effectively paralyzed? I also have an image of adults walking through life, particularly doctors, accumulating sorrow after sorrow (bad cases, patients lost), gradually becoming slowed and bent by the backpack. What can we do to help ourselves and others in these situations? Do you think there is a way to lighten our burdens or unpack our bags more actively? I may be pushing the metaphor but am curious as to your thoughts.

    • Katrina

      This a great question! The first thing to remember is that all of our emotions are created by our thoughts. Always.

      There are times when we want to feel sad. We don’t want to feel better right away. Grief is one of those times. It feels right to feel sad about someone close to us dying. That’s when the backpack analogy is helpful.

      When you write that you envision doctors accumulating sorrow after sorrow, you assume that there’s no other way to think about it. For instance, you can have a bad case where you do feel sad or embarrassed or humiliated for a while (the backpack). But then it will likely serve you to work through your thoughts about it if the sorrow is lingering longer than you think it should. How can you learn from this experience? How can you take this experience and improve the care you provide? How can this experience make you a better doctor?

      If we continually beat ourselves up about something like a bad case, thinking that those negative emotions will somehow help us to not let it happen again, we are only punishing ourselves and creating that long-term sorrow. It might seem like the right thing to do, to hang on to the sorrow. But if you find the thoughts creating the sorrow and look at the actions and results that the sorrow creates, it won’t be something that you want or that serves you.

      So working through situations like these and telling ourselves the story of what happened in a way that serves us is the way to not have a massively heavy backpack all of the time. Does that make sense?

  • HSB

    Great episode, I’m glad you shared your grief process. My patients always apologize for crying in my office and I try to tell them that it’s OK and it’s a part of their grieving and/or healing process and that I’m supportive of them; that’s why they are seeing me. Your thoughts on grief are going to be helpful for me to help my patients more so thank you. I don’t have a question about grief though, just food! Since you spoke about what you eat in this episode, I figured I would ask here. I need tips on breakfast. I’m a granola bar in the car kinda gal, any quick ideas of a breakfast bar option that would fit on plan? They all seem to contain sugar. Artificial sweeteners give me headaches if I eat regularly. I keep getting stuff on Facebook feed about Daily Harvest smoothies and oatmeal. Any thoughts on this option? I don’t want to make eggs every morning….

    • Katrina

      Hi! I’d eventually work toward just fasting through breakfast (you can have a little straight fat like heavy whipping cream in your coffee) and then just eating two meals a day. In the meantime, if you feel like you really need to eat breakfast, focus on eating fat with a little bit of carbs and/or protein. Hard boiled eggs and cheese or bacon. Apple or banana with peanut butter or cheese. If you do oatmeal, do rolled oats or steel-cut and add cream/butter/coconut oil/nuts to add fat. I find I can only tolerate plain unsweetened oatmeal if it has a lot of cinnamon added to it. But try just coffee and cream or tea and cream and make your first real meal lunch and see how you do!

  • VSS

    Thank you for sharing your story of your loss and helping so many of us along the way. Your podcasts have been helping me tremendously dissecting the lifestyle and decisions piece by piece. I am at a goal weight now and working on my habit of spending related to negative emotions and I can not thank you more.
    What would be your recommendation for an ongoing work on curtailing shopping habits? Do you suggest any form of counseling? Sometimes I fail to determine the source of negative feeling. I am not in debt of any kind. I do want to feel more in control though. Thank you.

    • Katrina

      Hi! Great question. The same work I talk about will work for overspending as well. It sounds like you use shopping to buffer or neutralize negative emotions instead of food. So before you start spending, do thought downloads and models to determine what your thoughts and feelings are that are driving you to overspend. Practice feeling the feelings that you want to escape from instead of buffering or neutralizing them with spending. I can’t offer a recommendation for any form of counseling necessarily, but this coaching work will definitely be helpful for you. <3

  • VSS

    Thank you so much, I think more I read and listen, more it makes sense. Again, my heartfelt appreciation on great work you are doing!

  • Sarah

    Katrina, thanks for sharing your story. I’m an April Fool baby myself, and know that I will forever think of little Vivienne whenever people tease me about my 4/1 birthday.

    I’m curious about any ideas on integrating eating plan with feeding kids. My kids are 9 and 19, both very active and extremely thin. They are good eaters but just worried about reducing the caloric load of family meals.

    • Katrina

      Hi Sarah! That’s so sweet of you – thank you so much. <3 For your kids, I'd recommend tons and tons of fat! They definitely need lots of calories. They just don't need a large majority of those calories coming from flour and sugar. Fatty dips and dressings, guac and avocado, full-fat dairy, nuts and nut butters, and lots butter and olive oil - YUM! Otherwise, I talk a little more specifically about food ideas in today's podcast episode - number 21. Hope this helps!

  • Ashley Slayton

    Hi Katrina,
    I just wanted to tell you how truly inspiring you are and that you are such an amazing person! My friend just told me about your podcast a few days ago and I have already listened to 12 episodes! Your kindness comes through in each episode. You are one of a kind and I appreciate you so much! Thank you for doing the work that you do!

  • Steve Malone

    Hello Katrina:
    Thank you for providing an inspiring podcast. I am a school superintendent with a Ph.D. in education. However, my daughter is an M.D., so I use that as justification to listen to your great advice! My older brother was stillborn 59 years ago. Until I heard this episode, I didn’t realize what my mom must have gone through so many years ago and without the mental health support that is available today.. I admire the way you have taken a tragedy and used it to teach others to process their emotions in a healthy way. I am very sorry that you lost Vivienne.
    Sincerely,
    Steve

  • Mary Kate Moring

    I am new to the podcast and am loving it. You are so talented. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story about Vivian.

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