The Connection Between Emotional Eating and Dinner Time Rules

3 tips to help you break outdated dinnertime habits

Juanita Ecker


I think most of us can quote the dinner time rules we’ve heard as children – probably because (unintentionally) they still stick with us to this day. Over the years, there have been discussions about whether or not some of these dinner time rules have contributed to problematic eating habits.

I have to say, from my experience with emotional eating clients, some dinner time rules are extremely outdated. Children under these outdated rules aren’t in control of their eating habits, which then reflect their relationship with food as adults. In this situation, most rarely have the chance to gain confidence or knowledge to have a healthy relationship with food.

Let me give you some examples of outdated dinner time rules and how you can become a rule breaker for your own good!

Outdated Rule #1: “You must finish your entire meal because there are starving people who don’t have food.”

This rule puts unnecessary shame on your shoulders – and shame is a huge contributor to problematic eating habits.

If you find yourself holding this dinnertime rule over yourself, try purchasing food that will make great leftovers the next day. This solution doesn’t have to be permanent but it’s a starting point that can help avoid any shame or guilt that can cause overeating in one sitting.

Outdated Rule #2: “You must eat your entire meal before dessert”

By listening to this rule, it takes away our ability to learn how to balance our portions. Instead of saving room for a little dessert, our cue for a sugary treat is a clean plate and a stuffed stomach. So the next few times you sit down to eat, stay in tune with your body, and learn its limits. If you’d like dessert, learn when to stop eating your meal and have an adequate portion of dessert.

Similar to the “You must finish what is on your plate even if you don’t like it” rule, the dinner time rule above also makes us believe the lie that our main course can’t be as enjoyable as dessert. We see dinner as just one stepping stone to get to the enjoyable part of the evening. We have to remember that as adults, we have the freedom to explore healthy and balanced food options that we love! Don’t force yourself to eat what you hate and beat yourself up if you don’t like certain foods- (There’s the shame and guilt that we talked about earlier). Experiment with what you do like and start there! There are plenty of delicious ways to make health-conscious meals. Start slow and build your confidence, this way, you can enjoy your meal and you won’t be disappointed if you don’t have room for dessert.

Outdated Rule #3: “You must sit at the table until you finish your plate.”

Last but not least, this rule leaves us to believe that we must eat even when we aren’t hungry (as many of the other outdated dinner time rules also encourage). As you learn to listen to your body, you can start by adjusting your portions. If you feel the need to clear your entire plate, start with a smaller plate and gauge when you begin to feel full.

If you find yourself struggling to apply these new practices, I’m also here to help. Using the emotion code technique, I have been able to help clients (like this) break problematic thinking patterns so that they can regain control of their eating habits. If you’re wondering if the Emotion Code could work for you, contact me today for a free 20-minute strategy session.