Today’s post is not a recipe (gasp!) but instead an insightful interview with Breanne Hull, an emotional eating coach. I want The Naked Food Life blog to add value to readers on multiple levels, so I’m excited to explore more of the mental and emotional aspects of food and cooking.
Breanne transformed her relationship with food (and her life!) by exploring the limiting beliefs and emotions beneath emotional eating, and is now living a confident and inspired life. And she’s offering others the guidance and support needed to liberate themselves from unhealthy eating habits.
She was kind enough to answer some questions for you all, and I’m sure her insight will inspire you as it did me =) So let’s get started!
Hey Breanne! Thanks for being here!
Hi Ashley! Thanks so much for having me. I have loved learning more about your work and am so excited to meet your audience and talk about feeling like a crazy person around food. Ha!
AC: I would love to know what your first food memory is. How old were you? Was it positive or negative?
BH: My first food memory is of SUGAR, specifically green Kool Aid. I remember being a toddler and my mom putting green Kool Aid in my bottle to soothe me when I was upset one day, and it totally worked. These days it’s easy to judge what parents did back in the day but those were different times. Fat was bad, but no one was really concerned about sugar. All my mom knew was that it soothed me when I was upset. And that pattern of turning to sugar to soothe myself lasted well into adulthood for me. So, at the time it was definitely positive, but it helped to set me up for some negative habits.
AC: At what point did you realize that your relationship with food was controlling you?
One time in college, I decided I wanted a wedding cake. Like, for myself. I was just hanging out and watching TV and suddenly had an overwhelming craving for wedding cake. And not just any cake… it HAD to be a wedding cake, with multiple tiers and those plastic columns. I had like a creative vision for this binge. I didn’t just want a piece of cake. I wanted an entire cake. So I went to the grocery store bakery and made up some story about my sister getting married and needing a last-minute wedding cake. And the lady behind the counter was so nice and found one for me and I took the whole giant thing home.
Then I sat down on the couch with the giant cake on the coffee table in front of me and proceeded to eat the entire top tier while watching Oprah. I was simultaneously deeply ashamed but also proud that I had only eaten the top tier instead of the whole thing. I was disgusted with myself and didn’t want any more so I threw the rest in the trash.
Less than an hour later, I craved more. So, I dug the cake out of the trash and ate the entire thing by myself as I sat there watching Oprah. At one point, Oprah was talking about “living your best life” and I wiped some icing from the corner of my mouth and looked down at the pile of crumbs in front of me and had this sick feeling in my stomach. I thought, “Wow, Breanne. This is definitely not me, living my best life.
I felt out of control, humiliated, ashamed of myself, and totally lost about what to do. This wasn’t a one time thing. I was binging like this pretty much daily.
AC: What did it take for you to seek help and empower yourself to change?
BH: In that moment I was in my early 20s and I remember making a promise to myself that by the time I hit 30, I would have the food thing figured out and under control. It’s very sad to me now, and also telling, that I thought I needed almost an entire decade to finally heal my relationship with food.
AC: Any specific “aha” moment along the way, that was transformational in your journey?
BH: At first I thought it was just about finding the right food plan. I thought if I found the best, healthiest, most scientifically-backed way of eating, that I would follow it and feel full and that my cravings would disappear. I thought all I needed was the right diet and a lot of willpower. My focus was on learning CONTROL, DISCIPLINE, and SACRIFICE. I would leave my hedonistic binging tendencies behind by making sure I never got too hungry, eating the right foods, and relying on the focus and discipline that had helped me to excel in all other areas of my life.
Spoiler alert: None of that worked long-term. What I realized is that emotional eating, overeating, and bingeing cannot be solved with control, discipline and willpower. That’s like trying to put a bandaid on a leak in the Titanic. It might help momentarily but it does nothing to solve the root issue.
What was transformational for me was finally learning that my eating issues stemmed from not feeling “full” in other areas of my life, so I was filling the void with food. I was using food to calm my stress, to add some excitement, to feel “naughty” and free and in control, to add some pleasure into an otherwise exhausting and stressful life. I was using food to numb the screams telling me that I wasn’t happy. That I couldn’t keep going the way I was going without a huge fallout. That I was on autopilot doing everything I was “supposed to do” without truly thinking about what I really wanted for my own precious, short life.
When I finally understood the root of the issue, everything turned around for me. I realized my food issues WERE NEVER ABOUT THE FOOD. That blew my mind. Concentrating on the food was getting me nowhere. But once I learned how to eat in a way that took my emotions into account, called intuitive eating, everything changed for me. I stopped counting calories and portions and macros and instead focused on listening to what my body needed and craved. The extra weight I carried melted off effortlessly, food because a source of true joy and pleasure instead of a numbing agent, and I took all the energy I used to spend obsessing about food and instead used it like jet fuel to go after my dreams. I took off on a trip across the world, got my dream job and finally knew what it was like to feel sexy and confident in my body.
AC: There are a lot of therapists and health coaches out there, but your approach is quite unique! What do you want people to know about your business?
BH: Creating a beautiful relationship with food can feel as easy and beautiful as falling in love. This idea of needing willpower and control and self-punishment to eat well is so dated and just plain old doesn’t work. When you approach your relationship with food with fun, pleasure, and a complete absence of self-judgement, things just feel FUN and EASY. There’s no new “system” outside yourself that you need to solve this. It’s about going inside yourself, figuring out your own unique needs, dreams and desires, and then creating a life for yourself that is so amazing that food just seems kinda boring in comparison. It’s about learning to devour your LIFE instead of just FOOD.
I want my clients to feel hot, confident, capable, and completely transformed in a way that will change the rest of their lives. I want them to have googley-love-heart eyes when they talk about how much they love their new relationship with food. And I want the entire process to feel pleasurable and easy. They already have everything inside them to achieve long-term success. I just hold their hands and show them the way.
AC: How has helping other emotional eaters allowed you to have a healthier relationship with food? And with yourself as a whole?
BH: After I worked through my food issues, I was running an ad agency. It was a great job and I was making tons of money and had a great team, but I noticed that I felt most lit up when I was helping my friends through their food struggles. I was spending my free time doing what I felt was my purpose in the world; teaching women how to let go of the guilt and shame and finally feel amazing around food. I went to school to become a coach and then grew my business to the point that I could do it full time.
Working with my clients is so deeply rewarding and joyful for me that it doesn’t even feel like work. I leave our sessions feeling refreshed, filled with glee, and so grateful to be a part of their transformation. The struggle that was my greatest shame is now my most fulfilling life’s work, and something I am so grateful for. It fills me up every single day.
AC: What are your thoughts on the current health and diet industry? Do you believe the excess of diet information has contributed to eating disorders? Or do you think the struggle is more psychological?
BH: I absolutely believe that the excess of diet information has contributed to eating disorders, and also that the struggle is psychological. We have the media telling us from every possible angle, “You need to look this certain way to be valued.” And everyone wants to feel valued, so of course we are going to all try to fit into that mold. And it’s just such a big lie. I could go on all day about this so I’ll just stop there.
We’re also taught that foods need to be engineered to be healthy; that food needs to be processed, cut up, preserved, packaged, and filled with chemicals. There’s no money in promoting fresh greens, organic berries, and pure water as foods that we need to feel our best, so instead we see shakes, potions, and pills that are unnecessary and dangerous.
AC: How do you see your mission and programs evolving?
BH: I would love to see women take back the conversation about their bodies. Why can’t WE decide what is beautiful? What is sexy? What is valued?
I think it’s incredibly sexy when a woman’s body has created a freaking HUMAN BEING. What is sexier than that??? I think stretch marks are sexy. I think a little post-baby tummy pooch should be worshipped. I think the full range of female body types is so beautiful and should be absolutely revered.
So I see more of a focus on these larger societal issues as my work evolves. I want to help foster leaders of this new movement and help make our collective voice heard.
AC: If someone feels stress, overwhelm, helplessness or other negative emotions surrounding food, what’s your recommended first step to shifting to a healthier mindset?
BH: Realize that there’s noting wrong with you and it’s not your fault. It’s fixable. And your relationship with food can go from being your biggest source of stress, guilt and shame to being a source of pleasure, tranquility, and beauty.
And a few fun-loving questions:
AC: Do you have pets?
BH: Yes! I have a minigoldendoodle named Muppet who looks like that crazy dog from the Muppets. His mom was a golden retriever and his dad was a very, very determined miniature poodle.
AC:What are a few of your favorite foods?
BH: Chocolate, berries, pizza, sushi
AC: What do you do to de-stress?
BH: I have a beautiful self care practice that includes my morning and evening routines that are so beautiful and nourishing that they’re my favorite part of every single day. I never feel guilty about self care. I sleep as much as my body needs. I go out into nature every single day. I journal every single day and I allow myself to feel every emotion, including sometimes rage. I think we learned at some point that anger is not becoming of a lady, and that’s just bullshit. It’s normal to get pissed sometimes, so when I feel it, I allow myself to fully feel it without trying to turn it into something else. That shift was huge for me. And I also say no a lot. If something doesn’t feel like a “hell yes!” then it’s a “hell no!”
AC: Describe yourself in a few words . . .
BH: I much prefer going DEEP over small talk. I like digging in and getting to the root of the issue, dreaming about possibilities, and then making it happen. Nature is my preferred version of church. I focus every single day on how I can best contribute to the world and give back. My life’s purpose is to help as many women as possible to completely transform their lives and relationships with food. It’s my greatest joy.