7 Ways Should Promotes Emotional Eating and What You Need to Do to Breakthrough

7 Ways Should Promotes Emotional Eating and What You Need to Do to Breakthrough

The belief that “I should…” keeps you locked away from your dreams.

It’s like a big electronic billboard flashing messages like, “I should work out today” or “I should have a salad for lunch” or “I should skip the cake.”

Should could be any message that you believe will help you break free from emotional eating, but you just can’t quite seem to make happen.

What comes next is a host of negative thoughts to keep you in line and follow the should. They usually come in quick succession, “I’m lazy” or “I’m not a nice person” or “I don’t have any willpower” and the goal is unmet.

“I should…” is a limit you set for yourself without the commitment to follow through.

The results are feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, etc, which usually lead to emotional eating to “help” you feel better. Definitely the opposite of motivating feelings that get you into a mindset of possibility. A mindset that your relationship with your body and food is moving in the direction of following your dreams and accomplishing your goals.

The alternative is a subtle difference and yet it makes all the difference and leads to becoming a Conscious Eater.

Take a moment and close your eyes, think of the word, “should.” What feelings do you notice? Are they positive or negative? Hopeful or hopeless?

Now, take another moment and think of the word, “can.” What feelings do you notice? Do you have options? Do you have several choices? The options could lead to what you don’t want or they could be neutral or they could lead to just exactly what you’re working toward.

This subtle shift from should to can allows you to be more open to new possibilities.

You might take a risk and see how it works out, you might make a decision that doesn’t really go anywhere and there’s a great possibility that with a bit of focus on “can” you will make decisions that propel you more fully into your life.

Challenging the way you talk to yourself helps you grow your relationship with yourself.

Talking to yourself as a great coach talks to their team can help you get there. You need to be clear, encouraging, challenge any doubts and hold yourself accountable to moving forward, especially when it’s difficult.

This one shift in your relationship with yourself has the potential to change the way you go after a goal.

You have what you need already, the belief that life can get better. Even if you don’t quite believe it yet, that’s OK, keep moving forward. Simply the fact that you’ve read to this point is proof that you have hope for your future. You just need some ideas to get you there.

Here are 7 ways that “should” holds you back and alternatives to keep you moving:

1. Should leads to shame

Brene Brown referred to Jungian psychology’s view of shame as the swamp land of the soul.

Shame is the feeling that there’s something wrong with you. When you make a mistake, it’s not about the mistake, it’s about the false belief that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. “I should…” leads to failing to do what you think you need to do and when you don’t do it, you’re a “bad” person. Emotionally living in the swamp.


We all do things that we need to apologize for some of the time-we’re all human and just trying to get along and mistakes are part of life. You can begin to create a more hospitable environment within yourself. Take responsibility when you need to and forgive yourself, so you can use the experience to become a better you. Self-compassion will lead you out of the shame swamp.

2. Should leads to guilt

Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action.  Audre Lorde

Guilt is the feeling of blame for having done something wrong. Sometimes we all do things that aren’t helpful or nice, things that are selfish or unkind. Guilt can hold us accountable to understanding the effect our actions have on others as well as our selves. When “should” enters the picture, we are basing the guilt on something that hasn’t taken place. It’s like feeling bad about not having the future you think you need but are somehow unable to make happen.


Kindness and choice leads to action. Can is essentially giving yourself the ability to make choices. Guilt traps you, stops you, you’re at a standstill. Choice is active, you lean forward and gain momentum for action. Choice has the ability to change you and with a bit of kindness mixed in for good measure, you’ll be able to make choices that move you forward.

3. Should limits possibilities

When you get into the mindset of feeling bad about the future the ability to think about other possibilities or  options stop. Should creates an environment where your thoughts loop around the perceived failure. Rather than looking at the situation clearly as it is and asking yourself what you can do better. Looking toward better outcomes in the future promotes growth and can get your creativity focused on new ideas for a better tomorrow.


Take a moment or an hour or a day to step back from the “I should.” Get some distance and hopefully gain a little more perspective on the situation. Feeling bad about something really doesn’t get anyone in a positive frame of mind. Spend some time in nature, get some fresh air, go for a walk. When you get your body moving, feel the wind on your cheek, the sunshine warming your skin, it’s easier to be present, think about what you really want and define your goal. The possibilities are endless.

4. Should makes your world smaller

Should closes your world in around you. Keeps you fixed on the way things have always been and this is the way they will stay. It’s like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, his expectations are limited. He expects that he will always receive less than he wants. His world is small even when his friends offer to help him, his energy is low, his expectations are low and he stays in an emotionally low state. He can’t see past his current problem.


There are problems in life. We all have them, some are of our own making and others not. What you can do is look at them as they are, consider your options and make a plan. Sometimes the process is slow and sometimes we know right away what will work. Problems will come and go it’s your actions that make the difference. Being conscious of your choices makes your world bigger and you have more options.

5. Should keeps you from what you want

Sometimes people reach back to their childhood, college days, early career, etc. and look at the events or choices and assume a direct cause and effect relationship between the past and the present when today isn’t want they want. Reviewing the past from this framework is one of the most effective ways to stay focused on the disadvantages you’ve suffered rather than focused on what you need to do to get where you want to be.


With an abundance of self-compassion and kindness you can understand the underpinnings of the choices you made/make through the lenses of your history. The danger in giving a painful past more energy is that it keeps you locked in the pain. Understand and at the same time, allow yourself to move beyond the circumstances that got you here. Kindness, compassion and love really do lead to better things.

6. Should keeps you wrapped up in a wish

When should takes away your ability to move forward, hoping and wishing would enter the picture. This is the stuff of fairy tales. Somehow, somewhere the hero will come to save the day and everything will be all better. This rarely happens, that another person will know you so well and know what you need and freely give it to you resulting in your personal fulfillment.


Hopes and wishes are essential to moving forward and they must be accompanied by doing what’s necessary to make things happen. You have to take the actions that move you forward. Without taking action, you are dreamer without a plan. Be a dreamer with a plan. That’s where you can be assured something will happen that moves you closer to what you need and want.

7. Should is an illusion of responsibility that masks fear of change

Fear of change is real, even when it’s for something much better than you currently have. Responsibility comes in many forms, but one of them is not relying on shame to mask the reality that you’re stuck. Keeping yourself focused on responsibility seems honorable. The reality is that it takes you further away from yourself, you will lose as well as those around you. Change takes courage.


Change, even when wanted is very difficult – it takes a focused effort. It’s easier to stay the same and do nothing. The price is that your soul dies a little bit every day that you’re stuck. When you tell yourself that you should do this or that, you’re trying to accept responsibility, but really, it’s just piling on more guilt. Real responsibility is to put yourself out there and take the short-term risk to get a little uncomfortable for the reward of long-term fulfillment.

Take the risk to move away from “I should” and move more fully into your life. Action can lead you to growing in the direction your life needs to grow.

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