Disregulated eaters do a funny thing with emotions: they employ them whether they’re appropriate or not. That is, they get emotional about things which truly don’t necessitate affective reactions, including eating.

For example, they feel guilty about eating foods of low nutritional value or ashamed when they overeat. Are these reactions necessary when we’re feeding ourselves? “Normal” healthy eaters occasionally eat foods which won’t do much to nourish their bodies, but they don’t see this behavior as related to emotions. In fact, they have zero feelings about it. They eat, it’s done, and they move on. They also don’t make a fuss about overeating. They consume too much, give a satisfied groan, then not eat until they’re hungry again. They view these matters as biology and appetite, not of the heart.

Alternately, you may inappropriately attach emotions to eating alone or with others. If, as a child, you ate your after-school snack at home every day after school without anyone around because your parents were working, you may feel sad now eating by yourself (and use food for comfort). Or you may have not seen much of your mother except at the end of the day when she got off her second job and sat down to have a bite with you and so associate eating with someone as comforting. Now you may transfer that association into a yearning to eat with others even when you’re not hungry. However, eating with or without others doesn’t need to be an emotional experience.

The goal is to follow your appetite and let go of affective associations with eating. To be comfortable around food, you’ll want to detach from emotions about eating—shame, guilt, comfort or any other feelings. Food is for nourishment and pleasure and tossing feelings into the mix only gums up the works of a pretty natural and instinctive behavior: You feed your body when it wants food and stop when it doesn’t. Honestly, no need to feel any emotions about it at all.

In my experience, disregulated eaters too often make the most mundane activities fraught with emotion. They have intense feelings about nearly everything, often where none are necessary. Must you evaluate and experience strong emotion about everything you do? Can’t you simply overeat and not eat again until you’re hungry? Can’t you eat alone and pay attention to the “eat” and not the “alone” part? Can you feel hungry and not attach any emotional significance to it? I believe you can if you give yourself a chance to let biology and appetite do their jobs.