Sometimes you must make the choice to overcome irrational fears or stay stuck in poor mental habits that lead to dysregulated eating. I have so many clients who wonder why they continue emotional eating without realizing that it’s because their fears keep them from living their best lives. Get rid of the fears and eating healthfully is much easier.

Some clients are afraid to go out and seek a job and others fear leaving their current workplace or moving out of their field. They are afraid of rejection, being locked into work they don’t love, trying something new, failing or simply moving out of their comfort zone. Instead, they eat when they’re unhappy with work (or the lack of it) and comforting themselves with food prevents them from facing their fears.

Other clients fear making improvements in relationships. They’re uncomfortable setting boundaries with family members, co-workers or friends, and when problems arise, they head for food to avoid facing their fears. They remain unhappy, angry, hurt and upset because they don’t believe they deserve to be treated better and never will be until they take the necessary steps to ensure getting better treatment. Whenever they think about speaking to or leaving those who are causing them problems, they get scared and instead run to food to deal with their anxiety.

Yet other clients are afraid of being alone and therefore make poor choices in romantic and platonic relationships because having someone in their lives—even people who treat them poorly—seems far less scary than being on their own. Some are scared that they won’t be able to support themselves financially or take care of themselves in nurturing ways. Those who have a poor self-image or feel defective and unlovable, only feel okay when there is someone around to love and care for them, even if these people also mistreat them and make them miserable.

Here’s the bottom line: You will not become a “normal” eater until you face your fears head on. If you want a happier, more satisfying life, the fears have got to go. If the kinds of fears I describe here have been holding you back for a long while, it’s time for professional help. There’s nothing shameful about having these fears, but there’s everything wrong in not getting help to move past them. You deserve a better life and will have it when you challenge the barriers that have been holding you back. Think about what your life will be like when you are free of your irrational fears. You’re not a victim, so choose better eating and a better life.