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Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

Order the Chocolate Cake First?

Have you ever felt a pull to got to a particular restaurant, mainly because you wanted to eat a dessert that restaurant serves?  I have. All day long I’d think, “I really want that chocolate cake”.

Then, I wasn’t really honest with myself. I’d order and eat a whole meal, the whole time focused on that dessert that I’d get to have after the bread, and the salad, and the main course. Then, when the dishes were being cleared and the waiter would ask if anyone would like to see the dessert menu, I’d casually say, “Sure, I’ll take a look”, all the time knowing I was just a few minutes away from my coveted dessert….the one I had been thinking about all day long as a distraction from my life.

Here’s what I know today. If I have a hankering for a piece of chocolate cake, and acting on that desire is in line with healthy living for me today, then I should get a piece of chocolate cake. Because if I don’t address that desire, it’s a set up for a real binge. On the other hand, if I find myself thinking about chocolate cake because my underlying motivation is distraction from other things going on in my life; some stressor, some feeling or situation I’d rather avoid, then it’s in my best interest to get mindful, recognize without judgment why I’m focused on chocolate cake, and then figure out how to be more emotionally connected and effective in my life.

With either scenario…this question is for anyone who struggles with emotional eating or not. On those occasions when you REALLY want chocolate cake, what do you think would happen to the overall amount of food you consume at such a meal if you ordered and ate the chocolate cake first, since that’s what you really want? Then, after eating the cake, checked in to see if you want to order a whole meal?

Hmmm… honestly, I’ve not yet had the courage to do this in a restaurant when out with friends…I’m still a bit too self conscious. But I’m working toward it. What do you think it would be like to try that, just as an experiment?


Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com


  1. I like the idea – especially with the parameters you put around it – checking in with yourself. I love cheese cake – I’ve ordered a cup of soup so I would have room for the cheese cake, however haven’t ordered it first :).

  2. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Coach; A Weigh Out says:

    Sounds like what you did was mindful and healthy! You checked in, assessed your level of hunger and your appetite first. Let us know if you ever try it in reverse.:-)

  3. My elderly mother lives in a retirement community where the average age is probably 85. One day when I was having lunch wit her all the ladies at the table started to whisper to each other. Apparently one of the men at another table had ordered his dessert first. Clearly this action was inapproriate to them. When I asked how old the man was someone told me 96. I said, ‘At 96 isn’t e old enough to know what he wants?!’

  4. @ Rachel: great point! somewhere in there is a discussion topic on how social norms we learn from a very young age affect us throughout our lives. 🙂

    @ Ellen: The hardest part of that for me would be getting honest about my motivation…I’m still working on that. But I love the idea of ordering what you really want first, whatever that may be. For me, that would be easier if I was dining alone, rather than with friends – less pressure to conform. Plus, without conversation at the table to distract me, I’d likely eat less. Either way, it would be a big challenge for me to leave any leftovers at the restaurant…I would want to take the rest of the cake/cheesecake home “just in case” of a future craving. 🙂

  5. Ellen Shuman says:

    Great topic for discussion; effect of social norms on our eating patterns!

    What do you think would happen if you chose not to take the leftovers home?

  6. missy.sippi says:

    …Speaking of taking leftovers home or not… Part of my hardship in restaurants is portion size. I have recently realized that it is ok to leave food on the plate but I hate the thought of it going to waste. If I take it home, I will inevitable eat it within a few hours even if I’m not hungry. The solution I have come up with is to stop by skid row and to give it to a homeless person. I feel better 1. because I didn’t overeat and 2. because I helped feed someone who really needed the food.

  7. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Coach; A Weigh Out says:

    I love your solution! What a wonderful thing to do! Sharing, giving, fills you up in the best possible way…

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