3 Strategies to STOP Stress Eating

3 Strategies to 
STOP Stress Eating

WHYYYYYYY did I do it again?! 😫 

We've all been there: standing in the pantry, 1/2 a bag of chips down, not even knowing why we're there or how we ate that much. Or whatever YOUR version of mindless eating looks like.  If you stress eat, you're far from alone. It usually starts with some stressful situation or thought, we grab the food on autopilot not really even thinking about what we're doing or making a conscious choice.  Then we realize what we're doing and go down the shame/blame spiral about how horrible we are, we'll never be in control, we'll never succeed at losing weight, we suck.  Which of course creates more stress and increases the likelihood that we'll do it again.  

If you're trying to lose weight and get healthy, stress/emotional eating is a MAJOR stumbling block that will keep you stuck if it's not addressed.  And THIS is a major reason why those diet results never last - most diets only aim to control WHAT you eat, not understand WHY you're eating it.  

There's 3 main reasons why stress eating is happening:
1. it WORKS - eating literally releases calming hormones in your brain
2. you're "buffering" - a behavior performed to AVOID a difficult thought or emotion (to not deal with the tough stuff)
3. your brain needed a break - overwhelm is real, but WHY is it happening? what does your brain need a break from?

In this episode I'm going to break down 3 strategies to help you STOP emotional eating in it's tracks.  We're going to interrupt the auto-pilot behavior patterns with conscious and purposeful thoughts and actions. 
Scroll down to grab the free worksheet to help you work through these three strategies!

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Full transcription available at the bottom of this post

Show Notes: 

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Full Transcript: 
Welcome back friends to the no nonsense wellness Podcast. I'm so glad you're here because today, we're talking about something that almost every single one of us has had to deal with and might currently be dealing with stress eating and emotional eating. So grab a girlfriend, grab a pencil, you're gonna want to write this down, we're going to talk about three strategies for dealing with and overcoming stress eating and emotional eating. And at the end, I'm going to give you a link for a worksheet that I created for you just grab it for free. I'll tell you exactly how to get that. That's going to help walk you through these three strategies. All right, let's go. 

Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life in the process. Hey, I'mTara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health, find food freedom, and finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving

Okay, imagine if you will, you just got off the phone with a with your boss. And it was a really difficult conversation and you're feeling kind of stressed out. And so you go to the break room or the pantry or the refrigerator. And before you know it, you have eaten that doughnut that this morning use where you weren't going to or you're halfway down a bag of chips, and you're not really sure how that happened, or half the carton of ice cream is gone. And you thought you were only standing there for like two minutes, you lost a little bit of time. If you can relate to scenarios like that, then stress eating and emotional eating has happened to you. So sometimes people don't like the term emotional eating, and I get that. But I want you to know that when I say emotional eating what I'm talking about his eating behavior that happens. That is not because of hunger, right? Our normal eating would be I feel hungry, I eat I feel full I stop, I don't eat again until I feel hungry, right? That's what we would like to shoot for. That's what we're going for. But most of us at different times for different reasons, eat because of emotional reasons. And not because of hunger reasons. That is stress eating that is emotional eating. 

And what that really is is a buffering technique. buffering is a word that we use in coaching. And it just means that you're avoiding the thing that you need to be dealing with. And we buffer in lots of different ways. We might eat, we might drink alcohol, we might squirrel social social media, we might Netflix and like totally zone out. Like there's lots of ways that we all avoid dealing with a hard thing. But I want you to know that the result is always the same, the hard thing doesn't go away, it doesn't get dealt with. And usually we end up in some sort of shame guilt blame spiral where we can never get it right and why am I doing this again, and I can't believe I did this, I'm never going to lose weight. I'm never going to reach this goal. I'm never gonna I'm never gonna never gonna. And we get really stuck there. Because we're not dealing with the actual problem. Does that make sense? So what and I talk about emotional eating and stress eating, what I'm really wanting you to understand is that we need to increase our awareness of when we're using buffering behavior when we're eating, drinking, scrolling, whatever, to avoid the hard thing. 

Now when it comes to eating specifically, I also want you to know that this is not your fault that this is happening. I want to take some of that blame right off of your shoulders because when you eat in a stressful situation, it is actually working. That's why we do it. It calms us down and it does it on a couple different levels. But it literally chemically in your brain calms your brain when you eat especially high sugar, high salt, high fat foods, aka ice cream chips, etc. What's happening when you eat in general when you eat anything, is your body digests better when your body is calm. So when you eat your body naturally tries to calm you down so it releases hormones in your brain to try and calm you down, so that you can digest more effectively. Well, that means when we are also eating for non hunger reasons, it's still calming us down. Food almost always has a calming effect on us. So it works. That's why we keep doing it, because it works. So those hormones are being released when you eat. So you actually are feeling more peaceful and you're actually feeling more calm. 

The problem then comes after you realize what you've been doing just mindlessly, autopilot eating those chips, or that ice cream, or whatever your go to food is, the problem comes when you realize what you've done. And then you go into that shame and blame game that spiraling down. I'll never lose the weight. I'll never stick to a diet. I'm terrible at this. I'm horrible. I'm no good. I'm unworthy, right? We go, we go deep, and it gets ugly, and we're not very nice to ourselves. So the first thing I want you to know about these three strategies is they have two things in common. All three of these strategies have two things that are similar throughout. The first is that they are always to interrupt a pattern of mindlessly eating this autopilot behavior pattern for feeling something and then eating to soothe it. That's the pattern we are aiming to get in the middle of to interrupt. And the second thing is that they then interrupt the shame and blame thought spiral that happens during or after that behavior. Because again, that thought pattern is totally keeping us stuck. So all of these three strategies are aiming at getting you unstuck from the pattern of the stress eating and mindless eating and getting you unstuck from the pattern of then blaming and shaming yourself after the fact. Okay, sound good. I think that sounds really good so far. So let's get down to it. 

The first strategy that we're going to talk about, I call allow and assess. And it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. So most of the time, we don't even realize what we're doing until we're in the middle of it, or we're done with it, right? Like you go, you start putting the things in your mouth, and you don't even realize that it's happening until it's already happening. And then of course, afterwards the shame, blame spiral. Instead, we are going to train our brain to be okay, with letting it happen. I know that sounds weird, like, wait a second, you want me to just be cool with going to the pantry and binge eating chips? Yes, I do want you to be cool with that. That is the strategy, what's going to happen is you're just going to let this behavior happen, you're going to let the buffer happen. And then you're going to change your language instead of the shame spiral to, oh, I just did that again. And then get really super curious and start to assess the behavior. Okay, you're going to turn into a scientist of your own brain and get really curious about what was going on. Right before this happened, what triggered this? Instead of the shame and the blame spiral, you're going to decide to be that scientist, you're going to seek to understand what was going on for you, and why your brain felt that you needed the food in that moment. 

So here are some of the questions that you're going to ask yourself after the fact or during whatever, whenever you catch yourself, you're going to ask the questions. What triggered this? What was happening right before I grab this food? What was I thinking? What was I feeling? Where are you? Who are you with? What time is it? What food did you grab? Who are you interacting with? And what was happening just before this happened? Where were you? And what were you thinking while it was happening? What triggered you to stop? What thought triggered you to stop? What food did you choose? Why did you choose that food? And then afterwards, you're going to ask a lot of the same questions. How did you feel physically? What were your thoughts and emotions afterwards? The more you learn about this behavior for yourself, the easier it will be later to start to alter the behavior to something else. So the idea is to allow it to happen. So don't fight against it. Just let it happen. Just do your thing, do your buffer. And then as soon as you realize you have that moment of clarity of like, whoa, wait a second crap, I'm doing it again. Instead of the shame and blame, we're going to get really curious. And we're going to really lay as if you are your own therapist and your own coach. And you're going to start asking yourself a lot of questions to try and really understand the behavior. Because if you understand the behavior, then you'll understand the reason for the behavior makes sense. So this is a judgment free zone, you are not allowed to blame yourself. You are not allowed to shame spiral, you are not allowed to be mean to you. All you're doing is the same thing a therapist would do, you would lovingly ask and curiously ask yourself, What the heck just happened and why did it happen? Okay, that is strategy number one. I want you to keep it really simple and again, I created a work worksheet for you. So it takes you before during and after. and just asks you those questions and gives you a space to answer them. So if you didn't write those questions down, you can just print out the workbook or the worksheet and do it that way. So good. 

Okay, let's talk about strategy number two. And this is the check in strategy. So strategy number one was interrupting kind of at the point of the shame blame spiral afterwards, this one is going to interrupt at the beginning of the pattern. So right when you go into and start grabbing the food, into the pantry, into the break room into the refrigerator, we're going to interrupt the pattern right there this time. So stress and emotional eating, again, as usually just an automatic response, like we do it on autopilot, we don't even know or notice that we're doing it, we just do it, it happens. So what's gonna happen now with the check in strategy, is as soon as you get into the pantry, or the break room, or the fridge or wherever you go, that the food is, you're going to stop before you put one single thing in your mouth. And you're going to ask yourself, Am I hungry? And this is going to sort of snap you out of it. Just asking that one simple question before you, before you eat anything, you're going to ask the question, Am I hungry? And then you're going to pause and you're going to take a second, you're going to check in with your body, and you're going to feel inside your body body, do you actually feel hungry? Am I eating right now? Because I'm legitimately hungry, your body is going to answer you. Yes, you are hungry, grab some food, or no girl, you're not hungry, you're buffering, it's gonna give you one of those two answers. So asking that simple question, again, sort of snaps you out of the autopilot behavior, but it also creates some space for you some time for you to make a different choice. Because again, what we're doing is just very automatic, we are not thinking it through, we are not making conscious choices. We're just reacting. 

And so asking this question, am I hungry, is forcing you to stop and then creating space for you to make a different choice. So then if you ask that question, and you decide, hmm, I actually am not hungry, then you're going to go through that questionnaire, basically all those same questions that I just told you for the first strategy. So why am I standing here? Why am I standing in this pantry? Looking at this food? Why am I here? How did I get here? What was the trigger? What was going on? Who was I talking to? What was I doing? Where was I? What was I thinking? What was I feeling? Like? Really start to dive in to? Okay, how did I get from there to here? What happened? What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Because it's not going to be enough to just interrupt the pattern with the question, to really, really break the cycle of doing this of this stress eating, you have to take the extra step and try to really understand why it's happening in the first place. So I will give you a personal example of myself using this exact strategy. My scenario earlier with the tough call to the boss minus sort of similar, right, I would sit at my desk, and I'd have this list of things that I felt very overwhelmed by. And it would seem like it was too much, and I don't know where to start. And all of it seems really hard. And so I would get up and I would go to the pantry and I would grab chips or fruit snacks or like whatever random thing I could find in there. And I've just munch munch, munch. And then I'd be like, crap, I did it again. Here I am. I am not hungry. I am avoiding doing the hard thing that I don't want to do. That makes me uncomfortable. Now, your brain is really good at trying to protect you from feeling uncomfortable. So your brain is really diverting you. Right? The thing that just made you uncomfortable, the thought that made you uncomfortable, the task, thinking about the task that made you uncomfortable, whatever it was that just stressed you out your brains like No, no, no, we don't want stress, go eat food, it'll make you feel better, right? Your brain really is trying to protect you. It really is on your side. It's trying to keep you safe, it doesn't want you to feel stressed out. So it wants you to go eat the food and feel calm. We like calm. So don't blame yourself. This is like just biology man. Like this is how you were made and it was to keep you safe. Unfortunately, with the availability of food right at our fingertips, it's sort of a little bit turned into a detriment for us. So again, strategy to before you stick the food in your mouth, you're going to interrupt that pattern by asking, am I hungry? And then you're going to check in with your body and decide truly Are you hungry or not? And then if you're not hungry, you're going to answer those questions. What the heck am I doing here? What was just going on? Why am I here? Okay. 

And then the third strategy is called the nourishment plan. And so what you're gonna do is create something called a nourishment plan. So, you're gonna make a list of the things that you can do instead of eating that might nourish You know, one of the things I talk about a lot is nutrition. But I think of nutrition as what feeds you, as what nourishes you. And there's lots of things that are not food that are very nourishing to you. So I want you to create a list of those things, you're going to make that list, and you're going to keep it in the pantry or the fridge or on your computer, or wherever it is that your stress out moment is usually happening, or where the eating behavior is usually happening. And you're going to remind yourself of these things. So you're still going to allow the buffering behavior, right, so I'm still going to do something that is avoiding the hard thing. But I'm going to allow for something that is more productive. So let me give you some examples that you could put on your nourish list. So instead of eating, when I feel stressed out, here's the things I could do, I could drink a glass of water, I could pet the dog, I could go outside, I could go for a walk, I could do some stretches, I could read my book, I could even fold some laundry, right, you get the idea, you're gonna put things on the list that are still allowing you to buffer, okay, you're still still allowing that behavior, you're still allowing yourself a little bit to avoid the tough thing. But you're allowing yourself to do it in a way that is more productive and will not lead to that shame. Blame spiral. Right? So imagine yourself again, sitting at the desk, you get off the difficult call, you get up you want to read, you don't want to think about it, you're stressed out, you got go to the pantry, and you see the list. And it's like, Hey, girl, instead of putting that food in your face, why don't you go take a walk? And you're like, yeah, yeah, that's probably a better idea. And you go take a walk, and you feel better. Maybe on your walk, you work through the stress, maybe you don't, either way is okay, you're still allowing that buffering to happen, but you're allowing it to happen in a way that's more productive and healthy and keeps you on track for your goals and doesn't result in the blame spiral, the blame and shame spiral. 

And it also is going to allow some space just like strategy to for you to really assess what's going on. So maybe while you're on that walk or folding that laundry or thinking about like, Okay, why did I just feel like I needed to buffer? Why did I just feel like I needed to get up from my desk and get away. Maybe it's not that you are stressed out and needed to stress eat, maybe it's just that your brain legitimately needed a break. Like, imagine this, you just, sometimes we do it because there's something very difficult going on that we're avoiding deal with dealing with. But sometimes it's because our brain is just overwhelmed. It's stressed out, it's thinking about too many things. And there's too many things on the list, that call just put me over the edge. It's not because there's something going on, that I'm not dealing with emotionally, it's just because I'm just legit overwhelmed, like my brain honestly just needs a break. So your buffering behavior might just be that, it might just be that your brain just needed a dang break. And so this strategy is a really good way to give your brain a break that is not in the way of eating. Okay, you get the idea. And again, you can take some time to assess while you're doing that other thing. Did my brain just need a break? Or is there something deeper going on that I'm not dealing with? Ask yourself those questions. And isn't that more useful? Anyways, if you can just decide like, Okay, I'm not, there's not some deep seated emotional issue that I'm having right now that I'm not dealing with. Maybe my brain just was fried. And it just was overwhelmed. And I needed a break. And I needed a break that didn't involve food. And I can do that I'm capable of that. And this is great, this is okay. Or maybe there is something going on that you're not dealing with, maybe there are some stressful situations that you are avoiding difficult conversations around. So again, this whole everything that we're doing here, these three strategies are allowing you some time and some space to really figure those things out, to ask yourself questions to get curious. And to really start to understand your behavior. The only way that you can do that is if you interrupt the pattern, okay, you have to break the cycle, you have to break the autopilot. 

So these are three strategies to help you do exactly that. Break the autopilot behavior, change gears, snap yourself out of it, and give yourself some space to really think it through space to make different choices, space to really start to understand what's going on for you. Again, I made a worksheet for you to just help you work through these things. So it's basically all the questions that I just asked you to ask yourself on a before event during and after. And so if you want to print that out, go to Tara Hit the podcast link on the top and hit this podcast and the link for downloading this worksheet will be right there for you. Or wherever you listen to this podcast. Just scroll on down to the show notes and there is a link that will say show notes and a transcript and worksheet and you just click that it'll take you to the website and you can print it off from there. Easy peasy. Okay, I

hope that was really helpful. Friends, I hope you gave I gave you a lot of food for thought, I hope I gave you some really just usable strategies that you could put into place right now today to help you through this situation. If you have any questions, or if you want some further advice, or you want to help help work through some of this stuff. Hop into the Facebook community, it's free, it's there for you. And you can contact me there and ask all your questions and ask the ladies, but I'd love to know if this worked for you. So send me a message there or pop it on your stories and tag me and let me know that you tried it. I would love to know. So until we talk again, my friends be well.

Hey, friends, thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world to me and it helps other people find the show. And I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm a@TaraFaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there.

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