You may already know that the most common diet challenge is ‘Emotional / Stress Eating”. According to a study by Precision Nutrition, a coaching company with over 100,000 clients, this was at the top of the list.
Source: Precision Nutrition
I’d say it’s number one because let’s face it, we live in a stressful world. It was difficult enough to manage all of life’s daily duties before COVID, but since this pandemic hit, we’re all dealing with much more stress to do the same things. That’s because no matter what your life was pre-COVID, your life has now changed. These changes have disrupted routines that may have been with you, your entire life, and now they’re gone. Even everyday routines, like getting dressed and going to school or work, have changed for so many of us. These changes raise the levels of stress, which can directly translate to an increase in a coping mechanism we call emotional eating.
Emotional eating is not a clinical term. It’s a term we use to describe the phenomenon of eating, or turning to food when a person is not actually hungry. The choice becomes more of a coping mechanism to the stress, then a choice you make to satisfy hunger.
Four Takeaways on Emotional Eating
1- During times of high stress, it’s perfectly normal for a person to turn to food as a coping mechanism.
2- Emotional eating is not destructive, as long it’s not you’re only coping mechanism
3- People who have overcome eating disorders may find themselves relapsing during this time
4- It’s important to practice a variety of coping mechanisms as part of a healthy stress management system.
Signs you may be an Emotional Eater:
1. Obsessing over food which prevents you from doing other things or cravings that consume your thoughts and don’t allow you to focus on much else
2. Eating an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time and a feeling that you don’t have control over it
3. You are skipping meals
4. You are throwing up and/or using laxatives
5. You are exercising excessively to compensate for over-eating
How to better manage and control stress eating:
1. Acceptance and Self-Compassion. The difference between self-esteem or confidence and self-compassion is that instead of a way of thinking about yourself, it is a way of being or a way of treating yourself. To the point that you are standing beside yourself, with your arm over your shoulder and literally being your own best friend. This approach means, this is not the time for ‘tough-love’, this is the time to understand that you are imperfect, in an imperfect world and that’s OK.
2. Be mindful – Take time to practice consciousness of the situation. You don’t want to pretend nothing is wrong, or try to avoid the feeling and emotion and jump right to the cure or solution. This is just too big for that. Be mindful of how you feel, recognize that unless you are 102 years old, you have never been through anything like this before and that it’s going to take some time to adjust, and emerge even better than you were before.
3. Learn new coping skills:
a. Exercise – again excessive exercise is not the goal, but rather a consistent exercise from 30-45 minutes each day. Your goal should be to work up a sweat, build a little muscle and get that heart rate up. It will help reduce stress, get rid of toxins and build feel-good endorphins that can help lift your mood.
b. Self-care – things like a warm bath, a massage, essential oils, and the like that will force you to slow down, and simply relax. If you make time for it, you’ll have time for it, it’s that simple. Make yourself a priority, remember you can’t pour from an empty cup.
c. Positive self-talk. In addition to self-compassion, it’s always good to keep an attitude of gratitude and remind yourself of the positive in your life. We are all dealing with this same crisis, yet some people can keep a good outlook, and that will go a long way to keep you from turning to food each time you begin to feel overwhelmed.
d. Meditation – Yoga or Qigong – I’ve made this part of my 12-week habit change course, and I always count it as one of the most effective tools for managing and controlling stress. If you don’t have a meditation habit, I strongly urge you to start one today.
e. Calendar planning – a lot of the added stress around COVID is due to the disruption of our routines. Make a concerted effort to schedule breaks, away from your computer and lunch, just as you would if you were at work or in the office. Turn the computer off at 5 pm and go exercise. Enjoy your mealtime, and try and get out with the family, for a walk or to the park. You need a sense of normalcy and you can find it if you plan for it. As part of this exercise, you should also make note of things you want to avoid, or boundaries you need to set for yourself. Drugs and alcohol have a way of creeping into your life during these times and can easily be overused. Also turning to sweets or high sugar carbs after dinner or late-night snacks can quickly escalate out of control. Use your 80/20 approach
and make sure you enjoy them in the moderation that supports your healthy lifestyle.
f. Create a ‘to-do’ list – is a great way to help shut your mind down at night and get it ready for bed. Sleep is absolutely critical to a healthy lifestyle and managing stress. If you do everything else right, but you don’t get 7-9 hours of sleep, your stress will continue to be an issue. A to-do list allows you to end the day, and give you the confidence to do what you need to get done tomorrow. Close the book, and move on.
These are all great coping skills, and you should try and incorporate as many of them as possible if not all of them. Doing so will keep you in the present, not worried about the past or consumed by the future, and help keep your stress under control.
To watch the replay of the webinar, CLICK HERE.