I Just Discovered I'm An Emotional Eater, Now What?

 
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Have you tried every single crazy diet and dietary theory, (like keto-paleo-vegan) every exercise program, every supplement and pill or any other random thing that offers a promise of losing weight? Did you have some success initially only to regain the weight? Chances are, you might be an emotional eater. If this seems to resonate with you and yet you want to stop reading, I don’t blame you! This can be tough to acknowledge because food has been a consistent emotional suppressant and stress management system for you. Just having this realization in and of itself can be super scary. It’s even scarier to know where to begin to change this most likely deeply entrenched habit. If you feel overwhelmed by taking the steps to begin to do something about it, you are definitely not alone. 

Emotional eating is a major struggle for tens of thousands of people. The diet industry preys on people who are desperate to lose weight and makes their specific diet plan seem easy, healthy and like it’s the only way. They often make us feel as though we don’t have the discipline to do it alone, so we need their plan to lose weight and then equate the feeling or experience of “being thin” to happiness. Restricting food, not eating enough calories and possibly not receiving enough valuable nutrients that your body needs to function effectively sets you up for “cheat days” binge eating, being mentally and emotionally preoccupied by food obsessions, low energy and low motivation. While all of this is reason alone to question diets, their promises and systems—no matter what they promise and/or deliver—none of them address the root cause of weight gain in the first place: emotional eating.

If you have been an emotional eater for a long time, you may have begun to see your own patterns and how there is something missing. If you are just beginning to acknowledge that you are indeed an emotional eater or stress eater, there is good news. This is where you can begin to heal because awareness is the first step. You can start feeling hopeful when you are no longer sinking into a space of avoidance and denial, or spending more money on another book, pill or plan only to be disappointed over and over again. With awareness as the first step, acknowledging that the process is not a quick fix is the second. Reinventing your relationship with food, your emotions and yourself is possible and it requires time, dedication, consistency and effort.

The biggest difference here is that as you begin to work towards healing the root cause of the weight you wish to no longer carry, awareness alone does not cause the weight does not just pour off! Usually the process takes much longer than a crazy crash diet as there are many layers and steps to working through emotions. The work requires developing new ways to manage emotions, developing new routines, thought patterns and alleviating negative cognitions you may experience about yourself that seem to keep you feeling stuck. These negative beliefs may feel like, “I have to be perfect” “I will fail,” “I’ve tried to change before and it didn’t work,” “what’s the point,” “I’m too lazy,” “I’m not good enough,” “my body fights me,” and so on. These negative beliefs often run deep and are perpetuated by thoughts which will significantly impact actions, behaviors and choices. Not to mention that through the healing process it is helpful to address nutritional imbalances within your body, metabolic function, blood sugar balance and body image. It can be overwhelming because it is indeed a ton of work.

Once you make this choice that tackling emotional eating is the change you want, there are two concepts that are essential to come to terms with as you begin. The first is that you need to believe in your ability to create the changes you desire in your life. The second is that you are willing to commit to creating the change you desire. Once you fully integrate these two concepts, you will be well on your way. This is where you can address the challenges, blocks, negative thoughts and feelings. There will be resistance, but that’s ok, through the change process you will build resilience. There will be back-sliding, but that’s ok, there is nothing you will ever create for yourself that is truly meaningful and long-lasting that doesn’t have a learning curve and opportunities to grow into becoming your best self. It all starts with the decision to change, the desire to know and understand your internal emotional world and to befriend your mind and body. Once you create the belief and dedication, you then take it one day at a time.

While the process can be overwhelming and seem like a major task, breaking it down into doable, practical and meaningful steps will begin to propel you forward. As you begin to shift your mindset and work from a space of focusing on what’s going well rather than whether or not you are perfect, you will make progress. As you make progress you will see the internal shifts happening slowly and steadily. When you turn the focus away from losing weight and towards healing your relationship with food, your body and yourself, you will remain motivated to create the lasting change you desire. Often with diets there is a promise of losing weight fast. However, when addressing emotional eating, it will not be a fast journey. This is a steady, action focused journey where you begin to create your own personalized dietary plan. You create the movement in your life that is pleasurable. You create opportunities for self-reflection and emotional awareness to learn and grow. You are in charge of what makes your body feel energized, healthy and vital. You know what’s best and you will develop trust in your body and ability to change—and keep changing.

If this feels new, strange or something you have not considered or if you have known you are an emotional eater for a long time but avoided facing it due to fear or denial, now is the time to step into your personal power. It’s time to reclaim your health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. It is time to begin your personal journey towards making peace with food.

If you find you could benefit from support along the way, reach out, there is no need for you to go through this process all alone. Whether you reach out to me, another coach, therapist or best friend, find your team that will support your growth, change and will encourage you to create a life you love.

Grocery Store Survival 101: 5 Strategies to Stick to Your List

 
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The grocery store can be one of the biggest hurdles to staying consistent along your path to healing your relationship with food. The grocery store bombards us with messages about how great we will feel and how much fun we will have when we down those sodas or eat those cookies. The truth is (aside from these items barely even qualify as FOOD) that the grocery store is a major feat to be conquered when embarking on a wellness journey.

I have put together a survival guide with five tactics to help you remain focused, to not give in to your Deal Maker and to create an opportunity for the grocery store to be a place where you can grow your Inner Strength! If you are not familiar with the concept of the Deal Maker—it’s that part of yourself that attempts to sabotage your progress. The Deal Maker is always try to make a deal to keep you stuck because it is very fearful of change. One of places the Deal Maker loves to show up and cause trouble is the grocery store! Your Inner Strength is the part of yourself that you are working to build, to grow and to continue to empower.

What are some of the most common examples your Deal Maker uses at the grocery store? Here’s a few examples:

            “You will only eat just one—every once in a while”

            “You have a hard week coming up, you DESERVE a treat”

            “So-and-so really would enjoy this______________, you can get it for them”

            “Just this once…”

Any of these sound familiar? The grocery store is hands down the most difficult element to wrangle because the food industry pays good money for product placement, advertising, graphic design and they appeal directly to the part of you that takes over with Deal Maker based thoughts.

Here are some tried and true tactics to tackle grocery shopping like a champ! 

1.    Never ever ever go to the grocery store when you are hungry.

I think this strategy speaks for itself, but I will elaborate a bit. When you enter the grocery store hungry you are way more likely to give into Deal Maker thoughts, to over spend and to purchase foods that you do not have on your list. To ensure success at the grocery store be sure to have a snack before hand to avoid any excessive hunger.

2.    Pre-plan what you will eat for the week and create a specific, detailed list for your shopping trip.

I know you most likely always have list when you go shopping—so that is not the main challenge! It is sticking to your list that takes effort when you are confronted with all the choices at the store. When you are armed with your list and have specific ingredients for specific meals, you create a better chance of actually sticking to your list.

3.    Practice visualization before you step foot in the store.

This is a such a helpful practice, it is also referred to as “cognitive rehearsal” and has been shown to help stick to your choices because you have practiced what you will do mentally or essentially “rehearsed” it before shopping.

Here’s how you do it: first, plan what you will need for your meals and write out your list, be as specific as possible. Then close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths and visualize yourself at the grocery store with your empty cart. Picture yourself only placing the items on your list into your cart. Picture yourself passing by any “tempting” foods that you do not want to buy, notice how it feels to pass those by… Picture yourself in the check-out line, only purchasing the items on your list, notice how that feels. Picture yourself at home putting away the groceries—only the one’s from your list, notice how that feels. Take another deep breath and go to the store. Once you arrive at the store, if possible, practice the exercise again. This is a super effective tool to as it engages mindset and your emotional world. By practicing mentally first, you get to feel the positive feelings of sticking to your list and how empowering it is to feel in control of your choices.

4.    Shop the perimeter of the store.

The interior of the store is often where all of the packaged, processed, devoid of nutrients foods live. When you shop the perimeter, you are shopping for perishable foods which are fresh and therefore offer more nutrients. If you don’t come into contact with certain foods you are less likely to circumvent your plans and your grocery list. If you do have to go into the interior for some particular product, practice your visualization exercise first!

5.    Use technology to your advantage!

Nowadays there are so many helpful advances to grocery shopping, from Instacart to free delivery to curbside pickup, these options are super helpful and convenient! If you avoid having to even step foot into the store you avoid the possibility of being tempted by any triggering foods. I personally have enjoyed having groceries delivered. I have found that this not only forces me to have a plan, it also helps me save money on temptations at the store in the form of “sales” or other foods that look tasty but really I just don’t need.

I hope these strategies make your grocery-shopping and decision-making process related to food a little more simple. What strategy on the list will you try? Let me know! I’d love to hear if these are helpful for you!

4 Common Causes of Nighttime Eating and How to Effectively Manage Them

 
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Nighttime eating is a major concern for many people who have a conflicted and difficult relationship with food. Nighttime eating typically indicates one of the following imbalances:

1.    Nighttime eating may indicate that you are a chronic dieter. If you significantly restrict calories your body will crave nutrients and calories at the end of the day.

2.    Nighttime eating may indicate that your blood sugar is out of balance. This will cause cravings at the end of the day. 

3.    Nighttime food cravings can indicate that you are an emotional eater. Unstructured time in the evening can trigger emotions and stress that cause uncontrollable emotional food cravings.

4.    Nighttime eating may indicate that you are stuck in a deeply engrained habit pattern of eating at night that can be effectively changed with desire and effort.

If you struggle with nighttime food cravings and nighttime eating, it is most likely a combination of more than one of the above possible reasons. 

Let’s begin by addressing nighttime eating problem number one. Restricting calories during the day and the chronic dieting mentality can cause intense food cravings. Here’s the thing, dieting is not a sustainable form of weight loss—in fact—studies show that chronic dieting causes weight gain! The weight loss industry has based their marketing on the premise that they can make you feel as though you do not know how or what to eat. The dieting industry makes you feel as though you are out of control and in need of someone or something else to be in charge of your food intake. While this may work temporarily (for weight loss, NOT necessarily for health), what happens when the diet is over? (Hint: usually a dangerous cycle of binge eating or overeating after an extended time of feeling deprived.)

If you have been significantly restricting your caloric intake, please know that it is simply not realistic long-term. If you find that you are hungry and unable to resist eating at night when you have restricted your food intake during the day, you are most likely having these strong cravings because you are indeed hungry! You also may be having these strong cravings because your body is trying to communicate to you that you are even malnourished. Your body is most likely craving energy and nourishment and your “self-control” reserves have been depleted and you find yourself eating and most likely in an out of control manner.

The most effective way to remedy this is to STOP DIETING! Start eating real, nutritious whole foods and begin to focus on healing your relationship with food through mindful and intuitive eating practices. Stop restricting and begin focusing on why you want a certain food and if that food serves your health and wellness goals. You can begin to add more nutrition to each meal during the day and notice if that helps reduce your cravings in the evening. Chronic dieting can contribute to blood sugar imbalances as well, which leads us to nighttime eating cause number two!

If your blood sugar is out of balance, it can cause strong food cravings at the end of the day. One cause for this imbalance can be when you start the day with a high amount of carbohydrates and sugars. This will spike your blood sugar early in the day and cause residual cravings all day long. The primary remedy for this is to add protein to your breakfast to help stabilize blood sugar throughout the day. Another way to manage blood sugar imbalance is to minimize taking in excess sugar, processed foods and certain carbohydrates (without being entirely or overly restrictive.) Balancing protein and fiber will help as well—vegetables that are loaded with fiber like leafy greens eaten with a healthy protein source can be very stabilizing and satiating.

Possible cause number three is emotional eating, which is often a major contributor to nighttime eating. Unstructured time in the evening can trigger many feelings. Some of the most common feelings that trigger nighttime eating are: stress, anxiety, boredom and loneliness. The most effective way to begin to manage emotional eating is to have a healthy, non-food-based outlet for your emotions. If you would like more guidance and support surrounding emotional food cravings you can check out my blog on the 5 stages of awareness here to guide you through becoming more emotionally aware. I also have several blogs dedicated to understanding and releasing emotional cravings and emotional awareness and food cravings, you can check out one here.

Emotional eating is complex and may be an area where you could benefit from support by working with a therapist. However, giving yourself an outlet will help to identify the feeling and then make a choice on how to respond to the feeling. Once you can recognize, name and understand the trigger for the emotion you are experiencing, you can create a new outlet for your emotions. Learning to be present with them rather than eating them away and numbing them out with food is essential. This part of the process is definitely not easy. Give yourself time to process your feelings through journaling, talking about them, and/or doing something creative to release them in order to have a place for them to be acknowledged, respected, understood and released.

Now onto scenario number four, nighttime eating as a long-standing habit. If you have had the habit of having a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine while unwinding in the evening or having dessert every night regardless of whether or not you are hungry, this can indeed be a difficult habit to break. Creating a new habit takes time, effort, discipline and consistency to make happen.

You can begin by identifying the habit you want to change and determine your WHY. Why do you want to change this habit? Make it something that is truly important to you and involves your personal values. It is helpful to remind yourself of your personal WHY continually to remain motivated to maintain this change. Determine what you’d like to do instead of your typical nighttime eating habit. Preplanning an alternative to eating in order to take away the challenge of having to force yourself in the moment will help you to change this habit. Maybe you’d like to have a cup of tea, journal, read, knit—whatever it is—set yourself up for success by having this new evening habit ready to access.

Commit to one month of changing this habit. At the end of the month, take time to reflect on how it goes. What has changed? How did this change impact you? How did it impact your health? How did it impact your self-esteem and your self-image? This is important stuff to notice! Not to sound like a broken record, but I will anyway—if you are truly hungry, allow yourself to eat—just ensure you are not mindlessly eating out of habit, boredom or otherwise.

Nighttime eating is pervasive and many of us struggle with this challenge and yet most people don’t share this struggle with others. Many people feel ashamed and maybe attempt to hide it. Awareness is the first step. If you feel you could benefit from support, reach out! The upcoming Finding Freedom From Emotional Eating Online Group Coaching Course will help support you through challenges such as nighttime eating and emotional eating! You can learn more about this course here.

I hope these methods help to bring more awareness to the why behind any nighttime eating and that these steps will help you begin or continue your journey to make peace with food as well as with yourself.