How to Overcome Stress Eating For Good

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It’s not the most fun topic to talk about — stress-eating.

We’ve all been there…

It’s been a long day, you’re exhausted, and the Oreos that don’t usually tempt you just look so good. 

Or maybe you’ve even been caught in a cycle that looks like this: 

  • You feel stressed, anxious, upset, etc.
  • You overeat.
  • You feel guilty and ashamed for overeating (and even more stressed, anxious, upset, etc.).
  • You commit to “doing better” next time. You may even sign up for a new diet or come up with some rigid “rules”.
  • Once again, you feel stressed, anxious, upset, etc… and now you’re hungry too.
  • You overeat.

What if you could break that cycle?

We have some tips to help you do it!

It all starts with self-observation because those feelings and behaviors came from somewhere. One powerful practice our coaches help clients with at WAG works like this:

1. Remember the most recent food/eating episode that you felt didn’t go well (maybe you ate more than you wanted, reached for foods you don’t actually love, etc.).

2. What was happening right beforehand? Make sure to include these details: 

  • Where were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What were you feeling?
  • Who was with you?

3. Keep going back in time a bit further (as in, 3-5 hours earlier).

  • Where were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • What were you thinking?
  • What were you feeling?
  • Who was with you?

4. Now read back through what you’ve written. What do you notice? Does anything jump out to you?

It’s okay if you don’t have any huge “a-ha!” moments the first time you complete this exercise. Try it a few times and you’ll begin seeing patterns and trends. Chances are high you’ll start noticing connections between certain situations, people or feelings that led to overeating or other challenging food situations.

For example, you might notice:

  • Every time you have a stressful day at work, you crave wine and chocolate in the evening.
  • During the 3-4 days leading up to your period starting, your hunger levels skyrocket.
  • When you have an argument with your partner, you find yourself not eating all day and then overeating at night. 

Once you’ve gathered some information and noticed patterns, it’s time to take action and come up with creative solutions.

Maybe you mark your calendar the day when your period is due to arrive so you can be prepared for higher levels of hunger during the days beforehand, stock up on extra veggies, and get the most tempting stuff out of the house. (It can also be really helpful to communicate all the things you learn with a coach, so the two of you can strategize together!).

In addition to these self-observation techniques, we encourage you to do something that might feel a little counterintuitive:

Instead of beating yourself up about stress-eating, take a self-compassionate approach.

This might be the first time in your life you do this, and that’s okay. It can feel a bit strange at first.

When you feel bad about yourself or your actions, it can make stress eating worse. That means now is actually the perfect time to start practicing self-compassion. 

We’re not talking about ignoring your problems or giving yourself permission to eat whatever you want. True self-compassion is an attitude of generosity, honesty, and kindness towards yourself. Self-compassion can prevent you from sinking into that “screw it” mindset that often leads to stress-eating or even bingeing.

Here’s how to do it effectively: when you “mess up”, give yourself a break. Step back and look at the big picture. Notice what you’re doing, thinking, and feeling without judging it. Remind yourself that everybody goes through this sometimes. And that’s okay.

It isn’t a “mess up” if you can learn from it and move forward in kindness. If anything, it was a necessary step on your longer-term health journey. 

If this feels kind of mushy at first, we get it. Just keep practicing. Like any skill, self-compassion takes practice and repetition. We promise it’s effective and powerful.

Are you making these nutrition mistakes?

Join WAG Founder, Adee Cazayoux, in our next webinar and learn the 4 Nutrition Mistakes we see most often and actionable steps to solve them! You’ll leave this webinar knowing how to dispel your dysfunctional beliefs about nutrition, wield the tools you need for better results and transform your life. Plus, if you hang till the end, we have a surprise for you!

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Posted by Katie Holmes
Katie is a coach and the Content Coordinator for WAG. She was an attorney but realized her passion was in helping people transform their lives and become the happiest, healthiest versions of themselves.

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