Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. This post constitutes my personal experience and opinions and is geared towards women who have an otherwise healthy relationship with food and their bodies. If you experience binging or suspect you have an eating disorder, please reach out for help!
If you’ve ever found yourself elbow deep in a box of cereal, popcorn bag, running through the drive thru for fries, or polishing off a sleeve of Oreo’s before you even notice what you’re doing...
First of all, there's no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. You are hardly alone! Most women deal with stress eating (or emotional eating) from time to time.
Stress eating is a habit if you can’t NOT imagine yourself heading to the drive thru for fries or ice cream if you are feeling down. When you’re triggered, it’s your immediate and first reaction.
Feeling overwhelmed. Stuff snacks in face.
It's hard to stop eating your emotions because you can’t just break the habit cold turkey. First of all, it’s a completely automatic behavior ingrained in your subconscious, and if you DIDN’T soothe yourself with food you’d feel like a completely deprived emotional wreck, which would only make your stress worse.
When we emotionally eat or binge, we're actually using this behavior as self care to protect ourselves from negative or uncomfortable emotions we'd rather not face.
YES! Emotional eating is self care! It's just probably not the best way to take care of yourself.
So how do we start to overcome our emotional or stress eating habits?
First of all, you have to give yourself permission to actually feel your feelings.
You can't eat or drink them away. Just because you're numbing with food doesn't mean the stress is disappearing, but by allowing ourselves space to physically and mentally process our emotions or get to the bottom of where our stress is coming from in the first place, it WILL pass! It's like the opposite of that Gandalf scene.
Once you start to feel your feels, there are so many positive ways to deal with stress or negative feelings in order to flip them into higher vibes.
Another disclaimer: if your feelings are too overwhelming for you to handle alone or stem from a traumatic experience, pleeeeease see a counselor or therapist! You deserve to heal and feel your best, and you deserve the help you need.
When it comes to replacing emotional eating with a more positive behavior, we need to first RECOGNIZE when it happens and then REPLACE the habit with one that's more nurturing so you can keep food in its rightful place in your life.
Food is delicious. Food is fuel. Food is energy. Food is celebration of life!!
Here are a few non-food ways to manage stress if you want to stop eating your feels!
3 NON FOOD ways to manage stress
1. Get outside for a walk.
Even if it’s just 5 minutes around your house or office!
This is the best way to chillax because usually when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, it’s because we’re overstimulating ourselves with too many tasks, responsibilities, browser windows, notifications, to-do’s, etc all at once.
Getting out into nature immediately calms your nervous system, removes you from a stressful situation, and helps you gain clarity and perspective on your priorities for the day.
Getting your body into MOVEMENT (a brisk walk) will channel and release any negative energy.
Remember that anxiety = energy. We have to give it a place to go!
If you can get sweaty and workout, even better.
Visualize what that would feel and look like >> Feelings of stress triggered. Instantly lace up shoes and hit the sidewalk.
2. Do a pen to paper braindump.
Again...most overwhelm comes from holding EVERYTHINGGGG we need to do over the next week/month/year plus potential ideas plus conversations plus fears like “am I good enough?” plus re-hashing past events in our brain all at once.
Putting pen to paper and literally dumping everything in your brain is so cathartic.
Don’t censor or judge yourself, don’t try to organize a to-do list, just LET IT OUT. Take as long as you need.
If you start writing tasks, break them down into every step involved in that task.
Once your brain is dumped, you should already feel better, but to take this to the next level of calm, now you can organize your braindump!
1. Categorize things, e.g. To-Do’s, Fears, Random thoughts/ideas, Negative inner critic chatter
2. Look at your lists and ask yourself “Is this something I need to release (e.g. fear) or something I need to take action on? What is a ‘should do’ vs. a ‘must do?’ What can I delegate? What ‘should’s’ can I let go of?”
3. For all the ‘must do’ or ‘want to do’ action items, schedule them on your calendar! Now you don’t just have an overwhelming guilt inducing to-do list. You have a PLAN.
Visualize what that would feel and look like >> Feelings of stress triggered. Instantly grab a pen and paper and let it out!
3. Use music to flip your mood.
It’s so easy to forget how powerful music can be! Make a playlist on iTunes or Spotify of all your favorite happy songs. I have an ongoing playlist and whenever I hear a song that makes me happy, I add it!
Bonus: have a solo dance party to your music. Because stress = energy and we need to give it a place to go to release it! Yes you might look crazy or stupid. Laugh at yourself!
Visualize what that would feel and look like >> Feelings of stress triggered. Instantly press play on your “happy mix” and dance it out.
Empower yourself to process your feelings, then move forward and upward instead of dwelling in a rut.
Remember that making deep changes in our mindset and behaviors can't happen overnight, so practice practice practice and have tons of self compassion and patience with yourself through the process of change. You will have setbacks, that’s not a sign that you failed, it’s a sign that you are leveling up!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. This post constitutes my personal experience and opinions and is geared towards women who have an otherwise healthy relationship with food and their bodies. If you suspect you have an eating disorder, please reach out for help!