4 Step Plan To Squash Stress-Eating

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From the time that your feet hit the floor, you are off and running for the day. Your demanding to-do list continues to fill up.

“Must make breakfast.”

“Need to walk the dog.”

“Have to send out those emails ASAP.”  

Life does not slow down or halt. Yet, there is an optimism in your heart and a twinkle in your eye as you think of all that you can accomplish on this brand new day. You feel in control and you feel possible. You feel like a super hero suiting up for the day’s battles ahead.

And then WHAM!! Overwhelm and frustration begin to creep in and all those cute little things that your family does — super annoying. You stop yourself and look at the clock. “How is it 2 pm already?” You suddenly realize that you hardly got anything done that you wanted to do and all those new habits that you promised yourself you would start today? Nothing but a long-lost dream of yesterday’s past. You feel frustrated and stressed out and a little tired. Or, maybe you just stuffed the frustration down and stopped caring.

That piece of chocolate would be so great right now. AHHH, but your goal of cutting down on sugar. You suddenly remember your goal and you dig deep — I mean really deep — like keys on your bottomless purse deep!

A gift from the heavens above, you find the strength to prevail and you push through the temptation. You feel so proud of yourself. You really are a super hero (cue Wonder Woman stance)!

But as the night fall hits, things change. Your willpower changes. The loudness of that inner super hero voice softens and another voice begins to speak up. 

“Come on, just have one.”

“You deserve it.”

“You have been good all day long.”

“Everyone else is eating it, why can’t you?”

And as that voice gets louder and at the crumple of the cookie bag becomes deafening, you can feel your senses heighten — the smell of that cookie is so sweet and the taste of that cookie so satisfying, like chocolate dripping onto your tongue. You can feel the cookie as it crumbles into your mouth and chocolatey goodness exploding onto your tastebuds— it makes you salivate immediately. You feel defeated and weak and like you are not in control of yourself anymore. Heavy frustration rolls in and kicks up the waves of guilt as they rumble through your every cell.

You promise yourself that you will get back on track tomorrow, yet tomorrow never comes because this cycle replays over and over again. 

overeat

Does this sound familiar? Do you find yourself feeling like a self-disciplined super hero during the day only to crumble like a cookie in the evening? 

You are not alone! 

This is one of the most common obstacles that I hear all the time and it truly goes way beyond just a matter of willpower and self-discipline. There is a relationship between what you ate during the day, how much stress you are experiencing, outside triggers and emotional connections that all play into how much those evening cravings pull and tug at you. Even if you feel like you had a day that could crush the strongest of superheroes, there is still opportunity to take back your control and arrive on the other side, victorious and feeling less guilt and less frustration. You really just have to have a “PLAN”:

Purposeful alternatives

It is super important to have a Plan B (or C, or D, or even E) in place. And I am not talking about some quick alternative, I am talking about a well thought out, calculated alternative that will help to set you up for success. Your Plan B has to take your triggers and your objections (see “A”) and figure out how you can use them to set yourself up to win. For example, if your trigger is wanting to eat every time that you sit on the couch, then an appropriate Plan B would be to sit somewhere else in the living room or move the family to another room to spend time together. You could even go outside for some nature therapy.

Line in the sand boundary

What is that point that you are not willing to cross? This is the point that if you went beyond it, you would feel guilt and shame, but staying behind it would be an appropriate stepping stone to working towards your goals. If you decide that you are going to indulge in a cookie, then maybe your line in the sand would be that you would have one cookie and not two. And that you would really feel, taste, and mindfully eat it to help it feel satisfying.

Awareness to what is going on, the objections you might tell yourself, and your obstacles

This is a three-part piece. The first step is always awareness. If you are not aware that a situation is occurring, than you can not change that situation. Awareness can also happen after the situation has occurred, so if you miss the situation in real time, don’t worry. Every time that you bring recognition to it, your brain becomes more tuned in each and every time. 

The second piece is becoming aware of the objections that you tell yourself. Examples of objections would be that you deserve to indulge because you have been self-disciplined all day and everyone else is indulging so why can’t you be too? 

The third piece is the obstacles. You could also call these triggers. If you find that you want to eat every time that you sit on the couch while watching tv or that you are more likely to grab that cupcake if it is sitting on the kitchen table, then those obstacles would need some brainstorming on how to work through them so that you can set yourself up for success. Sometimes, you may not even be aware of your objections and obstacles. This is where it is really helpful to help someone brainstorm and guide you through finding what makes you crumble the quickest.

Non-negotiable length of time commitment

Set a time frame and stick to it. It is pleasantly easier to commit to something when you know that you could potentially have an end date in mind. If you are trying to eat healthier, committing to an effective nutrition plan for 1 or 2 weeks can help you stay on track. When your time is up, reevaluate how it went and if you want to extend that time or if you need to change it slightly to move more successfully towards your goals. 

Having a PLAN can help push you over the hump to start to change habits and old, non-serving behaviors. It can feel daunting and challenging at first, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes a new habit!

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