There’s so much information about how to stop stress eating.

Every day my news feed and social platforms tell me the new and improved ways to hack stress eating and emotional eating.

The advice usually falls into one of these 3 categories:

1. Funny, in your face non-diet messages often delivered by young women who fit the dominant culture beauty ideal. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. In fact, I’m really happy that the younger generations have a much better viewpoint of diet culture. But decades of stress, dieting and cultural influences take a bit more effort than eating an ice cream while flipping off diet culture.

2. Information to that appears to be new, but it isn’t it’s just having a refreshed cover. This you can probably guess what I’m talking about! You know the same diet programs that have been around for a long time or even newer apps that claim to not be a diet. Just because you say you’re not a diet doesn’t mean you aren’t a diet – we see you out there!

3. Professionals who offer their research evidence that their way is the correct or best way to live. This strikes me as academic competitiveness, which is good, it pushes humanity to find better ways. The problem is that it paints a picture of all or nothing with the researcher or influencer the hero who has found the golden key that will unlock the secret garden if only we will follow them.

I’m sure there are many, many more we could add, but let’s get to what really matters.

The issue is that stress eating isn’t really about the food.

Food just happens to be the focus or device for relief.  The reason why people use food for stress relief is that it works – to a point. It happens to be food is for a lot of reasons:

  • Habits learned when young
  • Habits formed in college
  • The brain really does feel happier and calmer after eating
  • No knowing what else to do calm stress
  • Boredom

Using food is easy, inexpensive and relatively socially acceptable.

Women bond over both their desire for decadence and the inevitable discussion about diets and workouts. It’s like we’re in this struggle together and yet, we haven’t’ quite figured out how to stop it.

The issue is that stress eating isn’t really about the food.

Food just happens to be the focus or device for relief.  The reason why people use food for stress relief is that it works – to a point. It happens to be food is for a lot of reasons:

  • Habits learned when young
  • Habits formed in college
  • The brain really does feel happier and calmer after eating
  • No knowing what else to do calm stress
  • Boredom

Using food is easy, inexpensive and relatively socially acceptable.

Women bond over both their desire for decadence and the inevitable discussion about diets and workouts. It’s like we’re in this struggle together and yet, we haven’t’ quite figured out how to stop it.

That’s were getting down to the root of the issue is really the only way to break free from stress eating and that’s an easy solution!

If we stop the distractions of focusing on the food and focus on what gets you to that point then we have a real solution.

The problem is that most of us were never taught how to work with our emotions and calm the anxious brain and body in a way that results in clarity about what to do next.

Here’s the really good part, this isn’t about digging around in your unconscious to find the “root cause” and then when you understand the reasons why you’ll somehow, magically stop stress eating.

I wish it was that easy, because I bet you know why you stress eat, but that hasn’t helped to stop it.

When I started my practice as a psychotherapist and coach that’s what I thought. That we would uncover the source of the pain and it would be relieved. But, when I began my PhD studies, I learned that emotional eating is really stress eating and the pathway to lasting relief is:

  1. Emotional Mastery
  2. Clear Communication
  3. Well-being Habits

This is the Powerful Calm System and is the foundation for conscious eating which is a very simple way to get back to listening to your body, eating in response to hunger and mindfully enjoying food.

Emotional Mastery

Conscious eating is eating with awareness of what your body needs for fuel and satisfaction.

It is eating with respectful kindness for yourself, free from judgment. You learn to follow listen to yourself and use your emotions as your guide.

It is negotiating between your body and mind, listening to your heart in the present moment.

Conscious eating is the awareness that the next time you need to eat, you have the opportunity to make new choices in each new moment.

Conscious eating frees you from deprivation and urgency, which is usually a frantic anxiety filled impulse to get what you want now.

It might be because –

  • it may be gone soon
  • this is the last time you’ll allow yourself to eat it
  • the diet starts tomorrow, so better have it now!

Stress eating, (emotional eating) can be like this. Sometimes to distract, sometimes to avoid, sometimes to control feelings which seem unmanageable. No matter the path it takes, it all leads back to stress as the cause.

Conscious eating frees you so that you can stop for a moment, give yourself time and space to identify your feelings, identify your hunger, and make decisions based on what your mind, body and heart needs.

Clear Communication

Conscious eating helps you to connect with the fullness of your life free from the stress that interferes with your goals.

You can nourish yourself in the full meaning of the word nourish.

The goal is to truly enjoy your relationship with food and your body, without guilt, negative self-talk, excuses or shame.

Each meal is one moment in time.

Sometimes you will eat purely for fuel. You are hungry, busy, and just need to get some nutrition in your system to function well.

You are living your life and food is simply one part a many important parts of life, not the one thing you spend too much time thinking about.

At other times you eat for enjoyment as well as nourishing your body. Clear communication with yourself allows you to freely enjoy food without guilt because the choices you make aren’t a reaction to stress, but rather they are a choice based on what you need for energy and enjoyment. And when that happens, there’s no reason for blame and shame about food or your body.

Well-being Habits

Becoming a conscious eater is like getting back to nature.

You’ll get back to eating in a natural rhythm and when stress hits you no longer reach for food to calm and self-soothe.

Emotions and food are two separate things, but sometimes it seems like they’re the same.

It is like when you were little and you ate because you were hungry and stopped when you were full. Even when you had something delicious, like your favorite food, you listened to your body and stopped when your body let you know it was full.

You can get back to listening to your natural rhythms.

And, if this was not your experience growing up, you can learn how to become a Conscious Eater who is able to listen to her body and follow through!

When you eat this way, you find what is health-enhancing for you. There isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to nourishing your body. The only perfect diet for you is finding what works well for your body today and doing more of it. And when things change, you’re able to adapt to the changes because you are free to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed.

Listen to your body.

There’s a wealth of knowledge about sound basic nutrition. Freely available to you and a lot of well-qualified providers who can support you too.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that conscious eating is a simple way to implement the Powerful Calm System, so you no longer need stress eating and emotional eating again!

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