How to Stop Eating your Way Around Your Feelings

We all know the terminology, and lots of us engage in it with regularity.  Stress Eating.  Emotional Eating.  The reference is to any type of eating that is triggered by something OTHER THAN how hungry our bodies actually are in the moment.  We are literally on autopilot and have no idea whether or not we are actually hungry when we put food in our mouths.  
A body in hormonal balance that is operating optimally at a healthy body weight only signals the brain for food when it is in need of fuel to operate.  Any desire for food at other times, such as to avoid or resolve something emotional uncomfortable or stressful, will ultimately lead to the consumption of more calories than the body needs, which will be stored on the body as fat.   
The Challenge…
Most of us are in the habit of immediately satisfying any urge we feel to eat.  To eliminate unnecessary overeating, we must tune into our bodies so we know when we are experiencing true hunger signals and when we are not.  If our bodies are truly in need of fuel, it will send that message to the brain.  True hunger is typically accompanied by some sort of physical sensation, such as a growling stomach.  However, in the case of stress or emotional eating, the signal to eat is sent from the brain, as a thought, to the body.  The thoughts leading us to eat our stress or emotions might sound something like this:   
1.     That looks so delicious
2.     I deserve that after the hard day I have had
3.     That will taste amazing
4.     I will feel better if I eat that
If you’re overweight, you have likely created and rewarded that desire so often that is has become unconscious and automatic.  It may feel you are eating against your will, and essentially you are. 
But why?  Desire to eat often comes from and unconscious effort to numb or avoid unpleasant feelings about things we are experiencing in life. Most of us are not taught how to manage our emotions, so we turn to food to dull or distract ourselves.
The Solution…
One of my brilliant clients developed the “Cucumber Test” to help her determine whether she was truly hungry or her body was telling her to eat for another reason.  I told her up front I was stealing this concept and sharing it, so here’s how it goes:  She has cut cucumbers ready to eat.  When she finds herself feeling hungry in between planned meals, she invites herself to have the cucumbers as a snack.  She told herself that if she’s truly hungry, her body will welcome the cucumbers for fuel and they will taste delicious.  However, if she simply doesn’t want the cucumbers, it must be that she’s desiring a snack for a reason other than hunger. 
I found this to be an excellent way to become aware of what’s going on in the moment.  What’s more, she finds that when she’s truly hungry, the cucumbers do taste delicious and they do satisfy her hunger.  Of course, when she’s being triggered by stress or emotions, she doesn’t desire the cucumbers because she instead has the urge to eat something sweet. 
Once you have determined that your body isn’t really hungry but you still have the urge to eat, then what? There are three basic paths you can choose.  We don’t usually make a conscious choice, but we can learn to do so. 
  1. Eat the thing you desire
  2. Try to resist the urge
  3. Allow the urge and let it pass
By eating what you desire when you aren’t truly hungry, you only reinforce the urge for purposes of indulging in the future.  Resisting the urge is certainly better than succumbing to it.  However, resisting an urge with willpower only lasts for so long before you indulge the urge, at which time the urge can be even stronger than it was initially since it has been denied.  The goal is for you to unlearn desire by allowing the urges to be there without responding to them.  The brain will eventually learn and stop sending you the urge message (like a misbehaving child who eventually stops begging when they do not get the response they want).  By the way, the first two options leave you with two problems to solve:  the consequences of your overeating AND the problem you were trying to avoid in the first place.  
Please try my client’s Cucumber Test (or some variation of it) to gauge whether you’re experiencing true physical hunger.  If not, recognize the urge for what it is, understand why you’re feeling it, and then allow it to pass unsatisfied.  I promise you, you will not die from allowing an urge to pass unsatisfied.  In time you will experience the urges less and less as your brain and body learn that you only satisfy a true physical need for fuel.  
The Invitation….
To get started on a deeper dive into learning how to break the pattern of emotional and stress eating and permanent weight loss, click on the calendar below to schedule a FREE mini-session with me.  What do you have to lose but some weight??  


Busting Through Urges for Successful Weight Loss

The Reality…
Food and drink intake is part of every weight loss plan.  Most of us plan out the diet we think will get us to our desired weight.  Making the plan is often the easiest part.  The harder part you experience AFTER the plan is made and put into effect.  Implementation.  The “Sticking With It.”  
Until you have established a different method of managing your urges for food, you will likely find yourself experiencing the same old urges to eat, even when you understand intellectually that indulging that urge will not lead you down the path to your desired weight.  A different method of managing the urges is necessary to stop indulging them, and the ability to stop indulging the urges is necessary for permanent weight loss. In all likelihood, indulging your urges for food, no matter from where the urge arises, is as automatic for you are putting one foot in front of the other and walking. 
But what is an urge?  And must every urge for food be indulged?  What is the worst-case scenario if we do not indulge an urge?
First and foremost, I’m sure it is obvious that we do not have to indulge every urge for food, especially if we are overweight.  The truth is that if you are carrying excessive amount of fat stores on your body, letting quite a few urges pass without indulging them will certainly not kill you.  Even though your brain might be telling you that’s exactly what will happen if you don’t get some food in your body asap!
If we are overweight, we likely have a pattern of indulging every urge the body signals for food.  Our hormones are in charge of sending signals for fuel.  However, when we eat a lot of processed foods, fail to get a good night’s sleep or allow our bodies to experience excessive amounts of stress, our hormones go out of balance and we cannot rely upon the signals we receive as true indicators that the body is in need of fuel to operate.  Most people rely on the hunger messages they receive from the body, and when they appear, they are satisfied as soon as possible.  Any food that the body receives that is not actually needed for fuel is stored on the body as fat. In order to lose weight, we must stop the pattern of indulging every urge we feel for food. 
The Challenge…
The challenge comes in breaking the pattern of indulging the urges for foods that got us to our current weight.  We basically have three choices when we experience an urge for food that leads us off our path to weight loss: indulge the urge, resist the urge or allow the urge.  
Indulging the urge is at least part of the reason you now find yourself overweight.  Indulging the urge reinforces both the pattern of indulgence, urges for food generally, and your brain’s belief that all it has to do to get that desirable, yet unhealthy food is to demand it. 
Another option would be to resist the urge with willpower.  We have all used willpower to meet a weight loss goal.  The use of the willpower can be temporarily effective, but as all willpower eventually succumbs to the underlying desire, so does the temporary weight loss success with achieved with it.  Resisting the urge is admittedly a better alternative than indulging an urge, but still not a long-term solution for weight loss.
The Solution…
Allowing urges to pass unsatisfied is the only truly sustaining path to weight loss.  It will not be a fun process, I can promise you that.  Allowing urges to pass unsatisfied, especially when your established pattern is to indulge them, involves observation and dedication to your ultimate goal.  As urges are routinely observed and allowed to pass unsatisfied, your body begins to balance itself and will eventually be replaced with healthy and reliable hunger signals. 
The Invitation… 

To get started on a deeper dive into permanent weight loss, click on the calendar below to schedule a FREE mini-session with me.  What do you have to lose but some weight??