Stress Eating.  It’s a subject that’s not that fun to talk about but whether we want to admit it or not, it’s something that most of us do.  After a long day, those cookies in the pantry start looking really good.

Before we try to tackle it, let’s look at a cycle you have likely been caught up in at one time or another:

  • You feel stressed, anxious, upset, etc.
  • Then you overeat
  • Next you feel guilty and ashamed for overeating which makes you even more insert emotion here (stressed, anxious, upset)
  • You make the decision that it won’t happen again. There won’t be another next time.  Maybe you even come up with some “rules”.
  • But then those feeling creep up.  You’re stressed, anxious, upset, etc.
  • And here we go again.  You overeat. And the cycle continues.

But what if we could break that cycle?

Here are some tips we’ve come up with:

It all starts with self-observation. The behavior (and feelings that go along with them) didn’t come out of nowhere.  Something led to them.

One powerful practice our nutrition coaches help clients with at Power Athletic looks like:

  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 when you complete this exercise. Once you go through it a few times, you will like begin to see patterns and trends.  There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll start noticing connections between certain situations, people or feelings that led to overeating or bad food choices.

Things you might notice:
  • Every time you have a stressful day, you crave wine and ice cream 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.
  • You always overeat on Saturday afternoons, but that happens to be a couple hours after you normally call a certain family member.

Once you’ve done the exercise a few times and have started to notice patterns, it’s time to use that information to come up with some solutions.

In addition to these self-observation techniques, we’d like to encourage you to do something that might feel a little counterintuitive: Rather than beating yourself up about stress-eating, take a self-compassionate approach. When we feel bad about ourselves or our actions, it can make stress eating worse. That means now is actually the perfect time to start practicing self-compassion.

That doesn’t mean you get to ignore your problems or give yourself permission to eat whatever you want when you’re stressed.  True self-compassion is an attitude of generosity 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.

Just keep practicing. Like any skill, self-compassion takes practice and repetition. We promise it’s effective and powerful.

Let’s be honest — breaking the cycle of stress-eating can be challenging on your own. Fortunately, you don’t have to handle it alone.

At Power Athletics, we’ve got an experienced group of coaches who truly care about every member. You and your coach will work together to come up with a personalized nutrition and fitness plan that works for you.

The accountability, support and guidance you’ll receive could change your life — are you ready?


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