I spoke to my mum recently on Skype (she lives in Wales) and after talking to her combined with receiving lots of feedback from mums on our plans who were struggling with losing baby weight and over eating when stressed.
My mum’s story is that she has been on the Lose Baby Weight plans (she is 55 so not strictly losing baby weight but still she is keen to lose a few kg!) for a couple of weeks but is also finishing a University degree and is stressed up to her eyeballs.
So I asked her how she was going on the smoothies and her response was ‘I am so stressed I can’t stop eating and I eat snacks in one go”. She then also confessed to eating everything in sight when she was stressed including chocolate, bread, biscuits, left overs – as well as the smoothies and everytime she was stressed about doing her work or had a mental block she would eat.
And when I asked her if she was going for a walk when she was stressed she said no as she was too stressed to walk as she had too much to do and just ate instead. So no weight loss there then!
I explained to her that this is a very common problem that many people face when trying to lose weight or when they are following a weight loss plan and it can be the reason that long term weight loss or weight loss for women can be a struggle and why people can so often fail. So firstly if this too sounds like you, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone and there are things you can do to beat this age old problem.
Emotional eating can strike at every emotion and can range from when you are in a good mood and you munch on potato chips, or when you are stressed mood and you may get some relief from jelly beans and sweets, or when you are in an angry mood and might tuck into carbohydrate rich foods to when you are bored and decide to eat all of the above – and more!.
And to prove you are not alone a survey of 17,000 failed dieters (nearly 90% were female) found that they had failed because of emotional eating. Roger Gould, M.D., a UCLA psychiatrist ran the survey and said: “I often see clients who are committed to losing weight, but as soon as they get into a fight with their husband or have a bad day at work, they’ll plow through a whole box of donuts. From a very young age, we’re taught to use food as a psychological coping mechanism — it’s a reward if we’ve done well, or a comfort if we’ve had a tough day.
The research also showed that the top foods women relapsed over or overate were ice cream, chocolate, and biscuits which will give you a short sugar burst which raises the serotonin in your brain and lowers the stress hormone cortisol but which will send you crashing down half an hour later leading you to eating more and feeling even more depressed and likely to eat more – and so the vicious circle continues.
So identifying the reason to your weight loss barrier is the first step in overcoming it and if you know you are an emotional eater then the good news is that you can fix it and you can crank up your weight loss once and for all!!
A great idea to delve further into your emotions and food triggers is to create a card or table with Day, Time, Location, Food and the emotion you felt when you ate – after a few days you will be able to see exactly what food triggers happen at what time – knowledge is power so arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible so you can beat those food triggers.
A great book that looks at this is by Brian Wansink, who wrote Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think and in this book he did a survey with more than 1,000 people which found that people were most likely to turn to overeat when they were happy (86%) or to reward themselves (74%), as opposed towhen they were felt down (39%), bored (52%), or lonely (39%). So how can you arm yourself against the need to eat for emotional resasons?
Top Ten ways to beat emotional eating
- Get creative. The next time something amazing happens, invent a new kind of feel-good reward Instead of treating yourself to a fancy dinner with your partner, take a few hours off and spend it together. Start to retrain your brain to celebrate life without food as a reward.
- Take a walk. A California State University study that followed self confessed over eaters found that those who went for a quick five-minute walk when they felt overwhelmed were much less likely to grab junk food than those who didn’t move – the research shows that even going for just 5 minutes will raise serotonin levels which in turn boosts your mood and curb your sugar cravings. Deep breath. De-stressing can be a powerful way to stop eating. An American study found that overweight females who did regular relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or even writing in a diary for 20 minutes lost more weight as they were less stressed
- Check your watch. Stress levels reach their peak at late afternoon or early evening so make sure you keep yourself occupied at these times
- Work for your food. If you are eating because you are bored choose a snack that requires time and energy, such as home made popcorn, – without the sugar or salt – or raw crunchy foods like carrots or celery.
- Skip the late night TV. If you regularly stay up late, it is likely you are eating late too. A 2004 study found that late night eaters eat more so try and get to bed an hour earlier and catch up on your some sleep
- Get your daily does of Vitamin D – this should be easy for us as we live in Australia. All it takes is 10-15 mins in the sun (without sun tan cream on which blocks the vitamin D production) and this has been proven to make you feel less depressed which means you will be reaching for the cookie jar a lot less!
- Get onto Facebook more. If you find yourself eating because you are lonely then get onto Facebook. There are millions of people on Facebook and lots of people in the same boat as you. On the Lose Baby Weight page there are over 48,300 mums all trying to lose weight and if you are having a bad day then share it and you can guarantee that someone else will be having a bad day too and you can help each other get through it
- Punch a pillow – If you turn to food in frustration find another way to vent. Punch a pillow or do 10 push ups or scream or run up and down on the spot vigorously. If you start to find another way to vent your anger you will stop turning to food for comfort
- Stock up – clean out your cupboards and throw out all junk food. Instead only keep healthy foods in your fridge and cupboard. This way if you can’t overcome the need to binge you won’t do so much damage. If I am feeling really anxious I sometimes sit there like a rabbit and eat like a crazy person on chopped up carrots. I don’t even know I am eating them – I just sit there and eat and chew and think until I find a solution to whatever is stressing me out. This is way better than eating chocolate and it does chill me out somewhat even though I look slightly possessed!
- Ask yourself – Am I really hungry? When you think about it and I mean really think about it you will realise that no you are not and half of the time this is enough to stop you turning to food
The key thing to remember in all of this is that if you don’t change your behaviour and the way you react to situations then it will be virtually impossible to lose weight. If you can identify why you are eating certain foods then you are on your way to changing the way you eat and losing weight is 80% down to what we eat so be determined, be focused and know that you can get there.
For extra motivation keep a picture of yourself at your goal weight which is always on show so if you do feel like giving up and binging you have the slim you always looking back at you and remember you will never get back to the slim you unless you change your behaviour. YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!
If you need help losing your weight please see our Lose Baby Weight Plans which will help you achieve your goals and stay focused