Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stopping stress and emotional eating quickly- one example in long term weight maintenance

My off paleo foods in the container, all that's left of my "snacks"
I had one very long, stressful week in September. anytime I lose a family member or friend, I know I'm at risk for emotional eating. That eating can and will lead to a lapse in my food sobriety. In the past, a lapse can become a relapse, and then full out emotional/mini-binge eating and  many weeks and months long foggy brain.  

 I lived the emotional eating life for 40 years and promised myself for the next 40 years,  I'd develop effective coping skills and re-train my brain, habits, and food so that I could also be in long term maintenance.

Here's what happened: Stressful week. I was exhausted and asked to take Friday off work. I needed sleep, time to process, and time to be with friends. Early in the week, as hard as it was, I put a plan into place to take care of myself. I know I'm prone to emotionally eat when someone dies. I also know and have come to accept that I cannot schedule or bargain with the grim reaper.

I CAN have control:
1. My food
2. How I act on my feelings

Here was my basic plan that worked:
  1. Good self-care- promised to myself. Check. 
  2. Scheduled time to sleep. Check.
  3. Touched base with Jr. Family member to make sure we had an open dialog about weeks events. Check.
  4. Contacted person early in the week that I knew I could talk to, if needed, and who would call me on my own stuff. Check
  5. Feeling my feelings, grieving when needed, prayer occasionally. Check.
  6.  Continued to shop, cook, eat my food template all week. Check.  
So, Thursday night a wave of grief hits me like a ton of bricks. Sadness... it's about 7-8 pm, I open the snack pantry and look at the bin that says "The answer is not in here" and I see something in my minds eye... little points of light like fireworks! My slippery slope mind starts to think ...
1. I could have MORE chocolate.
2. I could open up a left over Medifast product, even though I'm dairy/soy free, it won't trigger...
3. I could open up the freezer and look for something....
4. Hmmm, the garage may still hold some food I could eat... NO IT DOES NOT! WHAT THE...

Excellent! The spell was broken in about 60 seconds.

Insert the sound of screeching breaks, right here. I stopped myself in my tracks. My emotional eating had NEVER presented itself as lights or fireworks before. The "disease" had mutated and was messing with my head in a new form, hoping to get the old brain connections firing again. I asked myself what I needed: Answer- sleep. I walked upstairs and got ready for bed.

I thanked my lucky stars for clarity and being tough not moderate. Moderation eating would have teamed up with slippery slope thinking and I would have started to emotionally eat. Binge avoided. I showed the binge thoughts the door and locked it. 

Part of the spell breaking had to do with the system I set up for myself: What worked.
1. Position in the kitchen, standing by the snack pantry after a full on template meal = trouble.
2. Speed of calling myself on slippery slope thinking and recognizing a new tactic, dreamed up by my brain.
3. Not having my top binge foods anywhere near- Being, tough NOT moderate.
4. Knowing that I  would HAVE to check back in with the person who I contacted earlier in the week.
5. Having eaten from a clean food template (non trigger foods/low inflammatory-read Paleo) all day, = no physical hunger at all.

Why what worked is so important to me:
1. I could show up and be present in my own life.
2. I could show up and be present in my family and be there for Jr. Family Member.
2.5 I could model effective life skills for Jr. Family member (this is pure gold!)
3. I could show up and be present for my friend and her family and our mutual friends.
4. I could maintain my weight, physical, and emotional health.
5. I've set the stage and practiced for what will likely be a long, long life, with sad losses without using a food/substance to cope.

What didn't work in the past
 1. Eating to avoid feelings
2. Not modeling effective behaviors for my kid.
3. Not being able to be there for others, since I was not there for myself Or being there for others first and not myself.
4. Not maintaining my weight, physical, or emotional health to the best of my ability.
5. Using sugar and wheat to try to sooth emotions.

The answer is not in a sweet food, a wheat food, but my answers did start with food.  I know that my slippery slope thinking can be in remission or halted as soon as I recognize what is going on. Speed and problem solving skills count. Never easy, but easier than using food to soothe. I'm worth it, you are worth it, we are worth that work.


  1. I think another thing that helps during times like this is have set "go to" foods which are safe and in line. My breakfast for example - automatic, in the house, safe, holds me. My guess is this kicks in for you also, I just wanted to specifically mention it.

  2. Yes,I do have go to foods- if I'm physically hungry. They are protein/ veggies sauteed in coconut or avocado oil or cherry tomatoes. If that doesn't sound good- then it's emotional hunger for sure!!

  3. Love this Karen! How great you must have felt when you woke up the next morning, as compared to how you would have felt if you had given in. Sad to hear that you are grieving another loss :-(

    1. Thanks, Erin. Being able to think ahead and control the outcome of how I'm going to feel has been very valuable. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

  4. Knowing what has not worked in the past and having a plan is a must. Feeling good about yourself and how you handled it priceless.
    I want to thank you for always being an inspiration. It takes a while for me to learn but I'm slowly getting it. I'm staying away from sugar and wheat right now and feeling good.
    I'm so sorry to hear that you had a loss.

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. It's been a drawn out process over months to fine tune everything. Glad you are connecting the dots between feeling good and the sugar and wheat. Keep up the good work

  5. My heart hurts for you, Karen. I am deeply impressed by your ability to halt a lapse before it happened, and to be able to analyze what happened afterward so clearly.

    Having gone through a lot of pain and continued uncertainty since the summer, I wonder if it is possible for me to change my eating (to something more paleo/primal) now. I want to, and feel desperately anxious about my weight. But there's a feeling of impending overwhelm that rears up each time I make any kind of change. I am afraid that if I don't lean on food, I might end up doing something even more destructive to my well-being.

  6. Karen! Love this blog!!!!! Absolutely LOVE IT!!!!!
    I just made a couple of such notes myself. I've also downloaded Alan's app Before I Eat between these two I hope to establish new habits.
    Please keep blogging. You're an inspiration!