Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Identifying non-food emotional eating triggers in weight maintenance: part one-Being Tired

Part 1 :  Identifying non-food emotional eating triggers: Being Tired.

Frequency: About 80% of the time, being tired is the root cause that my brain starts to signal me (incorrectly) to eat.  Not the correct translation. I had to detect the problem to stop eating emotionally. Before the eating starts, I have to name how I’m feeling. It took awhile to identify the correct feelings.

What happens: The emotional urge to eat still pops up from time to time. It seems to pop out of the blue (not really, but it catches me off guard)  when I’ve been busy.  I’m so busy, I don’t stop to consider I’m feeling tired.

Problem DETECTION: Position = the kitchen. That’s how I detect the problem. Like a giant game of Clue: The Mom, in the kitchen, at night, with an open
cabinet/refrigerator….Whoa! Oh-oh… food seeking…

Where: If I’m in the kitchen thinking about food after a normal dinner, opening the pantry or the refrige and looking for food, that’s a red flag. I eat 3 full meals a day, most days. I eat plenty of PFC- protein, fats and enough carbohydrates. Restricting  food is not a problem.

What happens next: I’m food seeking, to sooth. The mere physical position of being in the kitchen at night, after a full, balanced meal, post kitchen clean up. Anyone see a huge red flag? I taught myself to think “What is it that I need right now”.  I had to train myself the first year of weight maintenance to stop and pause, and think. I had to get past “I have no freaking clue”. So, I just stand there and think.

Why: (ask why up to 5 times, 1 minute) Sometimes, tiredness is unavoidable, despite the best time management. Life happens, I get tired. I keep asking why so I can get to the correct root cause.  If I want long-term weight maintenance, then I have to address sleep problems effectively.  Solutions cannot be food based (unless I’ve eaten too little for my activity) It’s non-negotiable.

Identifying the root cause: 3 months to sort it out. Tired- over worked, over caffeinated, being a parent/pet owner, etc. I did not think I had the answers inside me, but I did. I needed about 3 months to practice the stop, ask the question, then I picked a feeling. And, sometimes I guessed wrong. I told myself it would be okay. Okay not to be perfect, okay to learn. Okay to build on what I learned. Okay to keep going.  I’m tired. That’s okay to feel tired. But, to maintain my weight I had to act.

Correction: 1-2minutes to stop the food seeking. The Immediate remedy to the problem: Go to sleep! Or get ready to go to sleep. I left the kitchen, turned off the lights. Physically went upstairs. Food does not get taken upstairs (unless one of us is sick).  Food was not the answer here.  Only rest or sleep. The dishes wait, the projects are there, as are the clothes to be folded.

Prevention: How long it took: 6 months -1 year: I set up some tools and time to fine tune my processes to remove being tired . (This root cause won’t be removed 100% ,and I accept that)

Counting sheep to sleep!
Prevention #1: 30 days  I did a Whole30. I slept a lot better! Why? Removing dairy removed the swelling in my nasal passages and stopped me from  snoring. Losing weight helped, too. This improved my sleeping a lot. I was better rested.
Prevention #2: 6 months Lower carb diet , most of my carbs come from the metric tons large amount of non-starchy veggies I eat at all 3 meals. Some carbs come from berries or a few slices of in season fruit. Yum! (50-90 grams total of carbs/day- more if hiking or strength training or very active). I noticed my sleep was much, much improved. Why, who knows!!!??? But, I can maintain 70 pounds lost much better, so I don’t really need to dig any deeper. It works for me.
Prevention  #3: 2 months: Stop drinking caffeine after about 2pm. I sleep better.
Prevention #4: 3-4 months: Stop all computer, e-reading, social media after about 9pm. I fall asleep better.
Prevention #5:  (2 years, didn’t apply when the kid was age 0-2) Train household members and pets not to wake me up. Unless you are having an issue with ABC = Airway, Breathing, Circulation (bleeding), or emergency personnel or civil defense is involved, then you don’t wake me up. Really. No. Don’t mess with it. Understand?  Good!

Pets get kicked out if they want to play at night.  Humans: I do make exceptions for nosebleeds that don’t stop, acute illnesses, medicine doses,  earthquakes, tornadoes, fire alarms, reverse 911 calls, extreme family emergencies that are life/death, etc. Boundary setting is key.
Harbor Seal getting some good zzzzzz's

The take away: Pick a root cause and just one preventive action. It’s not going to happen overnight.
The leave behind: Blame, shame, and ineffective processes. It’s okay not to be perfect! It's not okay to continue with ineffective processes. Change it up. Sleep is key!

What works now: All of the above

What didn’t work. 
1.  Not connecting dairy with sleep issues. Moooo! Who knew?
   2. Eating 100 calorie snack packs, cereal, oatmeal, cliff bars, and multi-grain waffles and not considering my carbohydrate load or processed foods. Not as much room for nutrient dense veggies, protein or fats. GI distress probably kept me awake some nights, too. 
      3. Drinking caffeine at 5pm after work.
      4.   Spending time online or watching TV too late.
      5. No putting myself first when I could have set boundaries sooner.


  1. Being tired is SUCH a huge stressor that causes me to overeat... It's a tricky one, because it is sometimes not as identifiable as anger or sadness. It's mixing there!

    1. Jeanette so true! Number 7 will be a mixture of all of my triggers. :) I can be so focused, then I hit the wall!

  2. I emotionally ate last night, but I tamed it rather quickly; an ounce or so of cheese, and half a See's sucker. I identified what I was doing during the time, and although I still ate those items, I cut them off quickly. Steps in the right direction. Not fully tamed emotional eating yet, but getting tamed. I don't eat when I'm tired, or bored anymore. I've conquered those. But when I'm really mad or sad...I still do. Baby steps.

    Thanks for such great details of your journey; it's helpful guideposts. :)

    1. Catching yourself early in the process is a huge victory, Gwen. Glad you have the presence of mind. Keep up the good work.

  3. Being tired doesn't help us at all....but sometimes 'life' throws things at us that must be dealt with....and then sleep patterns etc go out of the window.

    I think you are so good at keeping track on what works, what doesn't .....

    All the best Jan

  4. Thanks for sharing! This is very helpful.
    You're right, finding solutions doesn't happen overnight but one can always start :)

    1. Nikki, so true! It turned out to be a good thing- to work on it overtime. That way I could have a month or so where I really focused on it ( like the Whole30) and other months where uncovering things slowed down. Starting is good. I never would have guessed where I wound up. Easier than I thought by getting rid of dairy.

  5. I don't just say "bleeding", I say "bleeding enough to need a bucket"
    Number one rule at our house - do not wake mom (they are 16, 20, 24).