Thursday, April 10, 2014

Identifying non-food emotional eating triggers in weight maintenance part 2 Stress

Part 2 Identifying non-food emotional eating triggers in weight maintenance- Stress

 See previous parts to this series here:
Variable-  sometimes stress is often, sometimes long periods without it
Predictable: doing taxes is stressful for me, holiday, job stress
Unpredictable: Illnesses, accidents, minor or major life events

What happens and "problem" detection:
A stress even arrives. I've got to to deal with it with non foods. There's no way to avoid stress. Stress is part of life and here to stay! Taxes, illnesses- mine or someone close to me. Life happens. I can only shape my responses. I can't stop death and taxes.  I can teach myself not eat over detected stress events.  I might also add that these are not problems- per se, but normal life events.

Where: Stress is on the job, at home, on the commute, a given while alive. Stress can be everywhere. As a single parent and only adult head of household, I'm the only adult making adult decisions. Stress can also be at 3am when a faulty smoke alarm at the top of a flight of stairs is going off and I'm the only one who can deal with it.
The stairs at Universal Studios- Hollywood

What happens next:  I usually label it, then use a coping technique to deal. 
I can label it:  Ah! March... I'll be doing taxes. It will be stressful. 
I can label it: Work stress- yes, this part of the job is stressful. I'll need to deal with it.
I can label it: Oh, that was unexpected (accident, hospice, illness).. how sad. I feel sad. It's stressful to grieve myself and watch my friends/family grieve.
I can label it: Well, ALL of my smoke alarms go off unexpectedly, time to replace the whole system so I don't have to teeter on the edge of the stairs at 3am with a frightened child wanting to run outside and call 911 (as taught in class in elementary)
Root cause: ask yourself why 5 times (takes about 30 seconds), to identify root causes of stress. I can often only ask once to uncover the root!

Correction: (this took me half a life time- 40 years, but it doesn't have to take that long. A good counselor can help you learn how to deal with stress in 6-12 months, if you didn't learn it earlier. It's never too late!)  Identify stress so I can prevent feeding it with food.
Once I identify that I'm stressed out, then I can choose different ways to cope and or problem solve.  Not a single stress reliever has to do with FOOD. That's important. Food fixes hunger. Not stress. Comfort foods used to be a really ineffective way I dealt numbed out or avoided stress.  Whip up a batch of cookies, bread, family favorite fill in the blank__________.  Yeah, my binge brain loves that. Suuuuurrrrre! 
Insert screeching break sound here.  Insert me calling myself on my own BS here. Ahhhh! That's better. Getting real with effective coping techniques is and was key in long term weight maintenance. My health is better, my pants fit better when I get real and stay real. When I promised myself I would stop 40 years of yo-yo dieting, stress management was at the top of the list.
To stop emotional eating binging and to choose my best life.  I had to find non-food ways to sooth and deal with stress.

Prevention:   Well, I can't stop death or taxes, but I can manage other stresses. 
Effective management  techniques ( Learning this technique 1-2 years with a good friend, counselor, or support group)

Prevention #1 (30 minutes- 1 hour to walk) Time for myself: I can choose to go walking while sitting with someone who is in a hospice situation. Me sitting bedside with a sick family member is okay, but not taking time to take care of me is not okay. As sad as it was, I was outside walking at the very moment a family member died. It was actually the best and kindest thing that I could do for myself and that person and my family. I told that person "I don't want to leave, but I need to go walking for myself. I feel much better that way. I'll be back soon." That's the last thing I ever told my loved one. I feel good that I took care of myself. It was his time to die.

Great example of putting myself first. That person who died would want that for me. I remember his smile each time I visited "Hey, you are still skinny and have not regained the weight" . After 40 years of yo-yoing with my weight and struggling, he knew that I had addressed key issues. It was a nice closure for me.

More than pleasing other people, most importantly, I wanted it for myself. In fact, the hospice worker told me that my family member may have been waiting for me to physically leave the room to die. Interesting! She might be right. I may never know. I but it did feel right at the time.

Prevention #2:  ( 5 minutes to contact someone) Calling a support person who will call me on my emotional/binge behavior. Calling someone who is going to pat me on the back and suggest I eat my way  or comfort myself with food is not effective. I've found that calling someone who gets emotional eating and is not afraid to call me on my own BS thinking is very, very effective for weight maintenance. 
That person is not to do the work, but there to spell break any magic emotional thinking. Personal support people don't do the work, but enable me to save myself from my own slippery slope.
Prevention #3  ( a few weeks to hire someone, less time to buy turbo tax!) Planning in advance to do taxes or to hire someone if needed. Good electronic scanning, filing, printing, paper labeling help, also.

Preventions 4- (infinity, never ending)- Correct labeling of stress and things like taking a walk, reading, calling a friend, sleeping, reading a book at 3 am if I'm wide awake.

The take away: Pick a root cause, ask for help and work on effective coping skills.  Stress is part of life.  It’s not going to happen overnight. Gather a team, village, or singe support that works best.
The leave behind:Blame, shame, and ineffective processes. It’s okay not to be perfect! It's not okay to continue with ineffective processes if it's keeping you from being who/what you want to be.  Change it up as best you can. The world doesn't revolve around me. Me being there controlling every last detail will likely change NOTHING. Life goes on, so I'd better take care of  myself.

It's the best thing I can do to stay steady in weight maintenance, stress management. The best thing I can pass on to my daughter. I'm proud not to model stress eating and to pass better problem solving on to her.  I get the benefits day in and day out of lower cortisol/stress cycles and she gets a more effective example.  Notice : The blue font. This stuff doesn't happen overnight. Start where you are and work on it.
Having good stress management tools are key. 

 What works now:
1. All of the above

What didn't work in the past

1. Not putting myself first for eating or exercise, eating, sleeping, help.  Putting others first trained others to treat me second class, also. Terrible cycle. That family/friend/co-worker dynamic added to my stress. Reversible with the right help.

2. Not calling someone who would support me or emotional eating. A person in recovery to call me on my own BS!

3- 4 Not problem solving and selecting the right tool. Cookies and candy didn't fix my leaky toilet, but calling a plumber did.  So did replacing my smoke detectors. Eating doesn't fix anything but nutrition and hunger.


  1. a very wise post, Karen, thank you!

    1. Thanks, Tess. And thanks for your shout out on your blog. :)

  2. Great post, as always, Karen!

    Only things that stops taxes IS death. LOL

    Thanks for givings us such great examples, and tools!

  3. Love this series of posts! Thanks for sharing Karen.

  4. What a great post Karen ....helpful to all


    All the best Jan

  5. Thank you Jan, Nikki and Gwen. :)