We need self-compassion for stress eating. It is difficult to resist, and even harder to track the calories we consume. Tell me if this sounds familiar. You are facing a tough deadline, get a distressing phone call, have an argument with your significant other, or receive a potentially unmanageable bill, and you panic. Soon you find yourself eating something to take your mind off of the stress, and slowly start to feel better. Later, you find your pants fitting a little tighter, and wonder without certainty about how many calories you have been consuming lately.
The Surprising Motivation For Stress Eating
Something you may not know about this behavior is that we are less aware of our full point, and how much we have eaten because the food does not serve to fill an empty belly or turn off our anxiety. It is actually a self-soothing technique in which something is consumed at the rate of how stimulated we are. It is not so much the satiation from the food or even the glucose we get from it that keeps us coming back to this behavior.
We come back to it because it is a controllable, knowable routine that gives us enough of a distraction to wait out the worst part of our stress. Another potentially surprising part of this phenomenon is that it can happen in response to can activating event. For example, you may eat more right after a big work meeting, after a stimulating phone call, or a high-paced drama or sporting event. Yes, Internet articles and twitter rants count too!
A Common Mistake
The mistake most people make is to eliminate this behavior through guilt, shame, and avoidance. They try to hold themselves accountable for the behavior by rubbing their noses in it, criticizing the behavior, and then swearing it off. Little do they know that the stronger you respond to something, the more in depth and the more emotionally it is processed. High emotions and deep processing lead to well-stored memories, which means that when the situation presents itself again, you will have easy access to the idea of stress eating.
Finding Success Managing Stress Eating With Self-Compassion
The good news is that you do not need to use guilt, shame, or even criticism to manage stress eating. You just need a little mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness will help you notice when you are feeling stressed or when you are feeling activated. Self-Compassion will ask you to just wait out the stress/anxiety until it has passed (preferably with some biofeedback breathing or self-compassion techniques), and then you can eat. Once your heart rate and thoughts slow, you will be in tune with your level of hunger, so you can eat what you need, and feel good afterwards.
You will also be less likely to eat unhealthy items with high sugar content because your body will not be craving glucose for survival purposes. Some people are shaking their heads because they think it might be too hard to wait. That is what they said about little kids and quiet time, and you should see how many of them can achieve this when it is a game. Remember, do not starve yourself or beat yourself up, just wait until you are feeling less activated. Sometimes, good things really do come to people who wait.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 238. In The Books.