Have you ever had a stressful day and reached for a bag of chips or chocolate bar without thinking?
Food is comforting, satisfying, and calming to the brain. So it is almost automatic to turn to food when you are anxious, tired, or angry. It is among many quick fixes that are proven to help reduce that stressed out feeling.
Of course it’s hard to maintain a healthy weight when food is your only comfort for stress. So many people are looking for ways to stop their emotional eating, especially when it becomes a mindless habit.
To explore the topic of conquering emotional eating, I have invited Lauren Chitwood, Health Coach for Take Shape for Life, to share her empowering story.
Marci: Many people struggle to set new goals for their health because they feel helpless about change. What helped you begin to shift how you thought about changing your habits?
Lauren: I knew I had to make a change in my life when I noticed my medical bills increasing. I was gaining weight each month and nothing I tried was working. I realized that I had an unhealthy relationship with food, and I wanted to stop being on yo-yo diets.
My feet hurt from carrying extra weight, and I was concerned about preventing diabetes. I knew my health was declining, and decided I could no longer put off making a permanent change in my eating habits. It was getting hard to enjoy being active with my family.
Marci: Many people turn to food for comfort during stressful or lonely times. Was this true for you?
Lauren: I was a stress eater. It was very easy for me to turn to food for comfort. One of my unhealthy habits was stopping at Quick Trip on my way home from work. I was stressed about my day and anxious about keeping up with my family’s evening activities.
I convinced myself that I deserved to grab a snack on my way home to have “me” time. I would eat a combination of candy, chocolate, salty foods, and diet pop. By the time I arrived home, I had eaten everything and felt guilty about my binge.
Marci: How did you stop turning to food for emotional reasons?
Lauren: I haven’t eliminated all stress or chaos, but I have found a new way to comfort myself. When I feel the urge to turn to comfort food, I stop myself by performing the following “Stop-Challenge-Choose” exercise:
- Do Self-Inventory: “Why am I desiring junk food? Am I feeling anxious, bored, or stressed?”
- Think about Long-Term Goals: “If I eat this candy/food will I sabotage my progress and possibly put myself off course?”
- Replace Food: Find another way to calm myself that isn’t food.
Marci: What helps you stay motivated to keep working on your health goals?
Lauren: I read some books by Dr. Wayne Anderson explaining how motivation effects your results. Developing “outcome oriented motivation” instead of “conflict driven motivation” is what’s led me to maintaining my health and weight loss goals.
“Conflict driven motivation” is when an emotional conflict leads you to take action. Once you take action, you start to feel better. Yet your motivation to follow through on your goal decreases when you feel better. I realized this was the classic yo-yo dieting pattern I had tried with no lasting results.
“Outcome oriented motivation” focuses on what you want, not what you don’t want. It focuses on a desired state that you want to create. I envision what optimal health means to me:
- I want to stabilize my blood sugar, have healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- I want to run a 5K with my family.
- I want to wear a tank top and shorts and be full of energy.
- I want to be active even when I am a grandmother.
Shifting my motivation toward these goals helps me get through holiday parties and buffet lines. Focusing on the outcome I want helps me keep the weight off that I have lost.
Marci: If your progress slows or you take a step backward, how do you get yourself back on track?
Lauren: Life still gets bumpy, but I keep my forward thinking goals in front of me and keep on moving toward my goals. When my weight loss slows down, I also take a deep breath and remember how far I have traveled on my journey. I look at the fact that I’ve made significant progress in a short amount of time. I hold onto knowing that I have found the last weight loss program I would ever need.
Marci: What unexpected benefits have you encountered along your journey?
Lauren: Losing weight and regaining my health has changed my life in ways I never expected. I had become socially reclusive, stopped reaching out to new relationships, and ignored my old friendships. I was embarrassed by how much weight I had gained, so I avoided people and social events. Emotionally I felt like a failure when I let food have control over me.
As I began losing weight, I almost immediately felt like I was back in control. That was one of the most empowering moments of my life. If I could conquer my food addiction, I could conquer anything!
As I continued losing weight, my social, friendly, and caring personality started to return. I began forming new relationships and reconnecting with old ones. I have a new level of confidence and sureness that I never embraced before now.
Marci: I want to thank Lauren for joining us today and sharing her struggles with food as well as her triumphs. Having only known Lauren after her health transformation, it’s hard to imagine her ever feeling insecure and unsure. She truly has transformed not only the outside but the inside too!
Anyone else have a question for Lauren about her health transformation or the program she coaches?
Lauren Chitwood is a Certified Health Coach with Take Shape for Life. Lauren has a passion for coaching others who are struggling with their weight and health goals. Watch this video to learn more about the Take Shape for Life Program, inluding free health coaching.