Yep, I admit it, I did that. I ate some cookies in the car. Why? Because I was stressed out. Many of us are stress eaters. We reach for food when we’re upset. What we reach for is different for everyone. What’s your food of choice?
Oftentimes it’s something that has good memories attached to it.
What Did Your Mom Give You as a Treat?
Mine is cookies because my mom used to give me cookies when I was little. She gave me cookies when I was good, or when I was upset or just because. In all of those scenarios it was a reward of some type. Of course, the ultimate reward is tasting them. Who doesn’t love freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? Even store-bought ones will do if you’re really having a craving.
Why do we turn to food when we’re stressed out?
The root of over-eating is mother’s milk. When we’re babies, we needed it to survive. Therefore, it has life-saving properties. When we feel our life or lifestyle is threatened in some way, we revert back to what made us safe, what helped us survive – food. That’s a big one. We don’t need drugs or alcohol to survive, but we do need food. That’s what makes food addictions and stress eating so hard to overcome.
I can’t say I’ve completely let go of my cookie addiction, but I have greatly reduced it.
Yeah, I know, whatever.
And going to the well.
More on that to come.
Diets Almost Always Fail
If you’ve ever been on a diet then you probably know they don’t work. Or at least not long term. Why? Because we’re depriving ourselves and no one likes to be deprived. At least not forever. Even Jackie O said if she had known she was going to die so young (she was 64) she would’ve eaten the entire piece of cake! Gotta love her for that comment! I do.
Clearly, she had more willpower than I do when it came to cake (her real vice was smoking) but willpower can break down. Or we transfer from one addiction to another.
The bigger reason diets don’t work is our mindset.
There’s something causing us to over-eat. Something upsetting us. If you have a food addiction then you know it often changes. It’s a moving target. One day it’s something that happened at work. The next day it’s something your spouse or your child did. The next day it’s your noisy neighbors keeping you up all night. It doesn’t matter what the trigger is, the go-to reaction is the same: food.
The key is to identify when you start feeling stressed. For some people certain triggers set it off, for others it doesn’t matter what the trigger is, the end result is the same. The bottom line is to identify the stress in your mind and in your body.
Do you feel a tightness in your throat? Or a pit in your stomach? Or a headache coming on? Maybe you notice more of the emotions. Do you get snappy or what some would call “b*tchy?” Does your anger or frustration level go up?
Identify Your Stress Cues
Change always starts with awareness. Identify your stress cues, whether physical or emotional.
When you’re about to indulge diet experts will advise you to ask yourself if you really want that food right now or not. From my experience when my stress level is maxing out, that question won’t fly. My stress override will kick in. I won’t stop to answer, I’ll just do. I’ll reach for the cookies. If I don’t have any, I’ll go for a substitute. At that point it’s too much trouble for me to go to the store and get some. I need immediate relief. If you’re like me, you do too. No amount of asking yourself if you really want it will do. You need it now! Stat. S*rew that advice!
If asking yourself if you really want it doesn’t work, what else do the diet experts have? The next trick they have is to wait five minutes, then see if you still want it. Same end result for me. I can’t wait five minutes, I’m upset now and I need those cookies ASAP. Or whatever is on hand. Just fill me up. Give me some relief!!!
That’s the thing though, it doesn’t really relieve you. You think it does because if you stopped long enough to taste them (oftentimes we don’t when we’re stressed), they tasted good. Or maybe you have to go for more because the first one or two or three didn’t do it for you.
When your belly is full it signals to the brain it’s satisfied. But if we eat quickly like we do when we’re stressed, the belly doesn’t have time to give us the signal so we keep eating. Depending on how much you eat, it can get uncomfortable. That’s not a good feeling.
Stop the Cycle
So how do you stop the cycle?
For me, it’s been a long process. I’ve done a ton of self-growth work. I’ve examined a lot of dark corners of my mind. I’ve peeled the onion way back. I’ve dug under a lot of layers. I’m still digging because I’ve realized until you die, there’s always more to dig up. At least now I have less to dig.
Being mindful is great and it helps. I practice it when I find myself wanting cookies. But here’s the biggest insight I can give you. None of that stuff works long-term until you identify and work with those core issues. Otherwise all of the surface stuff triggers you. If you get to the point where the surface stuff doesn’t set you off so much, then that’s where you gotta start digging. Keep going to the well until you get to the bottom or as close as you can get. Because like I said, I’m not sure we ever get to the bottom in our lifetime.
That probably isn’t what you wanted to hear, but when I have I filled you with fluff? In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m pretty straight-talking. I won’t lead you down the garden path of stuff that doesn’t work. I tell you how it is. I share my life with you and tell you what’s worked for me – or my friends or clients. I’m a real person like you with real problems. I’ve done a lot of work so I don’t have so many problems as I do opportunities to improve. I know that’s a quote, but it’s just a quote until you live it. I do. And I want you to as well.
So, no BS here. If you want to stop binge eating or eating cookies in the car or finishing off the chip bag every time something goes wrong, identify your cues physical and/or emotional. Now you know you’re stressing.
Just because you know you’re stressing doesn’t mean you can stop reaching for the chip bag. Like I said, the diet experts will tell you that, but what do they know? I’m not to trying to knock them, as much as I am saying that when you’re in the throes of it, all of their advice goes out the window. They mean well, but how long did it take them to stop finishing off the ice cream before they got mindful? Yeah, they don’t often share that part. They just tell you what they learned in “diet school” or whatever.
You gotta get real with yourself. You have to look in the mirror and dig in the well. If you’re willing to do that, then the pounds will start to come off. Hey, mine aren’t all the way off; I’m a work in progress too. But I know I’ll get there.
In the meantime, just so you know, I still enjoy cookies.