A Few Lessons on Managing Stress Eating That I Never Stop Learning | TMOHP Episode 127

As long as I live, I will have a relationship with food - and with stress. I think it’s fair to say that both are a non-negotiable part of life. And one thing I know is that both these relationships will grow and change and there is no static “perfect” state that I’ll ever achieve. Also, for me, and I’m far from alone, the way I eat and the level of my stress are definitely related. Managing stress eating isn’t about sitting on my hands and telling myself, “no.” When I ignore the stress and focus on depriving myself or having self-control, it never lasts - or doesn’t work at all.

There are a few things I’ve learned that help a lot. In fact, these are life lessons that keep repeating themselves - and that I’ll probably be relearning and remembering for the rest of my life. Imperfectly. In this episode I’m sharing ten life lessons on managing stress eating that I never stop learning.

In this episode:

  • How to get more help when you don’t know how anyone can help you
  • Where you are probably tackling someone else’s to-do list most days (and maybe even before you look at your own)
  • The obvious choice between being happy and right that can be incredibly difficult to make
  • Where taking more time can give you more time, less stress, and help you be more productive
  • The question that works magic when I remember to ask it in the morning

Resources in this episode:

  • The Freedom from Overeating Roadmap for Smart, Busy Women is your guide to ending overeating and emotional eating habits. Designed for multitaskers and busy women, you’ll take your power back from overeating with this free guide which includes resources for addressing the reasons you overeat and a user guide for Dr. Melissa’s most popular podcast episodes. Download your roadmap here: https://toomuchonherplate.com/map/
  • Your Missing Peace  is the program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. Enrollment is open and NOW is the perfect time to join us! Go here to learn more
  • Join the Freedom from Overeating and Emotional Eating Community on Facebook
  • Private Coaching for Emotional Eating and Overeating: I have openings in my schedule to work with about twelve women a year and openings are filled as space becomes available. Private coaching meetings are scheduled via Zoom or phone and we can connect from anywhere in the world. Private coaching is customized to you and your goals and we'll work together for a minimum of six months. Learn more and apply here.
  • Visit http://toomuchonherplate.com for more tips and resources to create peace with food and overcome overeating and emotional eating

Episode Transcript

Hey, everybody welcome back to the podcast. Let me ask you a question, does it ever feel like there are some things that you are destined to just keep learning over and over and over again? There are definitely some places in my life where that is absolutely the case for me. And so I thought in this episode, I would share a few lessons that have to do with managing stress and managing stress eating that I have learned over and over again, and many of which I'm still learning.

So let's start with the basics and the really obvious. And that is that stress eating is triggered by a hidden hunger for stress relief. Stress triggers stress eating for a lot of people. When I manage the stress or when I take care of myself when I'm under that stress in a careful way or in a different kind of way, then the desire to stress eat can ease up dramatically.

Taking care of the stress, the reason that I'm eating, makes a huge difference. And, to stick with things that are obvious and basic, there are a few lessons that I think I'm going to be learning and remembering over and over again for the rest of my life that have to do with managing my stress or decreasing my stress or making life work more smoothly for myself.

And that help keep me from standing in front of the pantry, grabbing handfuls of things that I really don't want to eat, but that I do want to eat because I'm feeling a buildup of stress and overwhelm. Okay?

I think I'll be learning these lessons over and over again. And that is okay because I do see improvement most of the time. And I also see that usually it doesn't take so long to remember what I need to know each time I go through that cycle.

Today I'm sharing these life lessons, because they make a tremendous difference with stress and stress eating. And because I have found that many of these show up over and over and over again for clients and for members of Your Missing Peace, which is my coaching program where we're working on ending emotional eating and overeating.

Some of these seem to be pretty universal. So I want to share these with you in case you, like us, are continually learning. Without further ado, here are 10 life lessons on managing stress and managing stress eating that you too might find helpful and that it might be helpful to be reminded of today. Ready? Okay.

Number one life lesson that I am learning over and over and over and over again, probably for the rest of my life. This is that asking for help doesn't need to be as difficult as I make it sometimes. I am one of those over functioning independent types. That is just who I am.

I've gotten a lot better at it. But there are still certain times when it doesn't even occur to me to ask for help. I can get in pretty deep with overwhelm and with stress, and it doesn't even occur to me to ask for help.

There are also other times where I get lost in this trap of not knowing what to ask for. Not knowing how somebody could help me with this. And again, feeling like I have to go it alone. There are questions that help with this that I get reminded of over and over again. One of them is, is there a way that you could help me with this? Is this something you could help me with?

Or I could ask a generic kind of global question. If you were trying to figure out X, Y, and Z, how would you handle this? How would you handle this situation? These can be power questions. So as I have gotten older and wiser, I have identified that there is this certain kind of, I don't know, it's like a lonely, stressed out feeling that I get. When what it is that I really need is to be asking for more help or for more guidance or for more support. And that's been important to identify.

If you can relate, then getting curious about what your own signals are. What are the signals that you could be asking for help or that asking for help would be helpful? What are those signals or those symptoms inside of you? What are the signs that you could be asking for more help or more guidance?

Figuring that out, starting to get curious about your own signals, starting to be more aware of them can be incredibly valuable. At least it has been for me.

The second life lesson is practical, but again, learning it over and over again. And that is that checking email is hardly ever the thing I should be doing when I do it.

I once heard somebody characterize your email inbox as everybody else's to do list for you. That's what your inbox is. It's this to do list that a whole bunch of other people have thrown at you. Everybody else's agenda.

It never feels good to be reacting to a bunch of other people's priorities. At least it never feels good if I'm not really intentional about spending my time and energy this way. If it's just this reaction. If I'm clicking that tab in my browser and seeing what's waiting for me and seeing what I have to do.

The days that I set really clear policies and boundaries around email, those are my most productive and those are my least stressful days so much of the time. And I will also say, because I hear about this so often from clients that I think it's worth saying, if you think that people will not survive, if you do not respond to your emails instantaneously, it is worth considering whether you are training these people to have this expectation that you will respond instantaneously. Right?

Play with this one. If, if it feels like you are at the mercy of having to respond all the time, be open to being curious about that and, and seeing if you could experiment with this and see how it affects your stress.

I have not conquered this. I am still learning. And I think we have a lot of conditioning to be at the mercy of our inboxes. So don't be surprised if you keep coming back to this one over and over again, but it is a lesson that bears repeating, at least for me.

Okay, life lesson number three that I learn over and over and over again is if I'm feeling overwhelmed, it is worth stepping back and deciding on the one thing that I want to focus on in this right here, present moment.

In overwhelm when I am, when I'm overwhelmed, and when I'm stressed, my tendency is to feel like I have to do everything and I have to have done it yesterday. This is partly because anxious and stressed out brains are not good at simplifying or prioritizing. And there is this kind of thrum of anxiety, which is like, what do I do? What do I do? I need to do the things.

For some reason, overwhelmed, creates this overwhelming need in, I think all of us to do all the things and to do them all at once and to do them faster. So focusing on one thing is calming for me. It is also the key to making progress. It is also the key to me starting to feel effective. And the key to shifting my energy to a better place.

I'm just going to keep rattling through these life lessons. And if it feels like they are kind of all over the place, it's because they are. I made this list. This is how they occurred to me. Life lesson number four is that no one is harder on me than I am. And life is much more pleasant if I treat myself the way I would treat just about anybody else, but particularly if I would treat myself the way I treat a dear friend. Right?

And if I could just run my expectations for myself through that same filter, or when I do that, life is much nicer. Sometimes it is hard to see how hard I'm being on myself. Right? We have this blind spot. Sometimes that negative voice just seems to function on autopilot.

And I'm tons better at this than I used to be. But circling back to that asking for help life lesson, it's a place where this can be really helpful because friends don't let friends beat themselves up the way that we do when we are alone with our own stress.

I guess there are two life lessons here. One is that no one can be harder on me than I can be on myself, but also that it is totally unhelpful and unreasonable. And I will be learning this one repeatedly for a while. But that's okay, because I am better at it than I used to be. And each time I get a little bit better.

Okay. Life lesson number five is a big one. And it's a hard one. But the truth is if I have the choice of being happy or being right in quotation marks, I am always better off choosing happiness. It doesn't mean I always choose happiness, but I'm better off choosing happiness. It's not easy in the moment. But I do know it's true. And coming back to that truth is really helpful for me.

Digging my heels in or staying stuck in feelings of rightness. Right? Or holding a grudge. It's exhausting and it's stressful and it's a big waste of my energy. And that's really all I have to say about this one, other than repeating once again that I know I will be learning this lesson again, and probably fairly soon.

You know, it just occurs to me as I am recording this, how much I enjoy sharing these kinds of life lessons inside my communities. Sometimes inside Your Missing Peace, you know, sometimes people join in and in our minds, we think, Oh, we're going to focus on these very big topics. We're going to be talking about food all the time. Or we're going to be talking about how to be build strength. Or we're going to be talking about concepts.

But so much of the time it is about things like life lessons. It's like, Oh, this comes up for me over and over and over again. And how can I take this thing that comes up over and over again and feel like I'm getting somewhere with it? How can I not be so hard on myself because it keeps coming up? Right? How can I be understanding? How can I talk to myself? Like I talked to that person that I care about, about this thing.

And how can I create learning so that the next time it comes up, it's a little bit different or a lot different? Or the bad feeling that I have doesn't last as long or doing that thing one more time. Doesn't get me so frustrated that I end up in the kitchen eating all the snacks. Right?

So much of changing your relationship with food is about changing your relationship with yourself and giving yourself permission to learn things. Which means messing up. Which means making the same mistake over again and correcting it and growing from it or not and finding yourself learning all over again.

So much of creating peace with food requires being able to be curious and kind to yourself as we go through this thing called life. And I think sometimes life is making the same mistakes over and over and over again and evolving a little bit along the way. A little bit each time we go through the same old thing. I hope I'm saying that in a way that makes sense. Okay, so. Back to the life lessons.

Life lesson number six, feels to me a kind of like, do you remember that book about learning everything you needed to learn in kindergarten? This one feels like that too, but it is true. And that is going outside always makes me happier.

Going outside is life changing for me. It is mood changing. It is energy changing. It is mindset shifting. The truth is when in doubt, I should always go outside. Some of my happiest moments outside have been when I've gone for a run in miserable weather. And when I have come home with mud all over my shoes and all over my calves and, you know, soaking wet. It has been fun.

When in doubt, I should always go. The critical decision is not what my brain tells me. Oh, is it too rainy? Is it too cold? Is it too whatever for me to go? The critical decision to make for me, is the one that gets my butt out the door. Because once I get my butt out the door, things always get better. That is the life lesson I actually enjoy learning over and over and over again.

But it doesn't make it easier in that moment when my brain is telling me that the critical thing is, is the weather perfect and is this absolutely the best time for me to go outside? Anyway, let's keep going.

Number seven, perfectionism about me or about the weather. Perfectionism doesn't serve me and all or nothing thinking is perfectionism. I have learned that perfectionism is at the root of so many problems, undiagnosed perfectionism, hidden perfectionism. If I am feeling overwhelmed, if I'm feeling incapable, it is almost always some kind of perfectionism or all or nothing expectation that is hiding out, lurking in the background.

I have learned that for me, the way out of that trap is to just start. Just do something, stop worrying about what the right thing is or where I should start, or should I do this or do that? Just do something. Or, sometimes it's to break the thing down or the things down into much smaller pieces. Right? Or to change the criteria from I have to do this thing or I have to get an A plus on this thing to I'm going to spend 10 minutes on it.

Or something that feels reasonable that I know I can accomplish. I think for me, so often the antidote to perfectionism and the stuckness that comes with that is just doing something to build a little piece of competence. A little piece, even if it is a teeny tiny thing. Doing something effective, that is always helpful for me. I guess that's kind of another life lesson, right? Just do something.

Okay, next life lesson. Taking the time to get grounded and clear, even when, actually especially when I am feeling rushed or stressed, always pays off. Taking the time to get grounded and clear, especially when I'm feeling rushed or stressed, always pays off.

Another way to say that is that those times when I think I don't have time to slow down and get grounded and clear are the times when I'm going to get the biggest payoff for doing that. Jumping in and doing the work, it only works when it does work.

And sometimes it does work. Just get started. Just do the thing. I was just kind of talking about that, right? Build some effectiveness. But if it's not working or if I'm feeling like I'm spinning my wheels or if I feel like I'm procrastinating or I'm focusing on the wrong thing or I'm not getting anywhere, I need to take some time.

That is my life lesson. Taking five minutes, taking two minutes or three minutes to meditate. Or to breathe deeply and by meditating for two to three minutes, that's what I mean just closing my eyes and breathing deeply. Or stopping to create a vision of how I want my data unfold. Taking those two or three or five minutes has never put me behind and it usually saves me time. It absolutely allows me to be more present with myself, to be more myself. And I know that when I do it, I feel so much more effective.

It works and that one kind of overlaps with the ninth life lesson that I'm always forgetting. It is one that I love because it is magical. I really do think it works magic and yet it's so interesting how we work as human beings. Right? We learn these things, we discover these things, we start practicing these things that work for us, that feel good, that add more joy to our lives.

And then it's just part of human nature. We get off track with them. Right? We have to come back to them. And so having strategies that pull us back to the things that are important, like taking the five minutes to get clear into grounded, those things are really, really powerful, at least for me. And it's not just at least for me, because I see this all the time inside Your Missing Peace, figuring out what works for you to keep bringing you back to your life lessons, I think that's the magic.

Okay, but I was talking about the magic in the ninth life lesson and it is one that I keep learning over and over again, but it is powerful. And that is that starting my day by asking how I want to feel and then thinking about, okay, what will I do to create that feeling in my day?

That simple act is a million times more helpful than just creating a to do list or just diving into the to do list that I made on Monday that has been building up till whatever day of the week this is right now when you're listening to this episode. Starting with how do I want to feel and what am I going to do to create that feeling today? It's magic.

Alright, so just to review, what I'm covering with you are life lessons that I think are going to thread through my whole life. They are going to weave through my entire life. I am going to keep evolving and learning different iterations of these lessons over and over and over again, probably to the end of my days.

But these life lessons are incredibly helpful for me with managing stress. And managing stress eating that happens with the stress. And, it really isn't about getting the life lesson completely mastered. Or learning it perfectly or never having it come up.

I think there's so much value for me in recognizing, oh, here we are again. Oh, yep. This is that thing. Oh, yeah. You know what? This is going to work much better if I go backwards a little bit and take the five minutes that I didn't take this morning and get grounded. Right? Or, oh, you know what? I caught myself. I've been focusing all day on building this massive to do list and I haven't even thought about how I want to feel.

Or oh, I'm feeling overwhelmed I completely forgot to ask somebody for help with this. How could somebody help me with this? Or who could help me simplify this? Coming back to the lesson is so valuable. I think, especially when I don't get it perfect, which I'm never going to do.

And I think this dovetails with the final life lesson that I want to share with you today. And that is, what I tell myself matters. What I believe, what I tell myself I believe, and the beliefs that I choose to focus on matter. Whether I think I can do something or whether I think I can't do something, I am likely to be right.

Whether I think something is going to be excruciating or it's going to take a long time, or whether I think I can get through this easily, is going to impact the energy that I bring to whatever that thing is, which is going to impact the kind of feelings that I create from the actions that I take, my beliefs are going to shape my journey.

If I move forward, telling myself how miserable something is going to be, what a slog is going to be, how much I'm going to struggle. Think about all the thoughts that you might have about changing your eating. If I go into a journey focused on all of those thoughts and repeating all of those thoughts in my head back to that voice and the way we talk to ourselves and the way we treat ourselves. Right? I'm going to create a struggle.

If I anticipate one, I'm probably going to set myself up for a struggle or misery or needing to have a lot of willpower or feeling deprived. That's usually what happens. I can make anything miserable. I know that about myself. I really can. If I decide to, I can make just about anything miserable.

And there is a flip side to that. I can make a lot of things easier or more smooth or more doable. Even the hard things. When I pay attention to how I am thinking about those things. What I tell myself matters.

So now I'm really curious about your life lessons. What are, what are the lessons that are on repeat for you? What are the things that feel really true that you always come home to that are helpful for you?

If you're a part of my private Facebook community, I would love to have you come on over and leave your comments about what your life lessons have been. If you're not a part of the private community, I will put a link in the show notes. All you have to do is request to join us.

And we can have a conversation about what are the life lessons that are helpful to be reminded of? What are the life lessons that keep coming up for you? And how are you making progress, even though you might never get them perfect?

Or maybe that's just me.

I'll talk to you soon.

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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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