Can You Stop Emotional Eating When You’re Busy? | TMOHP 014

How do you stop emotional eating when you’re busy? How do you make changes when you don’t feel like you have the time? When it feels like you’re overeating because life feels out of control?

Being too busy is a Hidden Hunger that can contribute to overeating. And it’s easy to believe that since you’re busy, you don’t have time to tackle changing your eating. It’s tempting to put yourself on hold and wait for a “better” (more perfect?) time to address your goals.

Think about this though - if being busy leads to overeating and you don’t tackle this exact situation, won’t you always be vulnerable to overeating when you’re busy?

And - just because your thoughts are telling you that paying attention to your eating is going to zap your time and energy even further - this doesn’t have to be true.

Remember, the whole idea that reclaiming your relationship with food has to be hard is just old deprivation thinking.

In this episode, I’m covering how to address emotional eating when you’re busy, including simple things you really can do, that definitely make a difference.

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Spoiler alert - you can tackle emotional eating when you’re busy - without a major life overhaul
  • Simple things that even really busy women can do that will help you interrupt and even stop overeating and emotional eating patterns
  • Why you should change the way you create to-do lists (and how to do it)
  • Why and when you might not be eating enough

Featured on the show:

  • Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and find out your primary Hidden Hunger and your best place to start shifting your relationship with food.
  • I cover the process of embracing your power and the other three steps to creating freedom from overeating in The 4-step Plan to Stop Overeating and Emotional Eating (a free on-demand masterclass) it’s available here.
  • Podcast Episode 006 Breaking Automatic Overeating Habits | Transitions (part one)
  • Podcast Episode 007 Breaking Automatic Overeating Habits | Transitions (part two)
  • 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 Skype 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 for more tips and resources to create peace with food and overcome overeating and emotional eating

Episode Transcript

Busyness is a big component in so many women’s relationships with food. Busyness - and the related shortage of time and energy - contributes to overeating and emotional eating in a bunch of ways.

And a lot of busy women are stuck in a vicious cycle of being busy, stressed, and overwhelmed - and off-track with their eating - until life gets a bit calmer. Then they dive back into another diet or weight loss plan, or healthy eating mission - until life gets busy, they get stressed, and the cycle repeats itself.

It’s like that poster with the giant X that says bang head here. Doing the same thing over and over - even if you work harder at it, is just going to keep taking you to the same place.

If you’re busy, jumping back into that cycle is most likely going to lead you through another round of the same old thing.

Which is not to say that you can’t stop emotional eating - or any kind of overeating when your busy. But to do it, you need to focus on your relationship with food - not the food itself.

The way we relate to food, the way we see food, and the things we associate with food and with eating, and the thoughts and beliefs we have about food can all be powerful pieces of the puzzle when it comes to what we eat and whether we overeat.

For a busy woman juggling a lot, it’s pretty easy for your relationship status with food to get complicated. Food can easily become a stop-gap measure or a band-aid and start to take up way too much space in your life.

Sometimes it feels necessary to skip the work involved in preparing a healthy meal, or the kind of food your body really craves. 

Sometimes you’re so busy chasing your to-do list that you might even forget you had planned to eat a salad for lunch or take a walk after work. Your busyness might put you in the mode of reacting instead of feeling in charge and purposeful. This adds stress and can also be the perfect recipe for stress eating, eating to escape, and being too tired to do all the things you think you “should” be doing.

When you’re busy and stressed you can develop habits around eating that don’t really serve you. 

Eating for comfort.

Eating out of boredom.

Mindless eating.

Eating out of frustration.

And reaching for something sweet when you feel like you need a reward or a little “celebration.”

These are easy traps to fall into, and they can feel like complicated traps to escape. If you are already stressed and busy, it might feel next-to-impossible to stop and take the time to strategize a new, better way of doing things that doesn’t involve emotional eating.

Why am I sharing this?

Because, if you’re ready to address issues with emotional eating and overeating, the first step is not a diet or a weight loss plan and the answer definitely isn’t that you have to wait until life gets perfectly unbusy. Never mind that that’s unlikely to happen. If you’re ready to make changes that last, the first step is fixing your dysfunctional relationship with food.

So how do you fix a dysfunctional relationship with food?

Just to be clear, I’m talking about a relationship with food that doesn’t work for you or serve YOU. You get to decide if your relationship is dysfunctional.

If it is, instead of starting with a diet, you’ll want to reverse engineer things. Tackle the reasons food has the power that it does. Tackle the Hidden Hungers that need to be fed.

Let’s talk about taking control of your time. You may love being busy - or maybe you don’t. Either way, if busy is running your life (and your personal goals and priorities and self-care have fallen by the wayside), or if you’re spending a lot of time feeling stressed or overwhelmed, something’s out of balance and it is probably contributing to your overeating. Do not roll your eyes here. Take a deep breath. Taking control of your time doesn’t require a giant, unrealistic life overhaul. Most of my clients find that they control their time with little choices that are made in the present moment. Small shifts, and choices that don’t require huge blocks of time in their calendars. Focus on taking small, do-able steps toward spending time on things you value. Create rituals and habits to bring your personal goals back onto your radar - I’ll get specific about this in a minute. Start carving out time to feed yourself in non-food ways to create more thriving and less stress eating.

Nurture your own self-care. When your spirit isn’t being fed, you eat more. One common trap is overeating because you can’t find the time (or feel guilty taking the time) to take care of yourself in other ways. Me-time becomes a chocolate donut or a trip through the drive-thru, Stress relief starts to be translated into a serving (or two) of comfort food, or something sweet to top off a long, exhausting day. To take the power back in your relationship with food, focus on creating do-able habits for feeding your spirit (instead of your stomach) and amping up your self-care routines. Make deliberate efforts to address your feelings and needs with better tools and strategies. Again, don’t get hung up on big things you can’t do. It’s the small stuff and the do-able choices that break the cycle.

You want to set your intention on creating a relationship with food and a healthy lifestyle that you love. A dysfunctional dieting relationship or a tough-love attempt at changing your habits requires stamina, willpower, and constant effort. It’s a recipe for exhaustion, burnout, and stress which will leave you tired, irritable, and feeling guilty or ineffective. 

A dysfunctional relationship is always a struggle. To make changes that last, commit to creating a relationship that you will want to be in forever. One that contributes to your life, adds more ease (instead of stress), and motivates you to continue with it.

Your plan of attack doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming to get results. In fact, when you’re busy, or short on energy, simple is better.

And you don’t need to line up a bunch of difficult tasks that are based in deprivation. They won’t work, you won’t want to do them, and there really is a better way - even if your old diet thoughts tell you otherwise.

What I’d love to do is share with you some simple things that even really busy women can do that will help you interrupt and even stop overeating and emotional eating patterns.

The first thing you want to do is to really focus to minimize mindless eating.Set a no multi-tasking rule while you eat. I know you feel time-crunched, but honestly, eating doesn’t take that much time.

And the research is clear - women who don’t multitask when they eat feel more satisfied and feel full and satisfied sooner.

Try this. It helps. The bonus is that being present allows you to make choices - because you’re present. And this makes us feel more effective and more in control.

When you’re busy, pay extra attention to transition times between activities (which tend to disappear or even overlap when you’re stressed).

I recorded two back-to-back episodes on transitions - what they are and why they are so key in breaking cycles of emotional eating. Check these out if you haven’t listened to them. I’ll put the link in the show notes.

People often stress eat at a transition or use food as a way to numb out, revive themselves, or procrastinate. Instead, give yourself even five minutes to pause, breathe, make a cup of tea, or close your eyes and clear your mind before diving into the next activity.

Transitions aren’t time-wasters. You’re likely to find they actually improve your productivity, and making transitions your new best friend can make a huge difference in mindless eating, staying true to the food choices you want to make, decreasing binges, and cutting emotional eating off at the pass.

Most busy women have lists. Sometimes too many lists. 

One thing you can do to make an impact on your busyness, your sense of effectiveness, and relatedly your level of overwhelm and related overeating is to change the way you create to-do lists.

Make a second column in your to-do list.

Label it “Who Can Help Me with This.” Don’t fall into the trap of feeling too busy to take the time to ask for help. You’ll end up more overwhelmed and, quite likely, overeating.

Here’s another simple step. You would be amazed at how many busy women overeat or even binge because they don’t eat enough. While your thoughts may be beating yourself up for eating too much, there’s a good chance - especially if you tend to overeat in the afternoon or at the end of the day or at night, that you are letting yourself get too hungry.

Don’t do that!

When you’re hungry, you’re more apt to lose control and make choices you regret. You’re going to be less creative in your choices and you aren’t going to want to take MORE time to choose a more complicated option. Set a reminder if you need to, but eat at regular intervals, and pay special attention to LUNCH. Invest the time (again, this can take five minutes) to make a plan - even a very simple decision - about what you’ll eat ahead of time. It will be worth it.

When we’re busy, we tend to be reactive, jumping from one thing to the next without a lot of meta-thinking or introspection. Busy is often “problem-solving mode.” So this is a very important time to find ways to connect with yourself and to stay aware of your feelings, your hunger, and your needs.

Keep it simple. Set a reminder on your phone to check in with yourself. You’ll be more able to give yourself what you really need instead of letting hidden hungers (like exhaustion or emotions) trigger a binge you’ll regret.

Leverage the value of five minutes.You almost always have a few minutes - and a few minutes can make all the difference to refresh your mind, shift your mood, or get a bit more oxygen to your brain. A quick walk, a change of scenery, some easy stretches, or watching a funny video online can help you recalibrate and avoid stress eating when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Busy women tend to leave it all out there - and then come home ready to collapse, with nothing more to give - I’m talking self-care here. If you’re busy, you want to strategize to avoid night eating.

Create a wind-down ritual that includes some nice things for you without including food.

And as always, Ignore your inner-perfectionist.

When things don’t go as planned (or go totally off the rails) look for the opportunity. What’s the learning that you can use to tweak and adjust your strategies as you move forward?

You can be busy - even really busy - and still redesign your relationship with food.

You don’t need to wait for a perfect time to change emotional eating habits. Take it moment by moment and let it be imperfect.

You’ve got this.

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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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