How to Avoid Emotional Eating When You’re Busy | TMOHP Episode 101

Stress, overwhelm, and being too busy can all be powerful triggers for overeating and emotional eating. It’s a chicken and egg thing. Eating can be a temporary coping strategy in these situations AND stressful, overwhelming, busy times are extraordinarily difficult times to change our habits or implement new or different strategies.

In an ideal world, many of us would love to limit the stress and overwhelm, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. So how do you avoid emotional eating when you’re busy and have a lot going on? This episode is about getting practical. I have a handful of strategies that you can use during busy, stressful times to short-circuit or avoid emotional eating patterns.

In this episode:

  • How not to overeat when you have too much to do
  • How to keep practical strategies doable
  • Places where perfectionism might be tripping you up and strategies to avoid this
  • Why it’s important to acknowledge stress and overwhelm

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Resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Not sure why you’re overeating, or what your Hidden Hungers are? Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and get a free set of resources matched to your results.
  • 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
  • Private Coaching. One-on-one coaching is for you if you’re looking for something completely individualized and specific to your situation. Openings are limited. Learn more here.

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Full episode transcript:

Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. And if you are new here, welcome. Take a listen and if you like what you hear, please be sure to follow the podcast so that you are notified every time that new episodes are released. And, it would mean a lot to me if you would take a moment to rate the podcast and to leave a review.

Today's episode is very practical. Sometimes I talk about the three O's, overwhelm, overload, and overeating because they are such a trifecta. Right? These three things, overwhelm, overload, and overeating, they just work together to create this perfect storm. Or a perfect recipe for emotional eating and overeating, stress, overwhelm, overload, and being too busy.

This is one reason, or these are many reasons, actually, that so many high achieving women overeat. And one of the trickiest things about feeling overwhelmed and overloaded and time crunched and rushed is that it usually seems like you can't afford to take any extra time or you don't have any extra energy to step back to get perspective right, get a handle on the situation or to figure out what to do differently. So that you won't overeat or so that you won't be in that situation where all you have is the vending machine or so you can avoid emotional eating.

When you're busy, when you're overloaded, when you're overwhelmed, it is really easy to fall into that, I'll just wait till Monday to start over again. Right? I'll just get through this. I'll just finish this project and then I'll go to the grocery store and then I'll start over again.

That's the typical approach. And in the meantime, in the midst of the overwhelm or the stressful thing, the stress eating and the other emotional eating, it just continues on because it is this ineffective, but immediate available, immediately available band aid that you have. Right?

The emotional eating or the overeating is the coping strategy. And then that contributes to its own additional stress to the situation, because you don't feel good about what you're doing. And so what a lot of high achievers do is they get through that thing by eating in a way they don't want to eat. And then on top of, Getting through the thing and the stress of that, they are mad at themselves for the behaviors that they're using, meaning the eating, that they're doing, because it's the only available avenue that they feel like they have to cope. I hope I said that in a way that makes sense, because that was a long thought.

So I talk a lot on this podcast about some very important things like psychology and how your thoughts and your beliefs affect and impact your relationship with food. We talk about understanding the reasons that food has the power and, you know, sometimes in this podcast I can go pretty deep.

And today I want to do something a little bit different. I want to get really practical. When you're stressed, when you're overwhelmed, and you don't have a lot of time, it can feel like you don't have a lot of options available to you. So what I wanted to do in this episode is share some quick practical tips that I use That my clients have used, that have been shared in my programs, that are helpful to have front of mind when you want to feel better. When you want to stay focused. And when you want to avoid overeating and emotional eating, and you are also busy, or overwhelmed, or have a lot on your plate.

These are not tips for the long haul. If you listen to this podcast, you know I am all about creating lasting solutions. Nobody can operate with too much to do forever. Nobody can operate forever with things out of balance. But when you are in those situations, when you are overwhelmed and overloaded, and you have a lot going on, using these tips can help you get through that time with minimal overeating. Minimal stress eating, minimal emotional eating. So that you can go on to create a better relationship with food and you can go on to address these things in a different way in the future.

So let's talk about how not to overeat when you have too much to do. Practical tips.

Number one, really basic, plan what you are going to eat. I know, you know this, we all know this, it's basic. But we tend to overlook it. You know that working through lunch and then being starving at three o'clock when you're under that deadline doesn't cut it. And it leads to overeating. Make sure that you've got meals to eat that are balanced and that have protein to help you even out your energy. That fit you.

And don't get all perfectionistic about this. Because what happens is so many smart women create a plan of what they are going to eat that is not executable given the busy situation. If you are busy... Make it super easy. Planning what you're going to eat may be a list of takeout options that don't leave you tired and bloated or that are vegetable heavy. Right?

Planning what you're going to eat may be easy freezer meals. Planning what you're going to eat may mean asking for help with meal preparation. Don't get perfectionistic about it, but plan what you are going to eat and keep it practical.

Practical strategy number two on how not to overeat when you have too much to do is don't keep everything in your brain. You're smart. You are capable of juggling a lot of thoughts. You are capable of doing a million things at once. It is also stressful. It adds to your overwhelm. Make sure you have a document or a to-do list that lists everything you have to do. And remember if something comes up, if an idea occurs to you, dump it on the list.

You will be amazed how much energy and stress this saves you not to have to retrieve things from your brain all the time. Or not to have to revisit them so that you don't forget them so that you can keep the memory alive. Write it down.
The third practical strategy of how not to overeat when you have too much to do is to break your to do list into small items. You want to have a task list of small, doable items that you get to cross off as you work through them. You want to be able to be consistently crossing things off. You want to create a breadcrumb trail of what you've been doing, of your progress, so that you can see movement. So that you can see where you're going, so that you can feel like you're getting somewhere. So that you can feel like you're being effective.

Along this line, it is really helpful to set what I think of as mini goals. Right? Not, not a huge global, this is my objective for the week, but sometimes we have to live 15 minutes at a time. Know what your focus is for this 15 minutes of your life. What am I focusing on for this 15 minutes? Set a timer, if that helps. And then make that be your focus.

Shut down the other tabs on your computer. Ignore your email for these 15 minutes. You can also use this idea if you are in the moment and you are feeling an urge to stress eat. If you're in that moment, try, you know, experiment with delaying eating for 15 minutes. And I'm assuming you're not hungry here that this is about stress eating that you don't want to do, or emotional eating. Try delaying for 15 minutes, set that timer, choose a task to focus on. Something you're going to do for the next 15 minutes, and that could be, I'm going to take a break. And see what happens.

By the way, if you are surprised that these are not diet strategies or really food forward strategies, except for the first one, welcome to the Too Much on Her Plate Podcast. This is the approach that I take to helping you take your power back from food and create a relationship with food that feels powerful and joyful and that works for you. That's what we do here. And that is exactly what I help women all over the world accomplish inside the Your Missing Peace program.

So back to these practical strategies that are not diet focused. Do not get perfectionistic about this breaking your to do list into small items and setting mini goals 15 minutes at a time. If you can't figure out what the next thing is to do, if you can't pick one. Pick any of them. Pick anything on your to do list or Option number two, take a 15 minute break. Just do something for 15 minutes.

And by the way, taking a break does not mean skimming your email or mindless scrolling on your phone. A break means walking away. Changing the scenery. Clearing your mind. Right? So you might go for a short walk. You might walk around the office. You might go make yourself a cup of tea. You might lean back in your chair and just close your eyes and take some deep breaths.

Numbing activities are not a break. I want you to think about a 15 minute break as a little mini reboot. A little head clearing space. Or a little time to anchor yourself, to get back in touch with who you are and what you're feeling and what you need. So, walk away, take a break.

Speaking of walking away, another practical strategy that is really practical is making sure you have some physical activity when you are stressed. We know that physical activity helps you complete a stress cycle. It helps you work the stress out of your body. It has such potential to lower your stress and your feelings of overwhelm if you don't make it stressful and overwhelming.

So, if you have a lot going on, don't get into that all or nothing thinking where, you know, I can't go to the gym for an hour, or I can't go run 5 miles, or I can't go get my 10, 000 steps. So I'll just have to put that off until next week.

Start thinking about many ways you can get some movement into your life. Can you combine that with the 15 minute break? Right? Can you take a walk? Can you fit in a shorter work out? Can you do some stretching? Don't eliminate the physical activity. It's an incredibly important and practical strategy for staying on top of and feeling more in charge and confident when you have a lot going on.

Next, practical strategy. I know this is a busy time. I know there are a lot of things going on. Give yourself the gift of having an actual stopping point each day. Choose a point when you are off duty. If this is at all possible, don't let the work and the email saturate all areas of your life. Don't keep your laptop open while you're half-heartedly looking at Netflix.

Do not take this stuff into your bed with you at night. Right? If you, if it's at all possible, don't charge your phone in your bedroom if you can help it. Or set a limit, you know, put it across the room. Set a limit on when you look at the screens. Have a stopping point each day. You need to know that there is some time when you are off duty.

And along with that, again, another incredibly important practical strategy is not to sacrifice sleep. If there is any way to get around it. So many women have become way too comfortable sacrificing sleep and just deciding, okay, that's something that has to go right now. Getting consistent sleep helps you with stress. It helps you with overwhelm. It allows you to be a better problem solver. It allows you to be more creative.

Getting consistent sleep helps you show up as you. And on top of that, it curbs overeating. It curbs emotional eating. When you're not getting enough sleep, you literally physically have more cravings. You are more hungry. And you're going to have less ability to make choices that you want to make. You're going to feel more reactive with food. So don't sacrifice sleep if there is any way around it. Have a stopping point each day and let yourself have that routine that helps you prepare to get a good night's sleep.

Those two things, they will pay off. I have two more strategies for you. This is one that might make you roll your eyes and I want you to do it anyway. This is important. Sprinkle in lovely things. You may be busy, but you still need acknowledgement. You still need rewards. You still need treats. You still need indulgences and you need, if you are wanting to not fall into that trap of emotional eating and overeating, you need rewards and treats and indulgences that are not food.

Look for the little things because when you have so much going on, that is where you are going to land. So, put on music. Wear a color that you love. Light a candle. Use that great lotion that you've been saving. And by the way, why have you been saving it? Use it every day. Put flowers on your desk. Call a friend at the end of the day. Do something light and joyful on your commute rather than listening to the news or trying to catch up on things, you know, while you're multitasking.

Savor. Something as simple as savoring your coffee in a comfortable chair instead of drinking it while you're hunched over your computer screen or driving down the road. Something as simple as savoring can shift your mood. Look for things that will feel nourishing, that will replenish you, that will keep you fueled.

Start to look for little five minute treats. Little lovely things that you can include in your day, even when you're busy, even when you're overwhelmed, especially when you're stressed.

The last practical strategy that I want to share with you is to acknowledge that this is a hard time. So often the tendency is to put your head down and just keep going and not, not think about it. And I'll deal with this later. And also to kind of add in a little bit of self blame and frustration with yourself for being so stressed. I can't believe I feel this way. Or this shouldn't be so hard. Or, you know, that kind of dialogue that can go on in your head that is not helpful at all.

Try saying it out loud, try pausing every once in a while and taking a deep breath and being honest and saying to yourself, this is hard. Or this is a really tough week. Or I am stressed and I'm overwhelmed, but it is not always going to be this way. Right? Or this is an impossible day and I'm doing my best. I'm stressed and I'm overwhelmed and I'm going to try to take care of myself.

Acknowledging what is going on is a form of self compassion. Trying to ignore it and plow through it is a way of denying your feelings. And it sets you up to lean into other things that will help you deny or avoid your feelings. Like, oh, I don't know, reaching for something to eat, numbing out with food, having a binge at the end of the day. Be honest with yourself and be kind.

These are practical strategies that can help you avoid emotional eating and stress eating and any kind of overeating when you are busy or overwhelmed. Play with them, figure out which ones work for you, customize them to fit you, and then you can rinse and repeat until whatever this episode is passes.

And this is so important. It's also key to remember that these strategies are not a recommendation for how to live your life long term.

Life is too short to live on a hamster wheel of surviving and stress and overwhelm and trying to avoid overeating. So if you don't see an end to the episode that you're in, get the help and the support that you need so that you can start moving forward differently. And creating a different big picture. So that you can get off the hamster wheel and, you know, break out of that vicious cycle. These are survival tips, practical survival tips so that you won't overeat in the moment and so that you can create a better way of doing things.

I hope this is helpful to you.

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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