Overcome Overeating: Own Your Overwhelm | TMOHP Episode 082

Overload, overwhelm, and overeating travel in a pack. In fact, they can become so tangled up it can be difficult to know how to extricate yourself. In this episode, I’m exploring the relationship between overwhelm and emotional eating, and sharing practical solutions for high-achieving women to take control and feel better.

In this episode:

  • How to take ownership of your overwhelm to break the cycle of emotional eating
  • How boundaries can help reduce boundaries
  • 3 types of boundaries to put into place
  • Replenishing yourself
  • Proactive vs. reactive action

Featured on the show:

Episode Transcript

Hello everybody, welcome back to the podcast. Today I want to talk with you about overwhelm. Overwhelm. Overwhelm is a real buzzword these days. Everybody is talking about being overwhelmed. Everybody is feeling overwhelmed. And we are living in a culture that honestly seems to nurture overwhelm. 

Everybody agrees that it's not a good thing. Although more and more I hear people who like are talking about their overwhelm as as if it's a badge of honor. Oh my gosh, I'm so overwhelmed. Right? We're supposed to be overwhelmed. But here's what we all need to consider, and I'm including myself in this. I think it's really important to consider the role that each of us is playing in our own overwhelm.

This question that I'm about to ask you is not coming from a place of blame. It's coming from a place of responsibility. And with responsibility and ownership possibly empowerment. All right? So ask yourself, are you the reason you're overwhelmed or are you part of the reason that you're overwhelmed? I want you to notice how that question lands for you.

Do you nod your head? Do you agree? Or do you feel this instant urge to stop listening to me? Do you feel this instant defensiveness? Do you steal yourself in preparation for being blamed for something? Maybe it feels like, I don't understand. I can't possibly understand what goes on in your life. Right? So Melissa, there's no way I'm responsible for the 150 million things on my to-do list. There's no way I'm responsible for what my boss expects of me. There's no way I'm responsible for everything my kids or my parents need. The demands that come into my inbox. The emails that I'm supposed to answer all the time, even as we speak. Right? 

Okay. Notice the reaction. Notice the voices in your head, and if you will honor me some minutes, bear with me. Stick with me. Take a breath. You are absolutely right. Life flies at us at about 50,000 miles an hour. Everyone wants something. There are lots and lots and lots of needs. And technology makes it easier and easier for everyone to find us and ask us for what it is that they want and that they need. And they want it right now. Right?

Okay. Are you still breathing? Bear with me. Stick with me. Because here's the thing, the piece of control that you have over your overwhelm is found in the piece that you are willing to own. The piece that you are willing to own of your overwhelm, the piece that you can own of your overwhelm, that is the place where you have control.

If you can discover the role you play in your overwhelm. You can intervene, you can become more powerful. And not only can you probably reduce your overwhelm, you can also ensure that you are not making it worse. Or that you are generating a self-perpetuating cycle of overwhelm that is going to last and last and last and probably get worse over time.

This is such an important topic because I hate to tell you this, but you probably already know it. High achievers are remarkably good at generating our own overwhelm. High achievers can create a to-do list like nobody's business. We can create a sense of responsibility like nobody's business. And with that overwhelm often goes overeating as a way to cope with that.

And high achievers can also solve problems. When you can start to see the place where you have power, where you have control. You can start to take responsibility for feeling overwhelmed. You can start to make changes and you can break the. So today in this episode, I want to talk with you about three specific ways that you, high achiever, can take responsibility for feeling overwhelmed, so that you can feel better. And so that you can untangle and break the bonds between overwhelm and overeating.

The first thing that we absolutely have to talk about are boundaries.

Think about how you feel when you are overwhelmed. Overwhelm often feels like we're drowning. We are being sunk in this sea of responsibilities. It's this sense of being engulfed. Right? Almost By definition, overwhelm is a boundaryless experience. If you find yourself in a chronic sense of overwhelm, building some walls or some boundaries is probably going to be your first critical step.

And we are smart this way, because even in situations where we don't feel like we have the ability or the time or the bandwidth to create boundaries, we do it anyway. You might have noticed that overeating- going and getting something to eat sometimes takes the place of boundaries when you're overwhelmed. Because it is easy to reach for something to eat instead of diving into that, you know, writing that presentation that you want to avoid. It is easy to go get something to eat before you head into a meeting. It is easy to treat yourself when you're doing something that you really wish that you had said no to.

So I have some ways for you to think about and start using boundaries. Real, actual, helpful boundaries instead of food to take your power back from overwhelm. The first thing I want you to think about are input boundaries. If you are feeling overwhelmed, then start by taking a look at the overwhelming input, the amount of input that's flowing into your life.

For example, if people have access to you, if people can reach out to you with new demands 24/ 7. Not only is the flow of input, never going to stop. And it doesn't ever stop. That. You're also never going to have any time to get anything done. So look at input boundaries. Consider setting limits on when you check your email or when you answer your phone, or when you have your phone with you. Take a look at your notifications and how you have them set up. Are you getting pinged every single time? Every single person or website wants something? Turn off some of the alerts. Consider the apps. There are apps out there that will restrict your access to the internet so that you can actually be truly productive.

If you are somebody who is addicted to the news or riveted by politics. Schedule the time that you will check in on that. And then there is the actual physical space that you have to get things done. When you are at work, challenge yourself to actually set up work time. Do you have time when you can actually shut your office door if you have an office, or mark yourself as busy?

Right? Set your status to do not disturb so that you can actually have undisturbed time to do your job. Setting input boundaries means very simply that you stop being available to input every hour of your day. It is not sustainable. This one step is incredibly empowering and it will significantly decrease your sense of being constantly reactive or on alert, waiting for that other shoe to fall. Right? That what do I need to do? Feeling it can actually be physiologically calming. 

And setting input boundaries will also train the other people in your life that you are not necessarily on call and available at a moment's notice. You are probably going to be amazed when you set these kind of boundaries at how many issues can be resolved by other people once they realize that you are not immediately available to save the day or to listen or to take something off their plate at the moment that they are asking for it. Right? So input boundaries, that's the first thing. 

The other kind of boundary I really want to encourage you to look at if you are feeling overwhelmed and if you're in this cycle of overwhelm and overeating. Is what I call time boundaries. So think about it. Can you answer for me right now? Do you have a clear understanding of when you are on duty and off duty? Whatever that means to you.

When does your responsibility to answer your cell phone or check your email? When does that start? When does that stop each day? And by the way, who has set those boundaries? Who has decided on those for you? Remember, this is about empowerment, not self-blame., And an empowering question to take a look at or to ask yourself is whether you are creating an expectation that you will be constantly available or whether you aren't.

Is this a real need to be constantly available or is it a habit that you've fallen into? And this applies to your personal life too. When do you get to stop feeling obligated to be doing or to be being product? Inside the Missing Peace program, we talk about becoming the CEO of your time and energy. And that starts with this feeling of you being the one who has the power. You being the one who's making the decisions and being in charge. Instead of you being the person who is reacting and running along behind your to-do list, always feeling like you have to catch up. 

Do you put yourself in charge? Do you allow yourself screen free time? Or places in your life where you don't have screens. How long can you go? How long can you give yourself permission to go without checking your phone or your email or your social media without feeling anxious?

Do you have time boundaries? Can you keep your phone out of your bedroom? Now, that may not be a possibility for you. But have you asked the question and have you decided whether this is something you want to do? Or whether this is something that is essential or not necessary in your life? Have you made the decision? Have you set the time boundary? 

If you don't have time, boundaries that you have set, that you feel in charge of? Set some now. And don't feel like you have to do a big, dramatic thing that feels entirely outside of your comfort zone. Don't be afraid to start small. This is you taking your power back. The important thing is to start creating space.

Start creating spaces where you have control of your agenda. Where you are making the choices. This is the way that you break cycles with overwhelm. And this is probably a fantastic place to remind you that no is a boundary. The most powerful boundary you can usually set is to say no. Right? 

Of course you already know this. The problem is, or a problem is that when you're already overwhelmed, summoning the resources to say no. Can feel harder than it might usually be. When we're overwhelmed, we tend to go on autopilot because in the moment it feels easier, our brain thinks it's easier. And if a no doesn't feel easy, then it is also easy or it's easier to fall into what feels like the easiest path. That's a whole lot of Easys there. Right? 

So basically if you're feeling overwhelmed, your brain goes on autopilot, and if it feels hard to say no, your brain is going to just say yes. Because that feels like the least stressful or least overwhelming thing to do. Just say yes. Which of course perpetuates the overwhelm.

This may feel silly, but it is really important. It is very worth your time to practice saying no. And I mean practice it when you don't need to say no. Practice it when you are alone. Practice the words coming out of your mouth. Come up with a way of saying no that is fairly easy to say even when you're stressed, that fits you.

Try on some things, practice in your car. Practice after you finish brushing your teeth. Really, say these things out loud. You have to find some catchphrases that work for you that will actually come out of your mouth. It doesn't matter what will come out of my mouth or anybody else's mouth. You have to say the words. Try them on for size and come up with a few that really fit you and that feel easy enough. 

If you have no idea how to say no, when you feel really stuck, here's some good ones that you might want to try saying yourself and then adapt to fit you. You could play with something like:

  • Oh, I wish I could, but I can't. Or,

  • I'm really tempted, but I have to say no. 

Or you can work at just growing your muscle of the muscle that it takes to sit with silence and just say, I'm sorry, but no. Nope, I can't do it. Practice saying no. All right, so boundaries. First way to break the overwhelm cycle. 

The second thing that is so important is to replenish yourself. You need to be fed. And I'm not talking about food. But again, this is the place where going to get something to eat takes the place of what you really need and helps perpetuate the overwhelm cycle. You need to be replenished. So we have got to talk about hidden hungers. Hidden hungers are the underlying needs that trigger emotional eating and overeating. 

Hidden hungers start running the show when you are craving things that you aren't getting. So overwhelming periods can feel like the last time to focus on self-care and me time, which is a huge hidden hunger. But actually when you are overwhelmed, that is exactly the time to stay connected to what it is you really need. And to stay connected with ways that you can nourish yourself and replenish yourself and take care of yourself. Even if in teeny tiny ways.

One of the most common hidden hungers is for self-care and me time. And so let's talk about that one. By the way, if you are not familiar with this whole idea of hidden hungers, I want you to be sure to go over to TooMuchOnHerPlate.com/quiz. Take the free hidden hungers quiz. It will help. It will give you an understanding of what hidden hungers are. We'll identify for you what your primary hidden hunger is so that you can start to take simple action steps, which you will also get when you get your results. All right. But I digress. 

Today we're talking about, or at this part in the podcast episode, we're talking about self-care and me time. How to give that to yourself in ways that don't add to your overwhelm. Right? How to keep it simple. Self-care does not always require huge chunks of time or a major life overhaul. When you're overwhelmed or stressed, self-care can be as simple as taking a deep breath. It can be as simple as asking the question, okay, what do I need right now? Showing yourself some self-compassion. Taking a deep breath and acknowledging that you're going through a really hard time. Or even that the last hour has been really hard.

Self-care can be choosing the grocery delivery option during a difficult week. Or cutting some fresh flowers for your desk from your backyard. Self-care and me time can be giving yourself the gift of a few minutes to savor the cup of tea instead of letting it go cold on your desk. Right? So if you want some more simple ideas for self-care that don't take a lot of time, be sure to check out episode 78.

That episode has a ton of quick, easy ideas that can have an impact on your self-care, that can help you squeeze in self-care when you're feeling overwhelmed. It doesn't have to be difficult. I will put the link to that episode in the show notes. All right? So time for self-care. It's the little things. Keep it easy.

Also remind yourself that you're doing your best. This may sound like a little bit of nothing, but it is the first step to accessing your own self-compassion. And it is really hard to feel good about what you're doing. It is impossible to take care of yourself, at least in a way that feels good if you're not coming from a place of self-compassion.

There's self-care and there is also me time. One of the most empowering things that you can do when you are feeling overwhelmed is to carve out and hold even a few minutes of daily me time. For most people, for most people, mourning is the easiest time to do this. But you do you, you know you. Use a few minutes in the time of day that works best for you to get grounded.

If you're doing it in the morning, it is a great way to start your day. From a place of feeling proactive. Harnessing that CEO energy. Getting clear about how, how you want your day to unfold. Getting clear about what your day looks like, what, what are the things that are going to happen today? And being able to strategize a little bit in advance.

There's no perfect way to do this. And if you're doing this in the morning, please, there is no perfect morning routine. No matter how many people brag online about their morning routine. You have to figure out what works for you. Experiment. What helps you? This is not a place to create another productivity to-do list. What you are looking for is, what is a practice that I can carve out that I can hold space for that helps me connect with me? That helps me lead my life. Right? CEO thinking- that helps me be in charge of my life in the way I want to. So you could experiment with 10 minutes of just quiet time. Reflection or 10 minutes of journaling, or doing some deep breathing or meditation, or a guided visualization, or going for a short walk. Right. Just having time to collect your thoughts to center yourself or to get a sense of your day ahead so that you can make choices instead of being in reaction mode. 

I want you to think about the difference between being the CEO, being in charge, making decisions, being proactive, even if it's an incredibly busy and difficult time. Think about how different that feels from being in reaction mode. Feeling like your day has the power over you. Your life has the power. The stress has the power. And there you are in reaction mode, running along behind it, trying to catch up. That is the picture I hold in my head of overwhelm. And that is also the picture I hold in my head of what it looks like to take your power back. So me time can be incredibly important. 

So there are boundaries. There are nourishing and recharging yourself. And then the third thing I want to talk to you about in terms of breaking cycles with overwhelm is taking action. But we have to be careful when we talk about taking action because overwhelm can be this cycle of lots and lots and lots of action. Right? And lots and lots of doing. 

Taking action can reduce your overwhelm, or paradoxically it can increase it. And when you are already in over overload or overwhelm, you have stress, you have overwhelm, and that can lead to a temptation to just dive in. Right? Because you want to feel productive. You, you have the adrenaline flowing, you've got all those chemicals in your body, and unfortunately, it is possible to churn up a lot of busy work. Like answering emails or doing things that aren't really going to change the cycle of overwhelm at all.

When we are overwhelmed, we are really good at creating more work for ourselves. It is just how human beings work. And you can alternate between a cycle of creating a lot of work for yourself, and then procrastinating, and then numbing out, and then overeating. Okay? So let's cover some strategies for taking the right kind of action, for taking empowered action when you are overwhelmed.

It is really important to start from a place of being centered. Because the goal is to be intentional. The goal is to make intentional choices. And intentional to take intentional action with the time and the energy that you have. Versus like I was describing, frantically reacting. And so it really always starts with taking a deep breath, coming into your body and reminding yourself that you get to be in charge of this. You are the CEO, you get to decide. Okay. 

Then taking action. Think about chunking it down. Think about moving in smaller steps and then moving from one small step to another. Break whatever it is that you have in front of you that feels overwhelming into milestones, into tinier steps, or maybe into timed segments, chunks of time that you're going to be working on this. The smaller, the better. 

Small is better. Even though your brain is not going to tell you that. Overwhelm begins to be defeated when you can see and measure progress. And overwhelm grows when it feels like you aren't getting anywhere. If you're having a hard time getting started, or if you're having a hard time diving into a project or even choosing which project to dive into, because there are so many of them, create a smaller step. Or commit to a smaller chunk of time, and then commit. Decide. 

Momentum reduces overwhelm. Progress and being able to see your progress reduces overwhelm. This is something that comes up over and over again inside Your Missing Peace. And by the way, not breaking things into small steps is something we do all the time when, when people try to tackle emotional eating and overeating. Right?

We, we say, okay, I need to make a change. And then you look at this goal that is so, feels so far ahead. Or it's certainly not something you can accomplish today. And then you expect yourself to work really hard until you get that goal without having the small steps which create the milestones which allow you to see progress. Which allow you to create momentum. And you're a human being with a brain, and your brain can get in your way here. Often a big barrier to taking small, reasonable steps or taking any action at all is falling into a belief that is more likely when you're overwhelmed that it's hopeless or there's too much to do. Or that you can't possibly make any progress right now, or that you will never make any progress.

These are typical thoughts that your brain will feed you when you are overwhelmed, when you are tired, when you are stressed, when you are in the midst of this cycle. Also, these are very typical thoughts that your brain will feed you when you are working to stop overeating or emotional eating. 

So one way, one workaround around this very human experience that is going to happen to you. Is to track your progress and your wins. All of them. And the nice thing about taking action in small steps is that every time you complete one of those small steps, you have a win, you have an accomplishment. The more you break things down, the more accomplishments you create. 

While your brain tends to focus on the negative things, it is important to deliberately focus on what you are doing and what you have done. At least as much as you focus on your to-do list, which is really a list of things that haven't been done yet. And then create a way of giving yourself credit. Create a way of seeing your progress. Whether it is checking those items off or creating a timeline where you can see your forward progress, or designing a series of rewards or celebrations as you move through what it is that you have to do. 

Make a list of what went well every day. And all the small things count, because if you can't see the breadcrumbs that show that you're getting somewhere, it is just too easy to quit. It is just too easy to tell yourself that, ah, you just need to start over. You just need to, you know, you're not getting anywhere, you're not making any progress. It's hopeless. You just need to eat everything in sight because it's all ruined anyway. You're overwhelmed. You're going to perpetuate the cycle. And you will start over when the stars are aligned. Or it's a Monday or it's the first of the month. Right? We have all been there.


You want to take small steps and you want to count your wins. And then, We really have to talk about multitasking. You know, we have to talk about multitasking and how to minimize that. Multitasking is actually literally overwhelming your brain. Multitasking creates internal overwhelm. It's like having 65 tabs open on your computer browser. Right? Multitasking reduces your productivity. It reduces your creativity, it reduces your focus. It makes everything take longer. Multitasking sounds like a good idea to an overwhelmed brain, but an overwhelmed brain isn't making empowered choices for you.

Multitasking and overwhelm are a recipe for mindless eating. Which is also so tempting when you're overwhelmed and when you're not paying attention because you're multitasking. Especially when you are feeling overwhelmed, giving yourself the gift, and this really is a gift, of focusing on one task at a time, even if you have to divide your day into 30 minute or 60 minute chunks. Giving yourself the gift of focusing on one task at a time will make a huge difference. 

So that looks like knowing, which means deciding, being the CEO and deciding where you're spending your time during this 30 minute chunk. Where deciding where you're going to spend your time before you sit down at your desk. Before you dive into your day. Before you open your computer or dive into your email. 

Time and input boundaries can help with this a lot and can help you maintain a real clear focus. But one thing at a time. Your brain will love you for it and you will be more productive with the time that you have. 

You all, these are some major CEO tools for taking control and breaking the cycle of overwhelm and overeating. And this is your episodic reminder that taking control of overwhelm and taking control of the overeating that goes with it doesn't have to happen perfectly. And it doesn't have to happen, and it won't happen in one shot, one attempt at using these strategies. It just won't. 

And I don't have to tell you that perfectionism and all or nothing thinking are major causes of overwhelm and of over eating. So this is your reminder and your brain's reminder that small actions, actions that build on your sense of effectiveness and your sense of control, these things add up sometimes more quickly than you could imagine.

If you are already overwhelmed, you do not need another massive project. Pick one place to try one change. And then commit to it. Decide and begin to take your power back. Ignore your human brain when it tells you that this isn't enough. This isn't going to work. Your brain is overwhelmed, and that is what overwhelmed brains do.

Small steps. Boundaries. Feed your hidden hungers. Take a proactive, not a reactive step. It all adds up. You can break the cycle of overwhelm one small step at a time. All right?

You've got this. 

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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