Success usually isn’t listed as a reason for overeating is it? We’re familiar with stress eating and comfort eating, but overeating when things are going well? It actually happens a lot. In fact, for women, professional success can be a major (and little talked about) contributor to weight gain.
Here are three ways to keep your professional success from causing overeating (and other bad habits).
1. “Who has time for self-care?” You’re busy, your schedule is full, and your to-do list is never ending. In the back of your mind, you think about how you’re going to create better balance, make more time for yourself, and catch up on sleep, but (of course), you never have the time. In fact, your priorities may always be the ones that get swept off the agenda when work heats up or things get really crazy.
That’s where the overeating gets a grip. For lots of high-earning women with a lot on their plates, food becomes the band-aid. While overeating isn’t a self-care strategy, it can give temporary comfort, pleasure, and distraction when you don’t feel like you have time for anything else. To make matters worse, lots of women turn to mindless eating when they are too busy and too exhausted. Eating at your desk, snacking while you surf the internet, or gulping down dinner in your car, can all make the problem worse.
I’m very clear with my clients. Self-care is not optional. It’s what you need to be fueled, vibrant, and a true (happy) success. Mastering life balance is key to creating a successful life that feeds you back. The thing is–they don’t pass out a manual on this life balance thing. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need to create a life that truly works for you.
2. It can be lonely at the top. Sometimes the really big accomplishments are the trickiest to share. When you do something awesome, close the six figure deal, score the meeting with the celebrity or the big mucky muck, or get interviewed by The New York Times, it may feel like the circle you can toot your own horn to is pretty small—or nonexistent. “My friends are happy for me, but they don’t really get it,” said a client recently. Another client worries that if she shares her triumphs (that also result in a pretty generous income), her friends and family who live on much smaller budgets won’t understand or will feel bad. “I don’t want to brag or make others uncomfortable, so I try not to make a big deal of it. I don’t talk about a lot of these things. My friends and family know that I’m successful, but they have no idea about some of the really cool stuff I’ve done. I know I shouldn’t need to share it, but sometimes I just want someone to be happy with me.”
Big success can feel lonely and sometimes high-achievers feel like they have to tamp down their own awesomeness. It’s a dilemma—with very real consequences. Both the clients I quoted above discovered, as we worked together, that they had developed a tendency to quietly reward themselves with food instead of being open and excited about their joy and success. “Treating themselves” with carbs and comfort food rarely left them satisfied though. Instead they both felt frustrated about overeating when “things were so good” and they were tired of fighting with the scale.
Finding ways to honor your feelings and accomplishments is critical. They are part of you. Squashing things down and hiding is a powerful recipe for overeating (or other unhelpful ways of coping with feelings).
3. “These aren’t real problems.” “What do I have to complain about?” I hear this one a lot from high-achieving clients. When you are successful, it’s easy to feel like you shouldn’t be dissatisfied or be having a hard time. Just like you might worry that your accomplishments might overwhelm people, it’s easy to spin stories that you “don’t have the right” to be unhappy or struggling. Or tired, or overwhelmed, or scared. It all looks so good from the outside, right?
The truth is, high levels of responsibility can be stressful, anxiety-producing, and exhausting. What you do every day requires effort—a lot of effort. And food is an easy vice to turn to when you are busy, stressed, short on time, and not feeling like you can ask for support. Emotional eating is a major cause of overeating and weight gain for high-achieving women–especially for high achieving women who judge their problems and emotions and sometimes feel like they don’t deserve to have them.
Want to be as happy with your eating as you are with your professional success?
Start by honoring you and your needs and feeling. It’s not always easy, but with the right help and the right tools, it’s definitely possible to learn how to avoid these overeating traps, and instead of overeating, give yourself what you really need. In my mind, that’s real success.
Take good care,