If the suggestion to “take a bubble bath” as an answer to stress eating makes you roll your eyes…read on.
“Don’t tell me to take a bubble bath – I’m too busy to take a bath and besides, I can’t take a bath at the office!” That’s what a new client led off with. While I hadn’t made that particular suggestion, she has a point. The recommended remedy for emotional eating and stress eating often starts with self-care suggestions that aren’t practical in the moment or when you are up to your ears in reports and important presentations, and when you are stress eating at your desk. And yet, emotional eating, especially stress eating, can be a big problem for busy professional women who are trying hard to manage multiple roles, tremendous responsibility, and an incredibly full schedule. “Bubble bath (insert brand name) take me away!” may sound great, but it isn’t always an option for curbing stress eating. What’s a busy professional really supposed to do?
Could you use some practical tips for reining in stress eating? Strategies you can actually apply to your already full life? Here are three quick strategies that work at work.
1. Don’t eat at your desk (or over your laptop).
I know, you may think this borders on “bubble bath advice,” but bear with me. This one’s really important. Multitasking while you eat can be so tempting when your schedule is overloaded and you are feeling the stress. However, people eat more and feel less satisfied when they eat while doing something else (working). You’ll do less stress eating if you stop the work, even for five minutes, and focus on enjoying your meal. But wait… there’s more. Studies show that leaving your desk for lunch can actually reduce stressful feelings and leave you more relaxed and it can help you be more productive. The news is even better if you are actually able to leave the office and go for a short five or ten minute walk outside. I know, that may be pie-in-the-sky thinking, but just know that taking five minutes, stepping away from your desk to a different part of the office, and allowing yourself to focus on your eating can make a big difference with stress eating.
2. Come up with three “mindless strategies” to try when you are stressed.
When you’re stress eating at work, a lot of calories tend to be eaten mindlessly. Candy dishes get emptied, doughnuts disappear, and you eat the awful food at the awful meeting without even realizing it. If you are someone whose emotional eating happens on autopilot, try this. Take two minutes and brainstorm three mindless things you can do that will occupy your hands, your mouth, or both. Chew gum or sip on an endless mug of tea. Carry it with you to your meetings and keep your hands firmly wrapped around it. Designate a special pen for particularly stressful situations and keep it in your hand at all times. Wear a big cocktail ring to endlessly fiddle with. Get one of those squishy stress-relief balls and keep it in your pocket to knead when the cookie tray gets passed around the conference room. Don’t make it complicated. Just make a mental decision that you are going to try doing one of three new things instead of eating when you are stressed.
3. Schedule compassionate care.
High-performers have a tendency to always focus on the work and what needs to be done next. If you’re facing a mountain of stuff to do, your brain may be telling you that the solution is to get it done by working harder. In small quantities, this advice can work wonders, but stress eating is often a symptom that your strategy has gone overboard. The truth is, you’re only able to continue to work hard when you maintain yourself so that you can continue to be an excellent version of you. Don’t face stress down with an I’ll just be tougher than it attitude. While you may have to do this to get through one very hard day, be sure to schedule in some time for compassionate care after work, on the weekends, or even on your commute home. Emotional eating rears its head when you aren’t getting enough of what you need. So make sure you do get the movie night, the phone call to a friend or the debrief with your colleague, the chapter of your audio book on your drive home, and yes…maybe even an occasional bubble bath.
Take good care,