Why Smart, Busy Women Overeat – The BEAST Cycle | TMOHP Episode 048

Do you ever feel like you’re the only smart woman who hasn’t figured out how to break patterns of overeating and emotional eating. If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone - so let’s bust this myth once and for all. The truth is, there are very common reasons that smart, busy women overeat. These reasons can create a self-perpetuating cycle that can keep you stuck even if you’re working hard to change overeating or emotional eating habits.

Once you understand the cycle, it becomes so much easier to reclaim your power and make effective changes that will work for you. In this podcast episode, I’m breaking down the BEAST Cycle which can create a web of overwhelm, overload, and overeating along with the components you can use to create a better pattern and a different relationship with food.

What I cover in this episode:

  • The isolation and false belief so many smart women have that they are alone in their overeating struggles
  • The self-reinforcing cycle that can keep you overeating
  • How to build a self-perpetuating pattern that takes your power back from overeating

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Full episode transcript:

Hey everybody. I have something important to share with you today. So take a deep breath and listen up because this is really important. I cannot tell you how many amazing women smart, capable problem solving women I talk to sometimes on a weekly and even daily basis who feel like there is something uniquely wrong with them because they're struggling with overeating and emotional eating. Who feel like they somehow missed the memo, or it's a deep, dark secret that in spite of all the success they've created in the rest of their lives, the amazing things they've done, the problems they have solved the things they have juggled, they are stuck in a cycle or they feel like they keep coming back to issues with overeating and emotional eating and not being happy with how things are going or feeling like they're spending way too much time thinking about food and eating and their bodies and their weight.

I want to talk today about why this happens, why if you are that woman who is ready to throw up her hands in frustration and feels guilty about all this stuff. First of all, it’s not your fault. Second of all, you are so not alone. And third of all, there is a reason for this.

There's a pattern to this. Once you understand the pattern, it becomes a lot easier to take your power back and break the cycle.

I'm going to show you or tell you about what an alternative pattern can look like. So we're going to talk about the pattern. We're going to talk about why smart, busy women overeat. And I'm going to tell you what can be useful in untangling that and breaking yourself out of that pattern. A pattern that I want to just repeat this, I'm going to keep repeating this, it's a pattern that many, many, many, many smart women are stuck in. It's not just you. If you have followed me for a while or been listening to this podcast, you probably hopefully have taken the hidden hungers quiz.

If you have not taken the hidden hungers quiz, I want you to get over to my website and do that. I'm going to be referring to that in this podcast episode, it is free and it is going to help you. It's actually the first step after listening to this podcast episode in untangling, what's going on. Getting into a groove of doing it differently. So be sure to go to TooMuchOnHerPlate.com, take the free hidden hungers quiz, get your results and the resources that you will get that go with that. I will put the link so that you can access that in the show notes for this podcast episode.

That's the first thing- you're going to take the quiz. The second thing I want you to hear is that one of the reasons that the struggle with overeating can feel so frustrating, and I think that people get so isolated with it is because we get stuck in this pattern of thinking that overeating has to do with food. That if I can control the food, I will stop over eating. Just eat less. Don't do it. It is so important to understand, and I know you've probably heard me say this before that the repeated cycle of overeating, continuing to find yourself back in a place where you're eating more than you want to, or you're binging at night, or you have emotional eating happening, this pattern is caused by some important factors that have nothing to do with food. They are not food. They have everything to do with why you may be overeating or why you may be struggling to lose weight. This is critical and it is also incredibly empowering. Once you understand that, once you understand this piece of the puzzle, that there is a pattern of factors a pattern of things that are happening below the surface that are empowering your overeating.

Actually, once you get that, that is going on, then you can start to tackle your situation from a whole different angle. So instead of struggling to not eat, instead of struggling to have more willpower or to be tougher on yourself, or to wake up feeling fiercer and more determined about what you're going to do with food, you can start taking steps to actually take your power back from food, by dealing with the stuff that's going on below the surface. What's going on below the surface for you is going to be a lot different or a little different from what's going on below the surface for somebody else. But there are some common variables that I see over and over and over again in the lives of smart, busy women.

A while ago, I created this acronym for this cycle that I see, I call it the BEAST cycle, B E A S T. It is truly the foundation of overeating and weight struggles for so many smart, busy women. It is how we tend to get into, and then continually reinforce a circuit. It's like short circuiting is how I think about it.

With this BEAST cycle, we get into this groove. Where we are overeating and emotional eating. And then the cycle itself, the longer we stay in the cycle can reinforce it and make it easier for us to continue with those patterns. So it is so powerful and I hope you see that the other piece of that is it becomes really empowering once you can understand the cycle, once you can take a step back, see how the cycle works. Because then, the steps that you can take to start to break it down and break yourself free from the pattern.

You may have heard me in the past talk about the three O's. I think they are often a good description of what is going on for people. And the three O's are overload, overwhelm and overeating. The BEAST cycle that I'm going to tell you about today. It creates a reinforcing cycle of those three O's. So if you've got overload, overwhelm and overeating going on, or two of the three then it's really going to behoove you to look at is this BEAST cycle happening in the background? Is the BEAST cycle, the cause of the overload of the overwhelm and of the overeating?

Let me go through the BEAST cycle, the different pieces of it. And before I do, I want you to take a deep breath because here's what's going to happen... As I describe the BEAST cycle, you may start feeling like, “oh my gosh, I have every single part of this. Oh my gosh. It's not just one thing. It's not just two things. I have all of these things going on.” And you might start to feel overwhelmed and overload. If that is the case, I want you to take a deep breath and know that again, it is really common to have more than a few of these things going on. I'm going to tell you about why that is. And I'm going to tell you some good news about that. I'm going to explain to you why, even if you have all the things, it doesn't mean you have to change your entire world to change your relationship with food and to change your over.

So let's go through the acronym of the BEAST cycle. The B in BEAST stands for busyness and busy eating. So when we're busy, especially if you're feeling overly busy, it can lead to a lack of preparation, a lack of follow through on plans that you had made or paving the way so that you can actually take action on the way of eating that you wanted to be doing. Busyness can lead to poor choices, not taking the time to actually make the choice reacting because you're so busy, multitasking while you're eating. Mindless eating. The two of those things tend to go hand in hand. And, even if you're not exactly mindless eating multitasking while you're eating can tend to easily lead to overeating without even being aware of it. Eating beyond a sense of fullness, because you're just not tuned in and paying attention. When you're overly busy or when you're busy, it becomes easier and easier to use food as a substitute for things that you are telling yourself you don't have time for.

It can become really tempting or really easy to reach for something to eat instead of taking the time for self care. Doing the nice things for yourself, rewarding yourself, acknowledging the good things that are happening, or even taking a break. So the B in the BEAST cycle is busy.

The E in the BEAST cycle stands for emotional eating. Emotional eating is eating as a way to cope with your emotions or push down your emotions. And when you are stuck in the BEAST cycle, again, I'm talking to you smart, busy women out there. This might be emotions that you don't know how to address. You might be eating those emotions or numbing those emotions, emotions that you don't want to deal with, or emotions that you feel too overwhelmed to face.

All of these can lead to emotional eating as a way to cope or as an attempt to change how you feel. I just want to feel good. I just want to eat something that “makes me feel good” or as a way of eating to push those feelings down so that you can avoid them. And as I'm going through this cycle, I want you to think about how these things work together. Because if you've got busyness going on, it is easy to fall into a pattern with emotions of, “I don't have time to deal with this. I don't have the bandwidth to deal with this. There's too much else going on right now. I need to push this down so I can keep doing all that stuff I'm busy with.” As I describe this, you might start to see how this really is a cycle and how each of these things feed off each other.

A in the BEAST cycle stands for avoiding with food. You're using food and eating to avoid when you eat to procrastinate or when you eat to not have to deal with things. Avoidance eating, avoiding with food is a really common reason that smart, busy women overeat. And it's one that doesn't get talked about very much. So we've got B E A.

The S in BEAST is for stress. I don't have to tell you, I'm guessing, that stress eating is a big problem for smart, busy women. When you're stress eating, you might be working through the stress. Crunching away your stress. You also might be eating to soothe or to relax, or to distract yourself from the stress or to provide a temporary escape from the stressful feelings or the stressful situation, the things that are going on. And again, if you're busy, if you're feeling overloaded, if you just want to avoid things, you can start to see how all of these patterns can get tangled up in each other and can reinforce a cycle of eating if you're feeling overwhelmed and overloaded.

T stands for eating from tiredness. This may actually be the most ignored part of the BEAST cycle, and it may be the place where people, most unwittingly get themselves into trouble. Tiredness and sleep deprivation have become really normalized, especially for smart, busy women, but tiredness and sleep deprivation actually lead to physiological increases in hunger and craving. Not to mention that when you are exhausted, that is going to affect your ability to cope, to make good choices, to take care of yourself in ways that don't involve food to even think creatively about what are some other options. How many times have you found yourself reaching for something to eat and thinking “this isn't really what I want to do, but I just, I feel too tired to do anything else?”

Eating from tiredness is a critical piece of this cycle. And if this even sounds like it might possibly could be you, make sure that if you haven't listened to episode 27 on overeating at night, make sure that you check that one out because that is also going to be helpful.

What I want you to do is I want you to think about this. B E A S T the busyness, the emotional eating, the eating to avoid, the stress eating, the eating because you're tired. I don't want you to think of these as discreet, separate things. I want you to start to see them as a cycle. A vicious cycle and you might have one of them, like I said, you might have some, or you may have all of the components because what's important to know is each of these things can feed off of and intensify each other.

So, if you are exhausted, it is far easier to be feeling like you want to eat to avoid things, because it just feels too like too much work to avoid things. If you are stressed, you might also be exhausted and you may also feel overwhelmed and too busy. And then, the emotions that maybe on a good day, feel like something you can cope with can quickly become something that you just want to numb out. You just want to push down. And so this BEAST cycle creates this powerful reinforcing cycle of overload and overwhelm, which can lead to overeating.

And here's the other piece that I will keep reinforcing on this podcast until I am not making this podcast anymore. When you think about eating because you're busy, when you think about emotional eating, when you think about avoidance eating, when you think about stress eating, when you think about eating, because you are tired, take a moment and really let it sink in that none of these triggers, none of these reasons for eating are addressed. When you focus on “what should I eat, what should I not eat? What kind of diet or food plan should I go on?” None of the pieces of this cycle which creates really common patterns for smart, busy women around overeating and emotional eating. None of these pieces is addressed by focusing on eating.

Here's the other side of this because there is good news just as you don't have to start off with all five pieces of the BEAST cycle to end up with all five of them, because one can lead to another can reinforce another can encourage another. And pretty soon you have all the pieces of the BEAST cycle, just like that is possible, you can create a positive cycle. One that is not short circuiting, your relationship with food. And you don't have to have all of those pieces in place to have that cycle. You can start to build a positive cycle and create momentum by creating a cycle where one positive change leads to the next positive change leads to the next positive change until you have a cycle where you have all the pieces.

I really love being able to make this point because our brains move so quickly into all or nothing. Our brains can move so quickly into despair and overwhelm. When they start to see all these pieces that are working together to make it tempting to overeat. Our brains can start to tell us about all the radical lifestyle changes we need to make. And then if you're already in a place of overwhelm or overload, which is part of this BEAST cycle, it can then feel too tired and too exhausting to make any changes. And it can actually lead you to start thinking about that cycle of overeating again.

Small changes, positive changes can reverberate and can start to reverse this whole cycle. That is part of freedom mentality. That is how you transform your relationship with food. Even if your brain doesn't believe it. I will tell you clients of mine and participants in Your Missing Peace, will send comments about like, “oh my gosh, it was the small things. I can't believe it was this tweak that I made that was so doable and it would never have occurred to me to do that.” I hear these comments all the time because it's human. Your brain wants to tell you that change is going to be super difficult and super painful. And if you've been stuck in diet mentality, your brain, and your thoughts are going to tell you that it's just going to feel like more of the same.

It doesn't have to be that. So if you find yourself in the BEAST cycle, if this is sounding even a little bit familiar, remember I want you to go and take the hidden hungers quiz at TooMuchOnHerPlate.com because that is going to help you identify, even if you feel like, “oh my gosh, I have all five of these. This is my life you just described.” The hidden hungers quiz will tell you the best place for you to start making a difference, because trying to address all five of these at once is just going to make you more overwhelmed and overload to you. And what you really need is “where is my best easiest, strategic target? Where am I going to get the biggest bang for my buck? If I start focusing on this, what will be the biggest difference?”

So that's the first thing, go take the hidden hungers quiz. And then I have another acronym for you. That for me, this is how I envision what that positive cycle that you want to build looks. So focusing on food does not break or eliminate the BEAST cycle. Here's what does break down and eliminate and dissolve the BEAST cycle. I use the acronym REMIND to remind me what's in the cycle.

R in REMIND stands for rest. Smart busy women need more rest than they give themselves credit for. Take a deep breath, take a pause in the middle of the day. Look at your sleep patterns. Make sure you've got that lined up where it needs to be prioritize. Rest.

The E in REMIND is tools and strategies for emotions. A lot of us were not given the resources that we need to deal with the tough stuff that happens in our lives. And if you are struggling with anxiety or conflict and anger, or what to do about certain feel, other feelings unhappiness or grief, sadness that you have in your life, give yourself permission to get some better tools and some strategies so it doesn't feel like reaching for food is your only option.

The M in REMIND is mindset. Mindset, your thoughts and your beliefs about yourself, about your relationship with food, about what you deserve about what you have to do about what you're allowed to say no to. These things are huge when it comes to breaking the cycle. Tackling shame and guilt and perfectionism, and some of the other roadblocks that come up for high achievers for smart women who feel like they are supposed to take care of everything all the time. Shifting your mindset, becoming aware of the thoughts and the beliefs that may be holding you back- this is a key piece of reclaiming your power and taking back your relationship with food. And it's one that doesn't get talked about. Mindset and emotions and expanding your capacity or your strategies for addressing difficult emotions in your life. Those are two places where getting help and support can be incredibly and especially be.

The I in REMIND stands for what I call instead strategies. I've done entire classes and workshops and modules on instead strategies. It is a huge component of the, Your Missing Peace program. And in a nutshell, instead, strategies boil down to having options of what to do instead of reaching for something to eat, having different ways of coping with busyness or exhaustion or stress or difficult feelings. And remember, be careful about all or nothing thinking you don't have to have these all at once. You do not have to have all the answers to everything, but as you start to build instead strategies, as you start to build tools and strategies for emotions, as you begin to get more rest, you're starting to create a positive self-reinforcing cycle that takes your power back and takes the power away from food and for overeating.

The N in the REMIND acronym is for your needs and starting to work towards getting them met in better ways, getting them met at all sometimes, but looking at the quality with which you are trying to meet your needs and giving yourself permission to get your needs met. Just like emotions, if we have needs that aren't getting met they don't go away and it becomes a recipe for overeating.

So the final piece of the puzzle here, the D in the REMIND acronym is for doable. Keeping it doable, not creating a plan for yourself or a calendar of self care for your day that is overwhelming before you even start. You want to keep it doable. You want to keep whatever you are doing as something that you can accomplish. You do not need more overwhelm and overload in your day. So being respectful of the fact that you are busy, that you do have a life and that the things that are going to work and that are going to last for you are things that you can actually see yourself doing when you plan them and that feel like they're going to add ease and that they're going to be sustainable.

So, if you are a smart, busy woman who finds herself over eating and emotional eating and whispering to yourself in your head, what is wrong with me? Why can't I get a grip? Why am I still doing this thing? I hope you have a better understanding of it now. There are reasons, and the more you focus on food and ignore the reasons, the more detached you are from what is giving this cycle you're in with food and overeating all of its power.

Once you see the BEAST cycle, once you target in your primary hidden hunger, take that quiz so that you can do that. And you start using things like rest and new tools and instead strategies and focusing on getting your needs met and keeping it doable, you can create a whole new cycle.

And if you're tired of doing it alone, and if you want support and guidance and coaching and a group of like-minded women to do this work with join us in the Your Missing Peace program. Enrollment is open. You can join and get access to the training materials right away, and we can meet you on our next coaching call.

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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