I work with women who struggle with emotional eating or binge eating and help them to heal these behaviors, release themselves from the struggle of food, and lose weight.
As an eating psychology coach, I focus on eating behavior, food choice, positive psychology, and mind-body nutrition to create lasting change for my clients.
It's amazing work, and the changes my clients experience blow my mind. No matter who I'm working with, there are three things I teach each and every client to help them heal and live a life at peace with food.
1. Slow down.
This is a total game-changer. You might have read before about how stress can affect your food choices and your digestion and even your weight—and it's all true!
If you're eating while stressed, your body's resources are going to be directed to your "fight or flight" response rather than your "rest and digest."
You're also much more likely to choose foods that just don't serve your higher goals. And that's a problem if you're trying to deal with emotional eating or eat for health and weight loss.
This study explains that cortisol—a hormone we produce a lot of when stressed—slows down metabolism, which means your body slows, calorie burning slows, and weight goes on. Researchers suggest that "chronic stress, whether psychological and/or physical, exerts an intense effect upon body composition.”
In other words: Stress makes you gain weight.
One of the simplest ways to reduce stress at meal times is to slow down. It can be tricky to eat slower, but fast eating, along with the stress brought on by diet and negative food thoughts, is definitely not serving you.
Dealing with the challenge of stress is a huge issue, but there are techniques you can start using right away to reduce meal-time stress—and slowing down is a powerful strategy.
A technique I recommend is to use music to slow down your meal times. Make a playlist of soothing music you like to hear while eating, and try to make your meal last at least a certain number of songs.
Over time, add a song and make meal times longer. You can make meal times progressively longer by using the songs as a cue, which is a nice way to do it—timing a meal or having a stopwatch just doesn’t seem conducive to relaxation!
2. Feel the pleasure.
If you're trying to lose weight or stop your emotional eating, you're probably seeing food as a problem. Meal times get stressful, and a lot of the pleasure goes out of eating.
That never feels good, and I'm sure you've noticed that it's a huge contributor to why you don't stick with your eating plan or healthy eating goals.
There are lots of reasons to nourish yourself with pleasure when you eat. Alongside eating meals you enjoy, I recommend "treats" for everyone at lunch or dinner (or both).
These gluten-free pumpkin oatmeal cookies are perfect. All your food should be enjoyable, but giving yourself total, loving permission to indulge is a powerful strategy for warding off emotional eating episodes.
This is another reason "treat" foods should be a regular part of your diet. That push and pull between control and release is really toned down (you know, when you eat "so well" during the day so you "totally deserve" all that junk food in the evening?), and you can make much better choices about when, where, and with what you get this joy from.
Treating yourself is an amazing way to practice active self-care, and it makes your whole day feel great when you get that from breakfast onward.
3. Plan it out.
I'm lucky in that most of my breakfasts and dinners can be eaten at home, but my schedule is variable, so most of my planning includes foods that can be popped in a box and taken on the go, much like these awesome take-to-work lunches.
That's pretty much the key to my success and something I recommend everyone tries: planning.
From an emotional eating point of view, the fear of not knowing where the next meal is, or what it will be, just creates so much stress, and tension...and then overeating when you do get to the food.
If you can plan and know exactly what's going on, and that it's delicious and coming soon, you're so much more relaxed and have more energy to make other decisions.
You don't have to cook everything at home and take it with you everywhere. Something as simple as thinking ahead to what food options will be available during your day and what choices you'd like to make there can be a huge shift.
For example, lunch is probably the most important—and overlooked—meal on a weekday. Often, you've been at your desk for a while and are ready for a break. If lunch is a mystery, a long time away, or worse (unfulfilling, boring, or unsatisfying), you'll be panicking and looking for that chocolate bar.
So, plan some healthy snack breaks, have a think about what you'd like to do for lunch this week, and make sure it's yummy. You'll be much more likely to stick to food that supports you while also feeling more relaxed and secure. Awesome!
How can you use these three strategies in your life?
The underlying principles of slowing down, pleasure, and planning are things I think everyone should be in on. This is especially true if you're a binge eater or an emotional eater.
Showing yourself the love and respect it takes to eat for relaxation, balance, and pleasure is super empowering and can help you heal in an amazing way.
So, rather than thinking, "Oh, that was interesting" and moving on from this advice, pause for a moment and think of just one way you can use one of these strategies today. You'll thank yourself for it tonight!