Stress Eating: Good Stress vs Bad Stress and How We Cope - Part 1

If you are reading this because you have a rollercoaster dieting style, or you tend to go into an unconscious compulsive state when it comes to food, I think this will be enlightening and helpful in some way. It’s also got some info on the effects of stress and the difference in kinds of stress that’s harmful and not – so hopefully this will be helpful outside of food. As usual there are three parts, the what, why and how – the tools.

If you prefer to listen here's the podcast version of this post on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Hi peeps! This was going to be a power-up then I started researching and it turned into a full-length episode. So Jessica – this one’s for you. Hope it helps!

Part 1: The What

Eating in an unconscious fashion – during times of stress, particularly of fatty or sugary foods. This eating will happen regardless of a need for food – and usually end in a state of shame and powerlessness. Almost like you can’t stop, or almost like you don’t notice – like you are outside yourself or unconscious.

There’s a similar thing called emotional eating – and this is when you eat during times of upset. Similar results. You eat way too much, and then go into a shame spiral. Both habits often set up the need to do what they call “controlled eating” which is basically someone that tries to diet and eat less because of how they have been overeating in the in-between times. The catch-22 is that overall people who stress eat and then control eat consume the same amount of calories as those who don’t control eat – but instead it’s in the form of a rollercoaster of dieting then binging then dieting.

A lot of people confuse the stress-eating habit for “not good at dieting” or “don’t care about my body enough to not eat crappy food.” Especially when you think you’re on a roll and taking care of yourself, only to fall into the loop on a constant basis and undo all the progress you’ve had. This feeling of bewilderment and lack of control around food can make you suffer intensely. It can make you internalize the shame, intensifying the loop. It can lead to depression, more stress, more dieting, and a false concept of your relationship to food. Even though you don’t LIKE the foods or the feeling you have after eating them, necessarily, “I’m just junk-food obsessed and can’t motivate myself enough to exercise.” But that is the RESULT of the habit loop – a rationalization of it. That’s you just saying, “Well, this is just me. It’s who I am because look at my life and my powerlessness.” HOWEVER, that is false. This is not YOU, it’s an emotional/chemical sensitivity that creates a chemical imbalance – and one that self-perpetuates. A negative loop that grows stronger with each repetition - and the effect it manifests is similar to a heroin addiction.

As with all things that trap and keep you mystified – I want to start with some understanding so you can separate YOU from the symptoms you are suffering. You – when balanced – can easily stop eating when you’re full. You – when balanced, can get excited about exercise. You – when capable of soothing stress, can happily choose to go running instead of eating or watching TV. The processes at play are powerful and chemical.

Check back soon for Part 2: The Why