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Old 03-04-2009, 10:23 AM   #1
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Question Advice on stress/emotion eating?

If anyone has any advice or suggestions on avoiding eating their emotions, I would love to hear it! I have come to realize that I eat/overeat when I am stressed out or any other overwhelming emotion. Problem is, I don't usually recognize it as that until after the fact. That being said, I am very anxious about my baby's upcoming surgery. I've done pretty well on my diet so far, but with her surgery in a week and at least one planned night staying in the hospital (with a fried food galore cafeteria) I am already craving fried, fatty and chocolate double time! Anyone have any good advice on curbing those impulses or how to avoid them?
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:40 AM   #2
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Step one for me is planning. I plan my meals/snacks for the next day the night before and enter them into FitDay. If I want to change that plan (because I'm emotional or for any reason), I have to THINK about it and decide that changing the plan is important. Some days, I'm hungry and need more food. Some days I don't feel like eating something I've planned and need to swap for something else. But often, I want to change the plan because I'm anxious and want to snack. In those cases, I'll either swap a planned snack for something that can be eaten for a longer period of time (a protein shake is great, but it won't release stress and provide crunch like a plate of veggies and hummus or a big bowl of airpopped popcorn, for the same calories), or I'll do an alternative activity like exercising.

Step two is a general increase in awareness about your body and what it is saying. Until I really learned the DIFFERENCE between "today my day is hungry and needs more food" and "today I am stressed and my emotions want more food", I wasn't able to respond appropriately. So start listening and paying a little more attention.

Hope that helps!
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Old 03-04-2009, 01:18 PM   #3
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Any kind of exercise helps me to de-stress and seems to help manage the cravings. The fact that you recognize the pattern should help too.

I echo the planniing comment -- if you know you will be staying over night with your child in the hospital, why not pack your food in advance? If you don't physically go the the cafeteria, it will help to avoid the temptation.

Last edited by MBN; 03-04-2009 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 03-04-2009, 01:50 PM   #4
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When my father was dying of stomach cancer last summer & fall, I spent a lot of time in the hospital staying with him. I faced this same problem, too, and was amazed by the very limited healthy options offered by the hospital cafeteria. (I mean, if you can't eat healthily in a hospital, where can you? But anyway ...)

I'd get up in the morning & go to the gym near my parents' home, where I'd managed to work out a temporary membership. When I got back, I'd pack lunch & snacks for the day. I also tried to pack things for my mother, since I was trying to get her to eat to keep her strength up. We were in the Oncology Ward so often, we got to know the kitchen, and we would use the fridge where patients' and staff food was kept, with labels on it. The nurses in Oncology were wonderful. (I can't say that enough.) They were great at advising on this & also where to go outside the hospital for something fairly healthy.

Evenings were the hardest. We'd come back from a day at the hospital & we'd be very tired & not in the mood to cook or eat particularly healthily. I solved this mainly by cooking ahead of time, whatever I could. Then I would cook the next night's meal **after** dinner, when I'd already eaten & was a little rested. I was also very strict with myself about my bedtime. I found that really helped.

In talking about the planning & logistics, I'm leaving out the whole psychological aspect. That, of course, was the hardest. I had to work at bringing anything I felt into awareness. There was constant self-questioning. In fact, I tried to keep a dialogue going with myself:

"What am I feeling?"

"Duh ... What do you feel when someone's dying before your eyes? Frightened. Grieving. Anxious. Angry."

"Okay, so is eating something going to take care of that? Will it make me any less frightened? Will I be less angry?"


"What is the need?"

"I need to be calmed. I need to be comforted. I need to feel loved. I need to be distracted."

"Okay, so walk around the hallway. Sit in the unused waiting room & try some yoga breathing. Read your 'Mindful Grieving' book. Sit & hold your father's hand. Talk to your father. Hug your mother. Go off somewhere & call up a friend & just cry on the phone."

And I would do these things, and it helped me. And I did not binge. And I did not gain weight. I cried myself into a headache, I thought I'd shatter into pieces (but did not), I was more miserable than I'd ever been in my life. But I lived through it. (Even though my father did not.) And I am here now. And I am glad that I did not eat & eat. Had I eaten as I wanted, I would have been just as miserable, only with the added misery of self-reproach over bingeing.
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Old 03-04-2009, 02:23 PM   #5
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First I want to say that I'm sure your baby's surgery will go fine.
I'm going to give you the advice I'm working on following myself. I've been so stressed out since November that I've gained about 10-15lbs lbs.

1. Identify what exactly is triggering your stress and find out what other emotions and situations are triggering your stress and emotions.

2. Know what you go for and crave during those times and remove them. For me it's carbs! So I've cleaned out my kitchen from the carbs I have no control over.

3. Keep busy! Rather than eat I'm focusing on job hunting, school, getting to the gym, reading and cleaning and organizing my apt.

4. Stay strong in those times when you can't remove yourself from the stressor!

I'm at the point where the stress is coming off and I'm exhausted. I'm ready to do it because my clothes don't fit and I want my wardrobe back.

I know from when my father had surgery years ago that I couldn't focus on anything, so distracting myself with reading was useless. What worked for me and my family, we took turns walking the halls.

Take it one moment at time. Everything will be fine!
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Old 03-04-2009, 03:35 PM   #6
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It's an incredibly hard habit to break. It's just like any addiction though. There is a reason behind your overeating, which you have discovered to be stress or emotions. Just like what everyone said what I want you to do is plan. Planning is going to be key.

First off, get out of the house any foods that you could abuse by overeating (ie chocolate, fried foods, carbs, etc). I mean you can't eat if it's not there, right?

Next you want to pack your snacks for when you're going out. Make sure you're carrying some nuts, some fruit or something that is portable but healthy when you know you may run into something that'll trigger you.

Plan your meals. And if you plan your meals the with the right combination of protein, carbs, and fat you're likely to be satiated for several hours.

Then when you feel the urge to eat, stop yourself and ask "Am I truly hungry? When did I last eat?" And if it's been more than 3 hours then you're probably are hungry but if it's like half an hour after you've eaten something, you're more than likely fishing for something to calm an emotion.

Next what you need to do is see what is the driving emotion behind the sudden urge to eat your face off. You have to really bring awareness to your actions rather than phoning it in and just reaching for that candy bar. You have to say "Ok so if I'm not really hungry, what is causing me to want that candy bar? Am I anxious? Am I stressed? Angry? etc." Do your best to try and identify the emotion and see what it's based off whether you have a deadline at work that you're anxious about or you're worried you're not going to be able to do all the errands on Saturday that you think you need to do. Once you've established the emotion that you're feeling and what's specifically triggering it you can start to recognize what you can do to make the situation better for example with the deadline, sit down plot out the work and what needs to be done when so you have a little timeline to follow to make sure you get the work done before the deadline. This way you're being productive and know what you need to do to get the deadline completed and also you can allay your fears concerning it so you won't eat.

It's a really hard process. It's taken me several months to get it down, but once you do it's something that is so second nature. Right now I'm working on trying to do it with emotional eating related to things that I cannot identify or things that are out of my control that I can't do anything about to really make the situation better. That seems to be the hardest thing for me thus far. Because I know once I settle down and see what can be done for the things that I can change or do something about I relax almost immediately and no longer want to stress eat, but with the things I can't do anything about or I can't identify I still find myself eating away and not understanding why it's going the way it is. This has been happening for the last month but I'm really starting to open up a little more and bring my awareness to myself to try and identify those things better so I can do more to deal with it.

Good luck, sweetheart! I'm sure you'll be fine and you're baby's surgery will go beautifully!
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Old 03-04-2009, 04:00 PM   #7
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For me, the biggest thing is that I have to stop and ask myself "WHY do I want to eat this?" Most of the time, I realize that it's just stress getting to me, but it takes a lot of self control, and self awareness to stop yourself before you eat something you will later regret.

I can relate to worrying about a baby in the hospital. My 4 year old was a micro-preemie, and spent 91 long, emotional days in the NICU. I hope your little one does well, and although I know it's easier said than done, I hope you don't stress out too much.

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Old 03-04-2009, 05:32 PM   #8
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I dealt with emotional/binge eating since I was around 11 years old. I just recently broke the habit *knocks on wood* but I'm not clear yet. Everyday is a struggle. If I had a bad day at work, I'd stop at RiteAid, get a bag of tostitos, the cheese dip, bagel bites, and a pint of ice cream. THAT is what I'd eat for dinner. In the process I'd be happy. Afterward I will feel guilty. It is a brutal process but here's a few things that keep me in check:

- Planning! I plan my meals a week in advance and alter them the night before if needed.
- Eating 4-6x a day. I usually have breakfast, snack #1, lunch, sometimes snack#2, dinner, then a "dessert snack".
- Keeping trigger foods out of the house.
- Eating the foods I enjoy, just a healthier version and in moderation.
- Allowing myself to have the occasional "bad" food. I cannot deny myself or I'll want it more. The way I see it is that this is for life and I cannot tell myself I won't ever eat ice cream or cookies or brownies or chips again. I can, however, tell myself how much of this things I eat. I have control of how much I put in my mouth.
- Drink lots of water. It keeps me full and is good to clear my mind if I want to binge.

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Old 03-04-2009, 06:15 PM   #9
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Default Thank you!

Thank you all so much for the great advice! You guys are so wonderful! I am going to plan, plan away! I think if I start now, I can probably get myself prepared and planned ahead enough that I can cover the unexpected. (Last surgery was supposed to be a one night stay and it turned into 4, hence at least 12 greasy meals in the cafeteria) I always tell myself that without a fridge or microwave, I HAVE to eat out somewhere. How is that for excuse making! I think also a journal might help me express my emotions and actually see on the page how many times in the day I was just worried or stressed or whatever it may be instead of actually hungry! I know that I've gotten a big wake up call to how many times I reached for a snack out of mere availability or boredom since I've started my diet! Thank you all again and thanks for the well wishes for my daughter. You are all very encouraging and my internal thoughts are turning to 'I can do it' instead of dreading the challenge!
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Old 03-04-2009, 06:33 PM   #10
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Honestly, I plan in advance my meals and I exercise.

But whens something happens TOTALLY out of the blue, then I immediately grab a cup of tea. It's a great way to fill you up and get your liquid intake in without the additional calories!
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