"I had an awful day at work today, a client complained, my boss yelled at me and I spilt coffee all over myself on my lunch break. Uhhhhh it was the worst day EVER!"
"I know what I'm going to do, I'm going to stop at the market on the way home to get a pint of Ben and Jerry's Half Baked... no you know what, I'm going to get the pint AND the ice cream sandwiches I love AND a pizza and no one is going to stop me!"
Next up: an uncontrollable binge on the couch in your sweats watching The Game of Thrones until you feel sick and totally disgusted with yourself and the food in front of you.
Welcome to the Reactive Eating Process, or in other words the "Food is The Answer to Everything" Syndrome.
There are many things that can lead to Reactive Eating, but most causes can primarily fit into one of these categories:
- You're too hungry: your body is in deprivation mode and needs food to get fast energy. FINALLY!
- You're too stressed: your body needs endorphins so it turns to food and sugar to produce endorphins fast. CHECK!
- You're too tired: your body needs energy and anything to keep you awake so sugar and carbs are quick energy. DONE!
- You're emotional or upset about something: your body needs endorphins and wants a distraction from the situation. And since food, sugar and carbs calm you down and help distract you (think food coma) you figure it sounds like a good option. . . HAPPENING!
Here's how it goes:
- We are triggered by something. (i.e. the worst day ever, stressed, hungry, tired or emotionally upset)
- Then we decide to eat something forbidden or not.
- Then we overeat this food uncontrollably.
- Then we realize we are overly full or feel sick or ate way more food than we think we should.
- Then we feel guilt and begin to judge ourselves, which usually means saying negative things to ourselves.
- Then that translates into a bad mood ALL over our life!
Judging yourself is the WORST way to stop Reactive Eating - in fact it perpetuates it! The best way to overcome Reactive Eating is to observe it happening, accept that it happen, notice if you were present while eating, ponder why it happened, and then come up with a strategy to prevent it the next time.
We're going to give you two exercises to overcome Reactive Eating.
The first exercise is when you find yourself Reactive Eating:
Ask yourself if you are too hungry, too stressed, too tired or upset about something.
What negative things am I saying to myself about experiencing this reactive eating?
Was there a need that I have that I was unwilling to give myself (e.g. sleep, relaxation time, time for a snack or lunch, setting limits at work or with people in your life, etc.)
Was I present while eating? Did I actually taste my food? Did I ever feel like it didn't taste as good and kept eating it anyways?
- What could I do differently next time? (Say no, sleep more, make sure I have snacks, take breaks, etc.
The second exercise is used when you find yourself strongly desiring a food or you find yourself mindlessly eating candy or food while passing through the kitchen or the break room:
Take 5 to 15 minutes to sit uninterrupted. Set an alarm clock and focus on your breathing. As you find your mind wandering, just turn your attention back to your breathing. Then after the 5-15 minutes is up choose to eat or not.
The purpose of the exercise is not to keep you from eating, but is designed to prevent Reactive Eating. To allow you to take the time to have the choice to eat or not. Just the act of delaying your Reactive Eating will help the urges to go away.
You can do this, beautiful! We believe in you. Try these exercises out and let us know how it goes for you in the comments below. You're not alone in this and we are here to support you every step of the way.
Hannah & Marisa
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