Q & A: Breaking the Guilt –> Eat –> Guilt Cycle

 

For the majority of my private clients, we spend a few minutes each week addressing any challenges they experienced in sticking to their dietary goals . We also brainstorm obstacles they may encounter in the week ahead. Recently, a client of mine posed the following conundrum:

 

I’m fine during the week; it’s easy to plan my meals and snacks and eat well. On the weekends though, I just feel like I don’t want to work so hard. I want to relax with my spouse and eat grapes, cheese, crackers, and drink wine. But then I do that and I feel so bad about myself that I end up eating more snacks. How do I get out of my bad cycle of feeling bad, then eating more, and then feeling worse?

instaquote-guilt eat guilt

 

I loved this dilemma because the Guilt–> Eat–> Guilt cycle is such a tough issue, and a common one as well. Here’s what I shared with my client:

1) http://sph.ba/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=https://sph.ba/novosti/ Plan for imperfection

If you are newer to the fat loss journey, you may want to consider planning out your meals, even for the weekend. This DOES NOT mean that you have to plan to eat only chicken and broccoli all weekend long! Plan your indulgences (in moderation) as a part of your lifestyle. If you want to enjoy dessert or alcohol or even a pizza with your family, THAT’S OKAY. It’s never a single meal that makes or breaks your fat loss goals.

So plan for the fact that you will probably have a glass of wine and a piece of bread at dinner and opt for a protein shake for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and some raw veggies for snacks. Knowing that your “bad” meals are part of your plan should help to reduce the guilt factor.

In addition, remember to avoid the indulgences as a reward for your “good week.” Your reward for all your hard work will be the increase in self esteem, self efficacy and pride you feel in completing what you set out to do!

If you absolutely feel the need to munch, at least opt for high volume, lower calorie fare like popcorn, berries, or raw veggies. Yes, they are less satisfying than chips right out of the bag, but they will be much tougher to overeat. Or if you do decide that you need the chips, then portion out what you want to eat and put some water on for tea so you have something else to when you start looking for a second serving. (As you advance through your journey, you may even want to examine why you feel the need to snack mindlessly, but it’s good to have some habits to fall back on in the meantime.)

2) click here for more info Address the real issue

Hopefully Step 1 will help you avoid feeling guilty for your weekend food choices, but sometime we get sucked into the Eat-Guilt-Eat cycle because of other negative emotional states, such as feeling weak, overwhelmed, insecure or unhappy. We attempt to numb ourselves from the experience of these emotions, which (as I’ve written about before) only dulls the pain for a brief moment. Eating as means for coping with uncomfortable feelings doesn’t change the underlying cause of the emotion, and exacerbates the negative emotions with the addition of guilt.

Try writing down when you have negative emotions that cause you to overeat, or emotions that create the desire to overeat. (Remember that overeating = eating in response to anything other than physical hunger.) Where were you, who were you with, what situation triggered your emotional response? What can you do to change the situation? How can you take positive action to change the situation in the future? If you can’t change the situation, how can you reframe it so that you change your reaction to the situation? Can you confide in your spouse or a friend? Making the effort to figure out your emotional triggers through journaling will be a huge step in overcoming the desire to eat as a response to stress.

3) rencontre parents célibataires Get your body moving

When you are feeling down on yourself and trapped in your Guilt –> Eat –> Guilt cycle, you ultimately have two options:

a) Spiral down until you feel too guilty or too physically full to eat more. Wallow in guilt and physical discomfort.

b) Do something to BREAK the cycle.

Since emotions are tougher to control, start with taking an ACTION that breaks the cycle: get your body moving!

Seriously, even if its standing up and down to your couch 10 times, it might just be enough to get your heart pumping and get your mind focused on something OTHER THAN your emotions or your next trip to the kitchen.

Or even better, step away from your fridge and out of your house if you can, and start walking! A brisk 5 or 10 minute walk is enough to clear your head.

I’m all for a lazy, relaxed Sunday, but if you find that your weekends are becoming increasingly sedentary on a regular basis, you might want to start planning in a workout first thing in the morning on one or both weekend days to help screw your head on straight for the day ahead!

 

I’d love to know: If you’ve ever experienced the guilt –> eat –> guilt cycle, how do you snap out of it? How do you avoid it in the first place? Let me know in the comments below, or over on the Facebook page.

 

Always here to help,

Jamie

Reduce your Desire to Eat an Entire Pint of Ice Cream with These Two Mindfulness Exercises

My first thought when I see the word “mindfulness” is that I don’t have time for that. It sounds like patience, practice, and hard work. I picture sitting on a mountaintop, “omm-ing” with the back of my hands resting on my knees, pinching my middle fingers against my thumbs.

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Basically, this. Ain’t nobody got time for that! (Though I https://www.offerte-mare.com/3269-dtit24140-siti-incontri-per-single.html love a good mountain view.)

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/adrasteia9/45038778/”>Adrasteia9</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a>

And yet developing mindfulness has been the single most important skill that I’ve used to help overcome the desire to overeat, or to eat when I’m not hungry.

Don’t worry: this doesn’t mean that you need to hike up a mountain in order to receive more clarity about your food choices.

Mindfulness is a really simple yet powerful practice that will no doubt impact your life, if you let it. Mindfulness is being present and aware of the current moment. It is living in your body instead of in your head. It is noticing your thoughts and bodily sensations, and noticing how they change from moment to moment.

Mindfulness is recognizing that after too much ice cream, your body doesn’t feel good.

It is hearing the wind rustle the trees as you walk through the woods.

It is feeling your fingertips against the keys of your keyboard as they type.

It is noticing the moment you feel satisfied while eating, the moment in which you would no longer be hungry if you put your fork down.

Practicing mindfulness is about reigning in your thoughts, even if just for a moment, so that you can refocus your attention on the present world around you. It’s probably the best way to start being in more control of your actions. This doesn’t mean you won’t have desires or urges for food, or that you won’t get lost in your thoughts sometimes, but that you can determine your actions, your behaviors, based on a truer evaluation of what you need and want.

For example, I often recommend that my new training clients keep a food log when they start working with me. I’ve got several reasons for wanting to see what they eat on a daily basis, but mostly I want them to see what they eat. Most people can’t tell you what they had for breakfast yesterday because it was rushed, skipped, or they didn’t count how many times they refilled their cereal bowl (totally something that I used to do on a daily basis!). Aside from being accountable to another person for what they eat, my clients have to notice what they eat and how they felt in response to eating it: emotionally, physically, and mentally.

So how do you begin? When you commit to keeping a food journal to improve your mindfulness and relationship with food, I strongly suggest that you use a pen and paper journal instead of an online calorie tracker. Write down what you eat, estimate the portion sizes, the times at which you eat, and note any unusual sensations (such as digestive discomfort) in your body or significant emotions you experience throughout the day. See how your body responds to the different foods that you eat. (If fat loss is your goal, the food journal is a powerful tool that you can use to see how what you eat affects your scale weight, body fat percentage, and/or circumference measurements over the course of a week or two. However, if tracking any of these is going to make you obsess, then just go by the fit of your clothes and your overall emotional state.) This is an excellent exercise in figuring out which foods work best for you, your goals, and your psyche. It’s also a wonderful habit that can help you reframe negative thoughts when you may have them, identify your biggest challenges, and celebrate your little victories as well.

One of my food journal entries from the fall. I placed stars next the meals I ate mindfully because it was a habit I was working to build, and big exclamation points every time I was proud of myself.

One of my food journal entries from the fall. I placed stars next the meals I ate mindfully because it was a habit I was working to build, and big exclamation points every time I was proud of myself.

The second practice you can use to starting honing your mindfulness skills is an exercise in mindful eating. I want you to spend 10 full minutes going through these steps:

1) Find an almond, grape, raisin, or some other small, smaller than bite-sized nibble of food.

2) Hold it in the palm of your hand. Do any feelings arise? What do you notice about the appearance of the almond? Imagine you had to describe it to someone who had never seen it. What is the texture like against your skin? Where did the almond come from? How was it made? Who else might’ve had to help get this almond from the earth to your palm?

3) Bring the almond towards your face. Does it have a scent? If you touch it to your lips, does it feel cool or warm?

4) Put the almond in your mouth, but don’t bite it yet. Note the flavor of the unchewed food. See if the flavor changes just by being in your mouth for a moment or two. Does it feel hard, soft, bumpy, smooth?

5) Take a small bite of the almond. Does that change the flavor? How chewy or hard is it?

6) If possible, swallow just the small bite from the almond. What do you notice about swallowing? A sense of satisfaction or relief from anticipation? Has the feel of the almond changed after being in your mouth for a few moments?

7) Chew the rest of the almond fully, until it is fully ground up in your mouth, before swallowing.

What did you think about the exercise overall? Did you ever realize you could eat so slowly?? J The first time I did this, I noticed that I felt an immediate anxiety in just holding the almond without being able to eat it. There was the urge to just toss the almond in my mouth, like I have done hundreds of times before without noticing. I felt what it was like to be uncomfortable, and sit with my discomfort as I waited out the urge to eat.

Let me know if you try either of these exercises in the comments below, of if you’ve ever tried them before, and how they work for you! Both are excellent ways to bring yourself back to the present moment, and to begin to develop an awareness about your eating behaviors and desires.

Always here to help,

Jamie

 

PS For more ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine, follow me over on Instagram where I’m posting my mindful moments each day. I’d love to see how you stay mindful, too — join in using the hashtag #mindfulmoments!

http://instagram.com/jlchenelle

Are your stress-relievers adding to your stress?

Raise your hand if you eat chocolate when you are stressed.

Raise your hand if you ever have days in which you just have to have a glass of wine, because hell, for the day you just got through, you deserve it!

Okay, now raise your hand if thoughts of tackling a huge upcoming project at work send your heart rate up and your hands to your cupboards, mindlessly rifling through for snacks? Or if fighting with your parents leaves you so aggravated that you scrounge up those chips that you SWORE you were going to throw away, but just couldn’t bring yourself to do it (because it’s not a big deal, you don’t even really like chips anyway….and yet here you are, eating them by the handful, straight out of the bag).

You are not alone!

You are not alone!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/locator/420581084/”>Locator</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

If you were able to look around a little bit, you’d know that you are NOT alone. According to the APA (as cited in The Willpower Instinct), most people report “eating” as a way to relieve stress (along with using Facebook, drinking, and shopping). Yet most people also note that their chosen stress reliever is generally NOT EFFECTIVE. While we may rationalize in the moment that a little food helps us get through our toughest times, I’d argue that for many of us, we are just setting ourselves up for additional stress, future cravings, or possible addiction.

Adding Guilt to your Stress

Especially if fat loss or weight loss is the goal, choosing food as our means for decompressing often leads to the experience of MORE stress than before. If you’ve learned to rely on the comforting effect of food (which is a very powerful and real thing!), you know that it can often be a major reason that contributes to weight gain in the first place. For example, when I was wronged by a guy in college, my best friend immediately put me in her car and drove me to the nearest gelato shop with lightning speed so that I could vent and be consoled by the cold, creamy, dessert. (And I’m not going to lie either:  I felt better!)

We remember that food has been a reliable mood booster before, so we tend to fall back on it in times of emotional vulnerability. However, if we continually attempt to relieve our stress using the very thing we aim to avoid or reduce, we feel only a momentary reprieve from stress that soon returns in full and then some. The real problem, our anxiety or feelings about a difficult situation, has not been resolved.  PLUS, we now experience feelings of guilt from our indulgences and a decrease in self esteem from not sticking to our health goals. Ouch!

Fueling Future Cravings

I know, kid. Life is tough.

I know, kid. Life is tough.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiery-phoenix/8428079692/”>Fiery-Phoenix</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Just like a two year old throwing a tantrum, cravings are annoying, persistent, and inevitable. Our response to them, however, is what dictates their intensity and frequency in the future. If we give in and reward our two year old nightmare with the candy she demands, she will learn that throwing a fit leads to candy. In the same way, by stuffing our faces with chocolate and ice cream when we crave them, we learn that we only feel good when we give in to our desires. Over time, this pattern only gets stronger and we soon expect that our cravings will automatically lead us to eat. When we add in the negative emotions of feeling overwhelmed or anxious, we immediately know how to make those feelings go away. Additionally, we are in a weakened position to try to fight these cravings when we are overcome by our emotions in times of stress.

Addiction

Somehow Ben and Jerry's has manage to create a product possibly even MORE addictive than regular ice cream.

Somehow Ben and Jerry’s has manage to create a product possibly even MORE addictive than regular ice cream.

Certain foods (especially those in high in salt, fat, and sugar, like salted caramel gelato…mmm) can affect the same neurological pathways of addiction that drugs do. Turning to food in times of stress quickly establishes routines and habits, innocently enough at first, but we often don’t realize the strength of these habits until we try to change them.

For example, as much as I warn my clients against it now, I have always found it really “relaxing” to plop down on the couch after dinner, watch some TV, and have dessert (I grew up in a household where ice cream was as much of a grocery staple as eggs or milk). Having dessert makes watching TV more enjoyable and fun. This routine started out harmlessly, but grew into something more destructive: as I developed more stress as an adult and experienced more relaxation from the ritual, I started to experience the urge for sweets every time I watched TV on the couch at night.

And guess what? Even when I do indulge in my craving and I finish eating my berries or a couple of squares of dark chocolate (my more current usual suspects for dessert), I immediately want more berries or chocolate.  In the same way drug addicts develop higher tolerance for their drugs, the urge for eating out of mindless relaxation is not satisfied by just a little bit of eating. And sometimes this means grabbing a second or third bowl of berries. Fine…it’s better than ice cream, right? But this exact same process occurs whether its berries or ice cream or nuts or popcorn. I eat some, but the urge to eat is not satisfied.

And this is when a well-intentioned snack or dessert after dinner can turn into one what the smart folks over at Metabolic Effect refer to as a “continuous meal” (nonstop eating from dinner until bedtime), and this becomes our new compulsive habit that we turn to in order to relieve our stress.

Do you see how this might lead to weight gain?

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So now that we know what won’t work, what can we do to reduce our levels of stress? The following activities tend to actually be effective in reducing stress by promoting our parasympathetic (or “rest and digest”) system:

  • Yoga– go to www.Yogaglo.com and sign up for tons of yoga classes on your computer!
  • Foam rolling/stretching – good recovery for your mind AND your body
  • Meditations/Deep belly breaths – I have many of my clients practice these daily, for relaxation and proper bracing techniques while strength training
  • Warm bath or shower – I like to add in a few drops of lavender essential oil, or bathe in Epsom salts, for added relaxation
  • Drink tea—Harney’s Cinnamon Spice Tea = life-changing
  • Read a book for pleasure – sometimes a girl needs a good distraction; if you are looking for some good page turners I love Gillian Flynn’s books
  • Listen to music
  • Walk/ Light exercise—often overlooked, but if you can get your body moving and your heart pumping just a bit, you will feel reenergized and refreshed afterwards
  • Nap/Sleep—I am a strong believer in taking midafternoon naps when I can; try to keep your nap under 30 minutes though to prevent waking up groggy or accidentally sleeping for 3 hours (not that I know anything about that…)

 

The next time you feel that wave of stress and anxiety start to wash over your entire being, start with 3 deep breaths and then think:

What action can I take right now that will actually help me feel better?

 

Always here to help,

Jamie

PS – I’d love to know: Do you struggle with this? Do you find that your chosen mode of stress relief can leave you feeling more wound up? Let me know in the comments below!

PPS – I really hope that you find some of these insights and suggestions useful! If you know somebody who may struggle with these challenges or benefit from reading, please share this post with them!