The “True” Cause of Stress And How To Eliminate It

One Saturday not too long ago, I was in my car on the way to the gym, but I was feeling stressed.

I just had this anxious feeling, like I was fighting with myself. I felt like I “should” go work out, but my spirit said “no!”

For once, I decided to listen.

It made no logical sense, really. I could have easily gone to work out for 20-30 minutes, and then done the rest of my errands.

I just didn’t want to.

So I didn’t.

Instead, I went to the video store and rented 2 funny movies. Then I went to my favorite upscale grocery store and bought exactly what I wanted. (This was not binge food – it was 4 kinds of Salmon (premade in the deli) and crab cakes, and asparagus and the big, expensive shrimp that I NEVER splurge on.)

Then I went home and sat outside and read a book. It was 1 of those perfect days – not too hot . . . not too cold. And I relaxed. I ate the crab cakes for lunch and some of the salmon for dinner. I guess I had a thing for fish that day; but even before then, I felt completely *fulfilled* . . . just by saying yes to me.

It was liberating really . . . I had NO urge to overeat . . . no urge for sweets . . . and the feeling lasted through the entire weekend.

Here’s The *True* Cause Of Stress

It’s amazing how much stress is caused by the gap between what we believe in and how we live our lives. Stress may be less about time pressure, and more about expressing our personal integrity.

There’s a gap between our stated values and what we actually do in our lives. This may be the reason why people with overwhelming stress or catastrophic circumstances, such as a life threatening illness, report their stress levels have reduced and they actually feel joyful. Sometimes people even say becoming ill was the best thing that ever happened to them.

Through their suffering, these folks have identified in a very deep way with what’s most important in their lives. They have a deep sense of what’s important and suddenly are blessed with the courage to bring their lives in alignment with it for the first time.

Rather than use their strength and energy to endure jobs or relationships that betray their deepest values, they are now able to make the needed changes without fear.

Rachel Naomi Remen tells the story of a woman in treatment for cancer:

“For the first time, I am sailing my boat by my own star. My God, have I sailed it by everything else! And allowed everyone else to take a turn at the tiller. All of my life I’ve headed against myself, against my own direction. But now I have a deep sense of my way, and I am loyal to it. This is my boat, and it was made to sail in this direction, by this star. You ask why I seem so much more peaceful now? Well, I am living all in one piece.”

The real cause of stress is not destructive relationships, unruly children, or critical bosses. It is the loss of a sense of ourselves and a connection, in a spiritual sense, to all that is. If that is true, then the ways that we have attempted to deal with stress (both positive and negative) cannot heal it at the deepest level. Stress is just an indication that we cannot be removed from our soulful selves without paying a price.

There are many practices that can increase awareness and deepen the sense of ourselves and our connection to the universe. Among these are prayer, meditation, EFT, hypnosis, and experiences of great loss. There’s nothing quite like losing everything you thought was important to you to help you sort out priorities fast. And drop responsibilities and obligations that no longer serve you.

How many people live in a cluttered house when they want to live in an uncluttered house? You want a simpler lifestyle with plenty of money, but there are pressures at work, the kids drive you crazy, the boss is harassing you, and you worry about losing your job. How many people tolerate a bad relationship because they are afraid to leave? This leaves a gap between what you want and what you have. That equals stress and imbalance. When life is not balanced, things go wrong.

That’s why I encourage you to clean up different parts of your life. Let go of responsibilities, relationships, etc. that no longer serve you. Clean a closet . . . clear off your desk. You’ll feel lighter already . . .

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5 Things To Tell Yourself Today About Stress Eating

It’s not what happens to us in life … because we all get beaten up by it sooner or later.

For most people, the stress isn’t going away.

Your self talk can make all the difference in how much stress you feel and how it affects you, both now and in the future.

What’s more important is how we choose to respond and what we tell ourselves about what happened.

1. I am putting the past behind me.

No matter what happened that led you to feel as you do today, you can put it behind you and start over. There are some things that you can’t do over, and some that just won’t turn out the way you wanted, no matter what. You can always learn from the past and move forward.

2. I am focusing on the one next positive step.

All it takes is one positive step forward, no matter how small. It might be to make one small shift in what you are eating or what you are thinking. It might be to let go of some notion that you have been attached to. Take that step today and don’t look back.

3. I am doing the best I can.

Most people don’t give themselves enough credit that they really are doing the best they can. We judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else, and we are the hardest to please. When you know better, you do better.

Remember that judgment sucks, no matter what side of it you are on.

4. It’s NOT that hard.

This is my new mantra when I hear myself saying “it’s too hard…” or “I can’t …” If you counteract these thoughts quickly, then it shifts your thinking and opens new possibilities. Try it!

5: “I will never give up!”

Don’t ever give up, no matter how frustrated or discouraged you may feel. Give yourself the gift of support if you need it (we all do.) It’s never too late to make a fresh start, right from where you are … with what you have to work with.

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Emotional Eating: If I Were Coaching Montel Williams

emotional eatingRecently on the Dr. Oz show, Montel Williams came on to talk about his problems with emotional eating and binge eating.

When asked about the root cause of his emotional eating,  Montel described a life-changing traumatic event.

When he was 19 years old and in the Marine Corp, he weighed 142 lb. He was a welterweight boxer.

His cohorts told him that he needed to “bulk up” and put on some weight. So he started working out and lifting weights. One day, he worked out so hard that he tore his pectoral muscle and it swelled up.

When he went to the doctor, he was mistakenly diagnosed with male breast cancer, and had a radical double mastectomy (removal of the nipples and all the tissue down to the chest wall on both sides.) As a young man with mastectomy scars, he felt completely ashamed. And even though he achieved great levels of success in television as well as health and fitness, he soothed his emotional pain with food.

When I hear stories like this, I wish that Montel had consulted me! I could have saved him over 30 years of shame and the emotional eating that resulted from it.

So what do we have here?

One specific event that resulted in years of trauma and emotional eating to push down the pain.

The problem is that emotional eating doesn’t solve anything. Just like anti-anxiety medication doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t even take the emotions away. It only masks the painful emotions temporarily. And anything that reminds Montel of the shame of his body image from that moment on only reinforces the pain.

The solution?

It’s pretty simple really, and it doesn’t take years of therapy…

I would teach him about the psychology of traumatic events and how symptoms like emotional eating can result from it. I would LOVE to have taught him Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) although it hadn’t been invented yet in 1974 when the incident occurred.

Using EFT, I would have him recall the event and helped him to neutralize all the negative emotions associated with it … everything he could remember that was still emotionally charged when he thinks about it now. I would start with whatever he feels angry about…what was said…what was done…his outrage at the doctors…the shame and humiliation that he must have felt all these years. So unnecessary…

I admire Montel for his courage, intelligence and willingness to be open and vulnerable in sharing his story. However, sometimes people just don’t know where to go for the best help. You can spend years in traditional therapy talking about this type of event, how it made you feel, how it affected you then, and how it’s still affecting you now.

With EFT, Matrix Reimprinting (an advanced EFT technique to deal with trauma) and Z Point to sweep up any loose ends, he would feel completely different about what happened in a few short sessions. And while he would still have scars, the event itself would be reduced to just another thing that happened along the way. Ok, Montel…the invitation’s still open…:-)

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Affirmations To Reduce Stress – The I Am Free Video

I have often used affirmations to reduce stress. My latest one is pretty simple. When I catch myself thinking that I *can’t* do something, I say to myself “It’s not that hard.”

Somehow, that helps me to reset my thinking. Using audio and video can be very powerful when it comes to getting positive affirmations firmly planted in your head. I like this video, in a strange way. It just seems powerful with the music.

Share your favorite affirmations in the comment section!

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Stress Triggers

Stress triggers can be just about anything – an emotion, an event … a disappointment. For example, lately I’ve been dealing with the worst website host ever, a company called Jumpline. This site is run on WordPress, and to create new articles, I have to go into the admin area every time I want to write a new post. I was having more and more difficulty logging in and maneuvering through the admin area.

It was taking several MINUTES to go from 1 page to the next. While I submitted multiple support tickets to Jumpline, they never fixed the problem.  Since I don’t know everything technical, I asked my tech guy to take a look. Here’s what he said – My server was never configured properly! “It’s taking about 3 minutes between pages refreshes on your blog right now and I get logged-out after every page request.” In other words, Jumpline sucks! And when they could not fix the problem, I moved my sites, and asked for a refund. Guess what? They wouldn’t give me one. What a surprise! It’s a good thing that I moved my sites because they then deleted my account, and they even made up a bogus customer support ticket that suggested I requested this deletion.

Wow! It’s a good thing I’m not a stress eater anymore because I would weigh 500 lb. with frustration like this! Moral of the story – be careful who you are dealing with. The reason they wouldn’t give me a refund is because I requested it after I had already paid for 6 months of hosting, and it was in their “terms of service” – you know, those fine print clauses that every company makes you sign, just for situations like this.  Grrrrr… Good companies will issue a refund for any reason, especially when their service wasn’t up to par. But bad hosting companies do what Jumpline did – at the risk of their own online reputation.

So what are your stress triggers? Go ahead, vent! It helps to have a voice. I feel better already!

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Stress Eating & Emotional Fatigue

I once wrote about giving into my fatigue at the airport and eating a bagel when I wasn’t hungry. Everyone eats for emotional and stress relief reasons occasionally. That’s NOT what gets you in trouble.

It’s the constant, dimly conscious, reactive eating that keeps occurring time and time again that will put on weight.

Let’s face it – some people are barely aware of their own existence, much less their eating habits!

It’s what you do AFTER the emotional eating that matters most. If you berate yourself, it often sets off another whole storm of emotions – guilt, anger, self hatred, defeat, hopelessness, etc. that then have to be dealt with (and often lead to more emotional eating.)

If you allow it to continue, then a brief lapse into emotional eating can turn into several days of semi-binging. Continue reading

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The Willpower Trap

Ever wonder if you have enough willpower to stop stress eating and lose the weight you want?

5 decades ago, there was a famous study, fondly called the “marshmallow study.”

Preschool kids were asked to sit in front of a marshmallow, and not eat it for a full 15 minutes.

The kids who were successful at accomplishing this task were studied over the next 2 decades and shown to do better in almost every area of life than kids who grabbed the marshmallow and ate it right away.

For instance, kids who delayed gratification:

  • scored hundreds of points higher on standardized tests in school
    had stronger relationships
  • were promoted more often, and
  • were happier.

Unfortunately, to this day, this study is misinterpreted. Most people draw the wrong conclusion, by assuming that the only reason (among all the possible reasons) that some kids were better at delaying gratification is that they had more “willpower.” That they were somehow stronger, in some way, to be able to withstand the temptation. Period.

This is the same simplistic conclusion that we make when we think about why we don’t change our own bad habits. When we fall off the wagon and overeat, we blame it on a lack of willpower. When we succeed, we also attribute it to our persistence and commitment to the goal. Either way, we blame or give credit to one single factor – the almighty willpower.

This is tragically wrong…

It’s wrong because it’s incomplete, and it’s tragic because it gives us no wiggle room when things don’t go as we would like. When you believe your ability to make good choices depends only on willpower, you will eventually stop trying. It’s not something you can get more of, really…and the more you use it, the more you use it up and the more likely you are to quit.

This pattern keeps you in a depressing cycle starting with massive commitment to change, and followed by eroding motivation and relapse into old habits.

That’s the willpower trap.

Fortunately, a follow up study, showed that what seems like will, may be more about skill. The kids who were successful developed skills to manage the challenge. Some even developed clever strategies, like distracting themselves or creating a game out of it, until the researchers returned.

In fact, it was shown in this later study that when kids were taught skills, 50% more were successful. No willpower necessary.

One of the biggest barriers to success is NOT lack of willpower, but the belief that willpower is the key to change.

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“Food Calms Me Down”

It’s a famfood calms me downiliar refrain that I have heard often from my clients.

I used to think the same thing. That is . . . if I took time to think about it at all.

If what you need is to be calm, then there may not be faster ways to do it, but there are far better ways to do it, with fewer negative consequences.

What it takes to calm down is to get better at managing your moods. It takes SKILL, (not willpower) to break habits and to separate food from feelings.

Yes, you may have to break the habit of reaching for food automatically (more on that later), but it’s not willpower that you lack.

Instead, work on developing emotional management skills using real tools, such as:

1. Emotional Freedom Techniques – (EFT) Tapping is the first line of defense. Why? It does 1 thing really well – neutralizes negative emotions.

2. Learn to identify and feel your feelings instead of stuffing them with food. Yes, food is a quick fix and a convenient “mute” button for emotions, but there’s always a price to pay.

3. Learn to “think” differently about how you feel. You can’t necessarily “think” your way out of a negative emotional situation in the moment, but there are strategies you can use to help yourself calm down.

4. Set boundaries and increase assertiveness skills. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and more in control when there are fewer demands.

5. Hitting the “pause” button. When you find yourself reaching for food, hit the imaginary pause button, long enough to ask yourself a couple of questions. Am I hungry? Will this help? If you are intent on eating, then it may not stop you, but at least you start to face the truth.

Your turn – What helps you to manage your moods?

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Psychological Eating

How much of your eating is physiological and how much is psychological eating?

How you feel in any given moment depends upon how you are managing your emotional states. It is human nature to want to feel good.

That is one reason why so many people use food to manage emotions, and change the way they feel.

When something happens that triggers a negative emotion, then psychological eating comes into play. If you aren’t hungry, and you ask yourself why you are eating, most often the answer will be “to change the way I feel.” Continue reading

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Psychology Of Eating

psychology of eating It’s time for the psychology of eating. After all, you’ve tried all the diets. You’ve counted calories, carbohydrates and fat grams.

You’ve studied every food combination ever invented and used your own body as a laboratory. They work—temporarily.

They may even work for months at a time and you think you’ve finally licked it. You have found the answer. But then slowly… insidiously… you start to regain. The pounds creep back on. You do what the books tell you to do. You try to lose it again right away, but you feel it slipping away.

This is the psychology of eating at work.

Continue reading

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