Most people who engage in stress eating are highly concerned about their appearance and weight. For some people, their world is dominated by thoughts of food and weight issues. Most stress eaters want to lose weight and are anxious about gaining weight.
Obsessive concerns about food and weight are not uncommon. One client that I worked with weighed herself at least 10 times per day. Others don’t weigh themselves at all, always fearing the worst.
Shame about your appearance can interfere with day-to-day life. Some people will avoid social situations, and many avoid letting others (or even themselves) see what they look like. Avoiding others tends to increase the stress and consequently, the stress eating even more.
While some people engage in obsessive exercise, more avoid the gym so as to avoid being seen. It’s just too painful.
These concerns go beyond what Yale University termed “normative discontent,” the normal level of concern of many women. For instance, 1 in 10 women report “feeling fat” at least daily. This is hardly surprising given the social pressures to be thin.
It’s what people DO to combat these concerns about their appearance that is most troublesome.
Dieting is one of the MOST stressful things you can do, both mentally and physically.
To go on a diet is to add stress to stress!
Dieting is one of the main factors that keep stress eating going! Dieting increases feelings of deprivation, causing more stress and fatigue – 2 of the main causes of stress eating.
Deciding What’s Best For You
If you engage in stress eating (and we ALL do from time to time), and you are concerned about your weight, there are various programs to help you.
The most effective programs will have a coaching component, something that includes support AND accountability (in a good way). Simply going on a diet has been proven over and over again to have a 95% failure rate.
Would you choose a strategy in any other area of your life that has a 95% failure rate?
Many people have good luck with a combination of outside support, which includes individual or group coaching, and use of self-help materials, like relaxation CDs to reduce stress and other nondieting approaches. In the long run, these approaches are much more effective because they teach you how to manage stress and emotional eating, and get you off the diet/deprivation/binge cycle for good.
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