Hello, good morning. I want to welcome you to the Body By Patrick podcast. My name is, Patrick Ocheni. In today’s episode, I want to share with you my three steps to overcoming emotional eating without using will power.
If you’re somebody that feels like you cope with stress by eating, this presentation is for you.
How did this all come about?
I was working out with a client of mine and I asked her, what has been the most challenging part of your fitness journey?
She said to me, well, learning how to better cope with stress by not using food.
What I’m going to do today is share with you the strategy that I’ve shared with her that she said has worked in terms of overcoming emotional eating without relying on will power.
Before you can overcome emotional eating, you have to understand that emotional eating is a form of habit that has evolved from a learned conscious behavior to an automatic unconscious behavior.
How does that happen?
Well, somewhere along the line, you discovered that if you ate that piece of cookie, it’s going to give you pleasure, a release, a high that will help you temporarily escape whatever situation you’re trying to escape from.
Then, you over time started reinforcing that emotion, that feeling that if I get stressed, I just pick up a piece of cookie.
You consciously decided to do it, but then over time, what happens is your brain takes over and says, wait a minute, I have discovered that if Mrs. Jones eats cookies, she will feel good under stress.
Your brain is always trying to protect you.
So, now it learned the behavior and then takes over from there to the point whereby it becomes a habit.
The next time you are faced with stress, what happens? You don’t even have to think about it, you just automatically go for that piece of cookie. More than likely, you’ve probably even set up your environment to support that habit.
You probably already have a jar of cookie next to you on the table so that when stress comes, without even thinking about it, you reach for it because you’ve been doing it so often.
Your brain takes over.
Your brain says, hey, I’m here to protect you. I’m here to protect you. Right now you’re under stress, and you’re going to feel good if you just reach over and grab that piece of cookie.
And, what do you do without even thinking about it?
You grab that piece of cookie.
That’s how you go from learned conscious behavior to automatic unconscious behavior.
You do it so often, you reinforce that behavior so often, and then it becomes automatic.
Now, how do you break that?
The solution is what I call a “Pattern Interrupt”.
What does that mean?
You have to disrupt your existing way of thinking, which determines your action. Because guess what, your behavior is led by how you’re thinking. If you change your thinking, you change your behavior, which changes your habits.
What you’ve got to do is send a different signal to your brain that, hey, no longer do I want you to give me a piece of cookie. I want you to give me something else to help me deal with this current stress that I’m experiencing right now.
But here’s the thing though, how do you implement pattern interrupt?
It’s one thing to know that you need to disrupt your current way of thinking, but then how do you do it? Because, guess what, will power doesn’t work .
To say to yourself, I’m going to will myself to not eat that piece of cookie again is not going to work.
How do I know?
Been there, done it.
What you need is a strategy that will help you over time go from being dependent on that method of coping with your situation to something else that’s much more agreeable with you.
What I want to share with you what I believe are the three steps that you have to go through to help you implement pattern interrupt that way you can overcome emotional eating.
Before I give you these three steps, I want to emphasize that I am not a doctor, a psychologist or anything like that. What I want to share with you right now are things that have worked for me and that I’ve worked for some of the people that I know.
If you have any kind of illness, always consult your doctor.
In my opinion, how do you overcome emotional eating?
Three things have to happen.
The first one is, you have to become aware of the situation. You have to become aware that you have a problem.
Just like anybody addicted to smoking or drugs or whatever you have to become aware there’s a problem. Without that, you cannot solve the situation. You cannot implement a pattern interrupt because in your mind, there is no problem.
You have to become aware that eating that piece of cookie when I’m under stress is not good for me.
That’s the first step.
The second step after becoming aware is, now you have to identify triggers, things that are happening that is making you want to eat cookies. There’s always a trigger.
Nobody, again, wakes up in the morning and decides I’m just going to go do drugs. No, something typically happens that triggers them to want to go do it.
What you’ve got to do is identify those triggers.
There are different form of triggers.
A trigger could be something you smell.
Have you ever had this experience whereby you’re going to a restaurant and the way the food smells reminds you of when you were a little kid, and you walk into the kitchen and your mum was cooking some delicious meal.
That smell triggered an emotional experience.
It could be something that you see. You’re watching TV, and you see a food commercial and that food commercial makes you want to just go grab a box of cookies and eat it.
It could be environment. People all the time say to me, I’m not a smoker; I’m just a social smoker. So the only time they smoke is when they’re in an environment, hanging out with friends. That could be the same thing for you. Maybe the only time you find yourself eating cookies is when you go to a happy hour.
What you gotta do is identify what those triggers are and the way you do that is, you have to start writing down what was happening before you started eating that piece of cookie.
For example, let’s say you go to work today and your boss yells at you and then you grabbed a box of cookies and ate it. You go write down in your journal, today my boss yelled at me and I grabbed the box of cookies.
The next time you grabbed a box of cookies, you write down my boss yelled at me again. And then, what happens, you start to see a pattern of behavior.
You’ve got to identify those triggers before you can initiate a pattern interrupt.
The last thing you got to have is, there’s got to be a desire for change.
It’s one thing to be aware you have a problem. It’s another thing to identify what the triggers are, but then you have to say to yourself, you know what, I don’t want to eat that cookie anymore every time my boss yells at me.
If you don’t have a desire for change, nothing is going to happen.
It doesn’t matter if somebody says to you, hey Jessica, eating cookies after your boss yells at you is not going to be good for your waistline longterm.
Until you want that for yourself, you will not be able to implement a pattern interrupt.
A few years ago when I was trying to lose weight, every time I finished working out, I will find myself at Subway and I will order three Macadamian cookies for 99 cents.
They just gave me pleasure.
I really don’t even understand why I did it, but I’m sure at some point I ate it for the first time and I was like, oh my gosh, this tastes so good.
I was doing this every day.
After a while I said to myself, Patrick, man, this is not gonna work.
I’m essentially negating everything I did in the gym.
I said, something has got to change.
I became aware that this is a problem.
And then, the next thing I did was to identify triggers.
I noticed that every time I finished working out, I would feel kind of tired. And, to pep me up, I would take a certain route that led me to the subway. So, fatigue was a trigger for me.
But then I had a desire for change because I was like, I really do want to transform my body. And, I know that if I keep eating macadamia cookies every single day after working out, I’m not going to achieve my goal.
You’ve got to understand in order for you to overcome emotional eating, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. You’re not going to go from eating a jar of cookies when you’re under stress to eating nothing.
It has to be a process that happens over time. You’ve got to ween yourself off of it.
What did I do? I implemented a pattern interrupt.
What I did was, instead of going in the direction of subway, I took a different route. I ended up at a different store instead and got something that was not macadamia cookies, but less desirable.
I replaced white macadamia cookies with chips.
I don’t really like chips, so when I would eat it, I didn’t get the same kind pleasure as I did with cookies. So that’s what I did over time and before I knew it, because I didn’t really enjoy the chips, I stopped getting the chips anyway. And that’s how broke my habit of being addicted to macadamia cookies.
Trying to use will power to overcome emotional eating is not going to work. You need a strategy. You need a plan of focus. And, these three steps that I shared with you, I think we’ll help you out.