Thursday, May 24, 2012

Secrets to Being Fit and Fab: learn to combat anxious eating

PHS Editor Michelle Styles lost over 66lbs and is determined to keep it off.This month she shares some tips about how to combat anxious eating.
Last month I explained what emotional eating was all about and now for the next few columns, I want to delve into some of the more common reasons for emotional eating and how you can start to develop action plans to create a gap and take some proactive action for solving the problem, rather than simply creating a food buffer.

Things to keep in mind

1.       One emotion at a time

2.       Anxiety tends to be fear of the unknown or fear of the future

3.       The only time eating is the proactive response is when you are physically hungry

4.       It is easier to make a proactive response if you are prepared. Action plans and catastrophe planning work.

5.       Cardio exercise puts endorphins into your system which helps to combat stress and anxiety.

6.       Baby steps and babies fall down. Inward anger or guilt at eating doesn’t solve anything.

Anxiety is one of the major reasons I emotionally eat. When I am anxious about people’s reaction to my work, about being in stressful situations such as cocktail parties, anxious about my family not arriving when they say will and a thousand other worries including am I doing the right thing for my career,  I tend to snack. It provides serotonin but it doesn’t actually solve any problem. It simply means my digestive system is in feast mode rather than in fight or flight mode.
Eating might have been the correct when I was younger but now I am an adult, eating because I am anxious is not a good strategy. As anxiety is fear of something happening, rather than it actually coming to pass, it is important to listen to the catastrophic message your persistently critical self is whispering to you, rather than covering it up under a mountain of food. You can’t combat something if you don’t know what you are worried about. And if you are like me, you will be so used to hearing the whispering that you have stopped listening. However your body listens, or anticipates and demands food.
The first few times, you actually listen are hard. Your body may go into knots. It is one of the reasons why you do need to pay attention when you get cravings. You need to know what that message is. For example, if you are anxious about your deadline, it could be because you doubt your work or fear that you are going to be found out for being an imposter. Or it could be that you fear the task is too large. Both fears are fine to have, but you need to take different approaches to combat each fear. I will cover some of the self doubt/imposter syndrome next month, but if you are worried about the task being too large, you need to break it down. You need to have a contingency plan if you don’t get it finished. Ignoring the fear and eating won’t make it go away.
 Once you know what catastrophe your mind is whispering to you, you can start to make action plans on how to deal with the catastrophe should the worst happen. If you try to solve the wrong anxiety, the urge to eat will stay –so really listen to your persistently critical self, rather than simply guessing.
You can write down action plans and keep them in a file. When my grandfather was stationed in Germany in the 1950’s, there was a constant threat of invasion, my grandmother wrote down and kept her plans of what she would do if...and this included what to grab if she only had five minutes to get out  (passport, fur coat and camera). Making a sensible plan about what you are going to do can help. It means you are not floundering around blind. It means sometimes being politely persistent until you get an answer or get some action, and remembering that no one – not your editor, not your agent, not your critique partner or the friend you have coffee have with can look after your career as well as you can. (I do get anxious about my career at times and have found making action plans help more than stuffing my face). Scheduling when I will follow up on things or actually talking to my editors about my career and what I want from them is far better than eating. They are not mind readers.
 It means being proactive, rather than hoping for change. Once you have a written plan, you can go on auto pilot until you get some balance restored. But you can’t make plans until you hear what your persistently critical self is telling you. And you have to learn to talk back to it and tell it that you are doing everything possible.
Next month I will deal with some proactive confidence boasting approaches you can do if you are eating to stave off the Crows of Doubt.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance. You can read more about Michelle’s books on her website Her next book His Unsuitable Viscountess will be published in August.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michelle, I'm so impressed with the results of your hard work. I know you've been following some challenging exercise routines.

    This topic hits close to home for me. I've also found that emotional eating becomes a habit to the point that when I'm able to recognize wanting a snack is just an emotional response to stress, I still have a physical craving for the snack. Have you experienced that, too?