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you’re stressed out to the max and feeling crazy overwhelmed. And in that moment, all you want is something sweet. Pretty soon, you’ve downed several handfuls of cookies and you’re feeling miserable and disappointed in yourself. Now, listen - there’s an actual scientific reason for why you’re reaching for sugar in those stressful situations, and I’m going to tell what that is and what you can do about it, starting today.
I have a friend named Anna that is currently dealing with a very difficult family member. In fact, it’s her mom. Her mom is extremely overbearing, narcissistic, controlling, and has also modeled over the years a really bad food relationship for Anna. So not only has Anna been dealing with a very emotionally volatile mom...who therapists are saying probably has personality disorder... but she’s also lived her entire life in a food environment that is beyond unhealthy. So needless to say, food is a big challenge for Anna.
But right now, Anna told me that for some reason whenever she has to deal with her mom in person or dig into the emotional effect that she has on her with a therapist, it triggers a significant amount of stress. And sometimes, she will literally feel shaky, nauseous, and lightheaded.
And in these situations, she almost always reaches for something sugary. Something sweet...whether that’s a bag of candy, a homemade cookie, or even a coffee drink from Starbucks.
This habit is soooo frustrating for Anna because she feels like she’s repeating some of those same behaviors that her mom has, but it’s also making her physically awful and downright out of control.
Does this ever happen to you?
So, what’s the solution? How can you, and how can Anna, stop reaching for sugar every time you feel stressed out??
Today, I want to show you WHY you’re turning to sugar in stressful situations. I want you to know why this is happening. And by understanding why this is happening, you’re going to be able to get a better handle on this habit and even overcome it, so you no longer find yourself stress-eating sugar.
I’m going to share with you exactly what I explained to Anna and how I walked her through overcoming this struggle.
When you’re stressed it triggers your Fight or flight response (CNS) and adrenaline (and cortisol). Everything is amped up and on high alert. Your nerves are buzzing (can lead to feeling shaky, nauseous, even lightheaded)
In that moment, you’re wanting to get rid of that feeling... you want to feel calm, at peace, and to feel like everything is ok. It doesn’t feel comfortable to be in the fight or flight response!!
Sugar triggers the calming, feel-good neurochemicals in your brain, like dopamine. When dopamine is released, you experience a sense of happiness and delight. Some people can even describe the stress-eating experience as, "It helps me escape and makes me momentarily happy in the middle of my problems." Dopamine calms the nervous system.
Anna was able to experience a dopamine hit that helps tamp down the fight or flight response. In essence, it pulled her back off the ledge, and she felt better.
Now, here’s problem:
The good news is that you can tame this beast!
(I say “start” because this won’t solve itself overnight. You’re dealing with some pretty strong neural pathways that need to be patiently rewired):
The most important thing for you to do is to go on the offense - Be ready for the things that trigger these stress responses so that you can utilize better, healthier coping tactics. For Anna, it was every time her mom became a topic of conversation
What specific situations trigger that feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed out? Write these down.
Take a look at each of the stress triggers you wrote down and see if anything can be changed.
Write down at least three nonfood/beverage solutions to deal with your stress triggers.
Let me give you some examples for how you can put this into action:
I know it might feel like sugar has a stronghold on you when you’re stressed out, but it should be helpful to know that a lot of that is physiological. And by simply practicing different coping strategies to get that similar dopamine release in those moments, you’ll be able to rewire that pathway and no long find yourself turning to sugar when you’re stressed.
What I want you to do now is go download my free Guide to Overcoming Stress Eating and Drinking. It’s an incredible resource that will walk you through all of this, plus it comes with a worksheet to help you work through your triggers and coping mechanisms. Super helpful.
Once again, if stress eating and sugar is a big struggle for you, go grab your free copy of the stress eating guide with the worksheet at vigeofit.com/stress-eating.
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