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How to Build a Self-Care Toolkit to Conquer Emotional Eating

August 2, 2017

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Sleep, Stress and Emotional Eating: something to chew on

March 12, 2018


If you are trying to get on top of your emotional eating or if you want to achieve a healthy weight, following a healthy nutrition and exercise plan is vital.


But if you want to dissolve emotional eating for good, you need to address the two important factors that have a profound effect on emotional eating: Sleep and Stress!


“Food has the power to temporarily alleviate stress and tiredness, enhance joy, and bring us comfort when we need it most. It's no wonder experts estimate that 80% of overeating is triggered by our emotions, not physical hunger. “says Susan Albers, author of Eating Mindfully


And here is something else to chew on....................................................................


Did you know that stress & sleep have an intimate relationship, what I mean is that a disruption in one, say sleep affects how you manage stress and vice versa.


Sleep and Stress :their intimate relationship

When both sleep & stress systems are functioning well they create a balance between adequate levels of alertness, to get you through the day as well as allowing you to have a restful sleep.


  • When sleep/wake cycles are disrupted the result resembles chronic stress in your body and cortisol levels are elevated.

  • A persistent imbalance can result in insomnia, immune system dysfunction, elevated blood glucose, insulin and leptin resistance.

  • In other words an imbalance in one system creates a load on the other system and it becomes a vicious cycle.


Most busy women don’t get enough sleep

Sleep is your body’s time to restore and repair, but most busy women are not getting enough shuteye these days.

With sleep being one of the first things to go when we get busy.


  • Being busy all the time triggers a stress response

  • When you experiencing high levels of stress your sleep cycle is affected


How often do you get good nights sleep and wake up feeling refreshed?


This is what happens when you don’t get enough shuteye:


Your prefrontal cortex  is the center for decision making and is affected by sleep deprivation leaving you vulnerable to emotional eating (1).


And this is how it affects your eating habits:


  • Your appetite regulating hormones (Leptin and Ghrelin) are in havoc and this elevates your hunger levels

  • You react emotionally and your ability to make deliberate choices is reduced

  • You are more likely to crave carbs and fatty foods

  • Affects your mood, you may feel depressed which can make you more likely to crave and choose sugary foods

  • You will have less stamina and you will be unlikely to last though the day with out turning to stimulants like coffee

  • Increased food intake as a result of insufficient sleep is a physiological adaptation to provide the energy needed to sustain longer hours awake



Benefits of a good nights sleep

  • Helps regulate your mood and you are able to better cope with the next day’s emotional challenges

  • You have the cognitive ability to make deliberate choices and make healthy choices

  • Carbohydrate tolerance increases.

  • Your physical performance improves

  • Your brain works better,hence your decision ability is better.


Tips for building good sleep hygiene

  • Try and go to bed and wake up at the same time

  • Plan your quite, wind down time before going to bed

  • Try not to use your mobile phone and other electronic devices

  • If your head is still buzzing from your busy day, dump it all on paper and let it go until tomorrow

  • Take a relaxing bath with some lavender and orange essential oils.

  • Have a cup of tea – chamomile tea is very calming

  • Try meditation if you are having trouble getting off to sleep, or struggling to clear your mind.


When you are busy chances are you are stressed !

You may be feeling anxious, irritable and moody and experience the following signs and thoughts 


  • Self-criticism

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Forgetfulness

  • Fear of failure


Stress affects your sleep quality

You may have trouble falling asleep when your mind is busy and you feel stressed. This is the direct relation ship between stress and sleep.


  • You may also be staying up later watching TV because you can’t fall asleep and snacking mindlessly


When your body is under stress it releases cortisol

  • Stress creates a “fight or flight” response, in your body releasing adrenaline and cortisol

  • This elevates your hunger and a craving  for foods high in fat, salt, or sugar, that give you a “quick fix.”


 You may be prone to night eating

  • Being busy during the day you may not be eating enough or not taking the time to eat healthy meals

  • You are likely to be more hungry at night and eat when our decision making ability is poor


Tips for Stress Management

There are many ways to manage stress in your busy life.The key to your stress reduction is identifying strategies that work for you.



Here are some suggestions 


#1-Manage Your Time better

  • Examine and see what things and tasks you can let go off or delegate



#2- Take frequent breaks through the day

  • Take your lunch outside and eat surrounded by nature

  • Stretch every 1-2 hours

  • Take note record what time of the day you are likely to be more stressed

  • Take your glass of water and walk around



#3-Mindful slow down

“When there is no speed, there is no struggle.”


  • Slow down your breathing

  • Slow down your thoughts

  • Move and speak slowly deliberately



#4-Time to breath

Its quite incredible how a few deep breaths can slow you down and makes you more mindful and aware of your surroundings.


  • Pause for 10-15 seconds. Feel the fullness of each inhale and each exhale.

  • Remind yourself that nothing else matters right now other than simply breathing and being there for your breath


#5- Put your positive pants on

This one is my favourite.......


Commit yourself to actively noticing the positive moments throughout your day. These positive moments can be any small event but noticing these can have a positive impact on your energy and mood. 


Look some thing positive each day, even if some days you have to look a little harder


Examples of positive moments:

  • Someone you met yesterday remembering your name

  • A driver who stops to let you through traffic

  • A bird singing

  • A discount, a bargain, a coin found in the street

  • The way the light comes through the trees

  • A call from a friend

  • A glorious sunset

  • A cool evening breeze

  • A sense of well being



And finally pausing several times during the day and reframing your thoughts will allow you to see what is going on and give you the opportunity to address it!


Trust yourself and be open to what might be possible


So if your goal is to dissolve emotional eating for good and make permanent life style changes that last, you may want to address the stress in your life, and improve your sleeping hygiene, so that you don’t need to turn to food to manage your emotions.

It’s a good idea to address the issues, deal with them, and if it still isn’t working, it might be time to get some professional help.


If you would like to have a chat about your sleep and stress habits, than contact me for a chat a 15-minute discussion.

It’s free. And it might change your life.


Irena Geller

Your Emotional Eating Coach

I am a creative scientist and an Emotional Eating Coach who helps 35+ busy women to stop fighting with emotional eating, stress eating and overwhelm and start living the lives they’ve been craving.



1.  The human emotional brain without sleep — a prefrontal amygdala disconnect

2.  50 ways to soothe yourself with out food









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