Working on Eating During a Crisis

My client, Megan, is going through a really hard time. Her mother is facing a major health crisis and when Megan and I met this week, she told me she was having trouble staying in control of her eating. She kept having thoughts like, “I just can’t deal with worrying about my eating right now. It’s too hard.”

Megan and I talked about this thought and discussed what the outcomes would be of continuing to work on staying in control versus letting herself be out of control. Megan herself has had significant health problems in the past and one thing that really resonated with her was the reminder that her own health is at stake here. She said that she can’t afford to get off track because it would inevitably lead to gaining weight, and potentially a lot of weight.

Megan made the following Response Card:

Even though things are incredibly stressful right now, I can’t afford to get off track with my eating and gain weight back. My health is at stake.

Megan and I also talked about the fact that when she’s out of control, it’s often like a black cloud is hanging over her head. She feels very negative, both about her eating and about life in general. In the moments she’s eating, the food distracts her from this negativity, but the rest of the time she’s aware of its presence.  Megan made a Response Card to help her remember this:

I have enough stress happening right now, I’m not going to add to it by feeling out of control of my eating. Overeating may momentarily distract me from my stress but will cause so much more negativity overall.

Another idea that that Megan and I discussed was that this was an important turning point for her. Megan had been doing very well for the last six months but she hadn’t faced any major life challenges during that time. Megan realized that if she stayed on track during this hard time, she would have real evidence that she has mastered her skills. This was a good opportunity to prove something very important to herself.  Megan made a Response Card:

Staying on track during this time will irrefutably prove to me that I have changed and give me huge confidence that I can continue doing what I’m doing long term.

Megan and I also agreed that until there was some improvement in her mom’s health, it would be more reasonable for her to maintain her weight, rather than work on losing. We decided she should give herself an extra two hundred calories per day, which would give her a buffer when she needs to travel and stay in hotel rooms. Importantly, this is a planned extra 200 calories, not a spontaneous decision to eat more. This means Megan will keep her resistance muscle strong and be in an excellent position to decrease her daily intake again once things calm down.

Woman with flowers

3 replies
    • Oola
      Oola says:

      Food is MEANT to be satisfying in all kinds of situations. We evolved that way. Read The Hungry Brain by Stephan Guyenet. But don’t buy into his diet program. Like many thin researchers, he doesn’t understand that no matter how healthy a program is, it doesn’t mean a person will stick with it. Better to find something reasonable along the way. Weaning yourself off stress eating is reasonable.

  1. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    This reminder was SO timely. I am with my sister who is being treated for cancer and who is eating a lot of my favorite foods that are unhealthy for me. For awhile I was joining her in eating the wrong things and gained a lot of weight. Because her oncologist reminded us of the role of diet, in particular sugar, in cancer growth, I am now back on track, but struggling. I will write down all three of these responses on my cards–they are exactly what I needed. Thank you.


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