Originally appeared in Sixty and Me.
You’ve accomplished a lot in your life. You can do anything you set your mind to.
But there is just one area where you constantly struggle, and hope nobody notices: your eating habits.
A successful woman shared with me recently: “my biggest struggle is knowing the healthy choices but choosing unhealthy food to overeat. I find it difficult to stop eating once I start.”
If you are a woman over 60 struggling with eating, especially when stressed, you aren’t alone, it’s not your fault and there is hope.
Why successful women over 60 struggle with stress eating
Stress eating is a form of emotional eating where you use food to numb and soothe the discomfort of stress. There’s a good reason to do it, it works! When you eat, your brain secretes feel-good chemicals that allow you to get a momentary break from the hard things in life.
Unfortunately, the solution to eating struggles often makes the urge to indulge worse.
All or Nothing Dieting reduces your resilience to stress
All or Nothing Dieting, where you either have to eat “perfectly” or think “what’s the point?”, is the typical solution to solving eating struggles.
And it rarely works, as 80-98% of diets fail depending on the research you are reviewing.
All or Nothing Dieting…
- Reduces your resilience to stress by increasing stress hormones and creating anxiety with All or Nothing thinking patterns.
- Disconnects you from your physical feelings of hunger and fullness, along with your emotional needs as it takes away your best coping mechanism: food.
- Results in knowing what to eat and not eating it… Feeling out of control and unable to trust yourself around food.
You can overcome All or Nothing Dieting and increase resilience by cultivating the Courage to Trust.
The Courage to Trust that:
- Food isn’t the problem (and neither are you).
- You can hear and respond to the cues your body is giving you, instead of eating to numb or restricting for control.
- You can mindfully indulge AND consistently make nourishing choices.
- You are worthy of care and love, just as you are, even while pursuing weight loss.
For help cultivating the Courage to Trust to solve your eating struggles, download my free roadmap, “You’re Done Dieting but Still Want to Heal Emotional Eating”.
4 Ways to grow resilience and cut stress eating with the Courage to Trust Method
1. Calm the Nervous System
By employing strategies to calm the nervous system, you can reduce cravings and find the mental bandwidth to examine and heal the impact of All or Nothing Dieting so you can begin to trust yourself around food.
I recommend choosing any stress management strategy that works well for you and that you can commit to regularly. It doesn’t have to be perfect (this isn’t All or Nothing!), and yet you will get the most benefit from regular practice.
My clients have had success with using the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping) as well as breathing practices and meditation.
Self-compassion is well studied for its ability to increase resiliency. The most simplistic definition would be a type of self-kindness that recognizes your suffering is valid and that you aren’t alone.
Self-compassion relating to food struggles is most powerful when applied to your self-talk. After you overeat or indulge, how do you speak to yourself? Try replacing mean comments with something you might say to a friend who is struggling with eating.
3. Listening to Self
Identifying and caring for your needs is an excellent way to increase resilience to stress.
Try setting a calendar reminder to check in with yourself during the day and asking “what do I need right now?”. If the answer is chocolate, go deeper, is there an emotional need that chocolate is solving for you?
4. Focus on Metabolism-Boosting Healthy Eating without Dieting
You can support your body’s metabolism and resilience by adding in a few key habits.
Research shows that “dietary diversity” or eating a wide variety of foods may support greater resilience to stress.
Additionally, researchers identified that the Mediterranean style of eating can increase resilience due to its rich dietary diversity and large amount of foods high in antioxidant plant compounds like fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains.
So you don’t fall into the All or Nothing Dieting trap, start small by identifying one vegetable you enjoy but haven’t had in a while and incorporate it into your meals this week.