Latest news

Stress Eating, One of Six Mental Roadblocks to Weight Loss.

Change: A Mental Makeover
Dr. John H. Sklare
Part I:
Stress Eating

She walks into your office exactly six months after her last visit and you immediately realize that the heart-to-heart talk you had with her, about her weight, did not motivate her to take action.  Even though you see this day in and day out, you had so much hope for this woman.  So what happened?  Why didn’t her dire physical condition and your straight-talk about the consequences of not losing weight motivate her to dramatically change her unhealthy habits?  The reason for her inaction can be summed up in this short statement:   You can’t change your weight until you change your mind!   

Well, if you would like a deeper understanding about why people like her continue to struggle and fail, you are going to find this six part series very enlightening and very useful!  In this series I will introduce you to six mental roadblocks that are at the very heart of why dieters struggle with emotional eating and weight loss.

The six mental roadblocks addressed and defined in this series are called:  Stress Eating, Discomfort, Perfectionism, Commitment, Inner Control and Secondary Gain.  In order to get you thinking about the general context of these six constructs, I offer you six questions that capture the essence of each of these psychological weight loss barriers:

  • Does the person overeat in order to reduce stress and manage tension in their life?
  • Is weight loss psychologically too uncomfortable for the person to endure?
  • Does the person give themselves any room for error when they slip up on their diet?
  • What is the person’s depth of motivation and commitment to healthy lifestyle change?
  • Does the person feel that their eating is out of their personal control?
  • Does the person see any advantages or benefits to remaining overweight?

The six mental roadblocks to weight loss that I will discuss in this series are each addressed by one of the six questions above.  With that said, let’s start this discussion with the most common emotional eating trigger that people face each day – Stress Eating.

This blog post identifies those people who overeat in response to stress.  People who score high on this scale use eating as a way to reduce tension and to control stress.  A bad day at work, an argument with a loved one or receiving some kind of bad news are all examples of things that can trigger stress eating behavior.  I’m sure that you see this all the time because stress is also the most common reason that people relapse when trying to lose weight.  The sad truth is, however, that eating in response to stressful situations typically makes stress eaters feel worse and eat more.  The end result is a stress eating pattern that causes more stress and even more weight gain.

In my research with The Inner Diet, each person falls into one of four categories on each of these six scales.  Those categories are Low, Middle, High or Very High.  Stress Eating is the issue that creates the most difficulty for those wanting to lose weight.  As a matter of fact, 74% of all those I’ve tested scored High or Very High on the Stress Eating scale.  That’s more than 7 out of every 10 people so the bottom line is this.  Unless these people stop eating in response to stress, which is a learned coping mechanism, they will most likely fail at weight loss.  Adding a stress reduction component to their weight loss effort would help to minimize their struggle, increase their potential for long-term success and boost your success numbers in the process.

An example of how one can address stress eating directly can be found in the example below that I call the Stress Eating Challenge.  I have found that one of the easiest ways to identify stress eating danger signs is by increasing one’s awareness of how stress affects their eating patterns.  What follows is an example of how someone can monitor and interrupt their stress eating behavior.  Whenever they are about to eat something, simply ask them to honestly rate themselves on the following 3 statements:

Stress Eating Challenge

  1. Amount of tension I am feeling now.

0 —- 1 —- 2 —- 3 —- 4 —- 5

None                                      Excessive

  1. I feel if I eat now, I will be less tense.

0 —- 1 —- 2 —- 3 —- 4 —- 5

Not at all                                 Definitely

3.  How TRULY hungry am I?

0 —- 1 —- 2 —- 3 —- 4 —- 5

Not hungry                            Very hungry

If they rate themselves 3 to 5 on statements #1 & #2 and less than 4 on statement #3 they are most likely on the verge of stress eating.  Since awareness is the key to change, this simple awareness technique is often enough to help them fend off this stress eating episode.  The fact that they must stop and ask themselves these 3 simple questions before eating throws the spotlight of awareness on that moment of truth when the decision to eat is made.  And, if you can manage that moment, you can solve this problem!  This activity, thereby, interrupts the individuals learned knee-jerk reaction to stress, throws a spotlight on that moment of truth and creates the mindset for making a healthier choice.

At the end of the day, unless a person is truly ready to commit to a healthier lifestyle, all the serious talks in the world won’t motivate them to take action.  To create the life-altering and cognitive reframing that is necessary for true healthy lifestyle change, one must address the underlying thinking behind the unhealthy behavior.  Why?  Because it’s really more about what they think than it is about what they do.  By addressing the manager of their behavior (their thinking) you put them in the perfect position to address the core underlying issues that are at the heart of emotional eating.  Time and experience have taught us that simply asking people to eat and behave differently just doesn’t get the job done.  This life-altering desire for change must come from within each individual as a direct result of honestly wanting to make healthy change in their life.  The reason is very simple.  What you do is a direct result of what you think!  The thinking ALWAYS precedes the action!!  So, change your mind and your body will follow!!  See you in the next blog post when I will address the concept of Psychological Discomfort!

Wishing You Great Health,

Dr. John H. Sklare

To get your FREE Inner Diet, a home study program that addresses the psychological component of weight loss and compliments any weight loss program, see below:

Click On The Inner Diet Logo to access your Free Inner Diet.

New Call-to-action

AuthorStress Eating, One of Six Mental Roadblocks to Weight Loss.