Why Am I Really Eating This?

Why am I eating this_ _ Cognitive Behavioural Coaching _ Erin's Life Bites

I used to have a thing for Skittles.

It was more like a compulsion for Skittles.

At one of my former jobs, there was a vending machine.  If you work in an office, chances are there are one (or five) convenience portals to grab food.

The first six months of working in this particular office, I didn’t know anything about that vending machine.  Not a thing.  I couldn’t have told you one item that was in that machine.  You get it.

One day I was informed that I had to take on a new, challenging and time-consuming task that would take up approximately three days at the end of each month.   And then that one task turned into multiple responsibilities also expected of me each month.  And needless to say, some of these tasks did not come easily to me and often frustrated me to tears.

When I couldn’t balance out reports or my workload started to become completely overwhelming, I began to feel the stress.  At first, I tried to incorporate stress relief tactics like mindful breathing and going for a walk out to get some fresh air.  However, one of those days on my ‘time out,’ I decided to walk into the office kitchen and look into the abyss of the vending machine.

I bought a package of Skittles and brought them back to my desk and ate them all as I continued to work my way through stressful tasks.  I did the same thing the next day and the next day and every month-end after that.  In fact, I kept a bowl of change for the vending machine in my desk drawer to be sure that I could get my ‘Skittles on’ during the end of month duties.

After five months of my vending machine habit, I put on six pounds and spent about 400%  above the wholesale cost of Skittles in the process.  I also noticed the days I would eat sweets while trying to work through reports and reconciliations, I would go home feeling depressed and would eat more when I got home or drink one too many glasses of wine.  Stress begets stress begets stress, am I right?

Why am I eating this?

I have this saying that emotional eating is a lot like Dumbo’s feather.  I’m assuming most people have seen or read the story of Dumbo, but in case you haven’t, Dumbo had unique, oversized ears that enabled him to fly.   When Dumbo first discovered his talent, his friend and confidant, Timothy Q. Mouse, gave Dumbo a ‘magic’ feather which would enable him to fly.  In the end, Dumbo loses his feather but still manages to fly without a hitch.  The feather gave Dumbo a false sense of confidence, support and security.  My Skittles compulsion (and every other food I used in times of stress, pain, and sadness) were not so different than Dumbo’s feather; they provided me with a false sense of confidence, support, and security.

We emotional eaters all have a bit of that Dumbo’s feather element when it comes down to it.  

When we are feeling discomfort, pain, insecurity or shame, we turn to food to give us much-needed self-care that we need at that moment.

I’ve had people tell me over the years that they struggle with food (and subsequently their weight) because they were having a bad day.  They didn’t get that job, their friend got angry at them, nothing in their closet fit them, or something traumatic is lingering in their subconscious, and they need to “quiet the noise.”

I want to be clear, in my opinion, there is nothing inherently wrong with emotional eating.  It is an attempt at self-care — to soothe and manage our emotional discomfort.  Many people feel additional shame and discomfort when they emotionally eat because they feel like they are helpless or powerless to food.

Emotional eating is not about being helpless or powerless it is about feeling helpless and powerless over emotions.  Emotional eating is a behavioural response, and therefore it can be managed with the right support system, knowledge and tools.

Emotional eating is not about being helpless or powerless it is about feeling helpless and powerless over emotions.  Emotional eating is a behavioural response, and therefore it can be managed with the right support system, knowledge and tools.… Click To Tweet

One of the first steps that can be taken to manage an emotional eating trigger is to stop, look at the food and ask yourself, “Why am I  really eating this?” – and here are some questions to provide you with an honest answer:

1. Am I truly hungry?  True hunger is physical.  When we are truly hungry, there are physical cues supplied by our bodies such as weakness, depleted energy, lightheadedness, and shakiness.  If you are feeling physical symptoms of hunger, your body is telling you that, yes, you do in fact need to eat something.

2.  What is happening right now?  Stress and anxiety are two big triggers for emotional eaters.  In the situations when you have the urge to eat something, take an inventory of what is happening at that moment.  Are you at work?  Are you under the pressure of a deadline?  Did you see or hear something upsetting and you’re unsure what you can do to process your anxiety?  Did something or someone remind you of a painful memory?  At that moment take a minimum of two minutes to breathe and ask yourself, “What is happening right now?”  Write down your feelings and give yourself 15-20 minutes to take a break or grab a drink of water.  Giving yourself time to assess the situation and the feelings you are experiencing can help you become better aware of ‘why’ you are eating when you are eating.

3.  What can I do instead of eating?  Okay, so you have assessed the situation, and you know you’re not truly hungry, and you’ve taken your time to ask yourself what is happening at the moment – so now what?  What can you do instead of eating when you are feeling anxious or stressed?  You should not ignore your feelings because they are valid.  If you are feeling anxious, stressed or triggered in any way, you should work on strategies that will help you tackle those emotions.  For example, in my situation with stress eating Skittles while feeling under pressure at work – in hindsight, instead of turning to junk food during those times, I should have talked to my boss and told her I was struggling.  I am not blaming myself for not asking for help, but part of my emotional need to eat was based on feelings of insecurity about my work but led me to ignore the fact that all of us have to ask for help from time to time.  There is no shame in asking for help or admitting that we feel overwhelmed.  As you work on building confidence with food, you will become more in touch with what triggers your emotional eating, and that awareness will help to better equip you with strategies and solutions for the times you need to exercise self-compassion without using food to cope.

It is important to remember (and yes, I am a bit repetitive – sorry!) that emotional eating is an attempt to self-care.  It is also important to remember that emotional eating often leads to feelings of shame and that sense of guilt can lead to emotional eating.  While I do not believe there is anything shameful about wanting to care for ourselves and show ourselves compassion, I do think that it does negatively impact our ability to have confidence with food.  The ability to trust that we can make the distinction between needing food for physical survival and relying on it for emotional survival and learn the way to give ourselves the best chance of repairing the relationship between food mind, body, and soul.

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If you are interested in working on repairing your relationship with food by working with me one-on-one, please email me at erin@erinslifebites.com and don’t forget to subscribe to post updates!

Why I’m Happy, My Husband Pointed Out My Worst Quality

WHY I'M HAPPY MY HUSBAND POINTED OUT MY WORST QUALITY _ERIN'S LIFE BITES

Why I’m Happy, My Husband Pointed Out My Worst Quality

(And why it’s not a BAD thing.)

For the 12 years before marrying my husband, Luke, I jumped from one unhealthy relationship to another.

I always had something missing in every relationship.

I had something missing alright, but it wasn’t the need for a boyfriend.

I needed to find meaning in my life and work through the issues which were causing me to be so lonely and miserable.

The importance of being alone

I have had some DARK times in the past half decade.  I lost my father,  lost my sense of identity, and for a short while, lost hope that I could ever be happy or find a healthy connection with another human being.  I would push people away like it was my job, but I never understood I WAS PUSHING myself away from those people by being destructively passive-aggressive, which not only brought the worst out in myself but also brought out the worst in my partners.

Why was I destructively passive aggressive?  Well, because for the majority of my relationships I was depressed, anxious, unhappy, and suffering from an eating disorder. As well, every time I got out of a relationship, I would vow that I would take the time to be alone and deal with myself.

I pledged to everyone (except myself, apparently) that I would soul search and I wouldn’t make the same mistake with the next partner.

Now, If you’re anything like I am, you would do just about anything to get outside of your head.  But to “deal with your stuff” — you gotta sit with it, break it apart, work it out, and make peace with it if you REALLY want to grow.

So, if there’s one thing I have learned it’s this:  The only way you can start to soul search is to become comfortable with being alone.

Along came Luke

When I first met my husband, it was like all other connections go.

You know what I mean, right?  I’m talking about that period when the other person can have no faults and do no wrong — and neither can you.

The building blocks for “false happiness” — according to the relationships, I was used to cultivating.

Then we had our first disagreement, and his reaction wasn’t like the others I had always encountered in the past:  he didn’t nurture my need to feel like a victim.  

I was like…

Of course, I didn’t realise all of this at first, but my husband’s immediate call to action about my self-victimisation was HUGE for me.  What I never actually realised before was this: I NEEDED to be a victim

Everything was always happening TO me.  I convinced myself that I had zero control over the unfolding of my life and relationships, which honestly, is funny (and not in a “haha” kind of way) considering just how much CONTROL I needed to (feel) I  had over everybody else.

At first, I didn’t know how to feel about how Luke had reacted to me, but then I reflected and played the conversation back and forth in my mind.  I realised that I turned what he had intended to be a funny comment to one that felt like I was emotionally blindsided and wounded.

Much like I couldn’t process what had happened, neither could Luke.  He immediately said (and I will never forget this),

It seems, to me, like you’re playing a bit of a victim right now, Erin.

I was like…

However, he was right.

It wasn’t immediate, but in the days and weeks following that conversation, I began to evaluate my past relationships.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t using Post-It’s to create flow charts of all my previous relationships (romantic or otherwise) trying to draw connections between my actions and why things hadn’t worked out.

However, it was a major Oprah-style “Aha!” moment for me.

I also refused to see this quality as something I forced myself into not like about myself.  I had learned to be more forgiving of my self-criticisms (and judgments toward others) on the outside.

I had learned how to be alone with myself and allow the universe to provide me with limitless possibilities (if I let it be so).

However, this victim crap was the quality that had sabotaged so much of my happiness for far too long.

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The power of knowing my worst quality

Have you ever noticed that throughout life we often end up hurting the people we love the most?

Do you ever really stop and think about why this is?

Or do you spend too much time focusing your battle scars on looking at the situation objectively?

The truth is, we’re all walking around bruised and battered in this life.  However, some of us embrace these scars, and some of us walk around projecting them onto others and repeating cycles of pain and emotional turmoil, subconsciously or not.

I might sound like I’m back-stepping a bit here, but it wasn’t my fault when I was projecting and playing a victim in the past.  I was only ignorant about my behaviour.  However, now that I know I possess this quality, and have the awesome responsibility of not only being aware of it but also for making sure it doesn’t harm myself or anybody I love in the future.

With great responsibility comes great power.  

Yes, I said that the way I meant it to read.

The very fact that we are all responsible for our happiness gives us a tremendous amount of power to cultivate it.  Being given the responsibility of owning my unsavoury habit of playing the victim in emotional situations has forced me to harness the potential not only to choose NOT to be a victim but also the power to have a more profound and more insightful connection with the people I care about the most.

Insight is one of (if not) the most valuable and powerful things a person can have in their life.  So, if someone cares for you enough to let you know when you lack crucial insight, it’s important to take the time to sit with it, break it apart, work it out, and make peace with it.

If someone cares for you enough to let you know when you lack crucial insight, it's important to take the time to sit with it, break it apart, work it out, and make peace with it. Click To Tweet

Has anyone you love ever told you a harsh truth about yourself?  Do you believe that sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind?  What’s one harsh truth about yourself that has prompted a significant change in your life?

This post originally appeared on BeetsPerMinute (my old blog!).

Is Social Media a Mirror of Discontent?

social media and the mirror of discontent _ erin's life bites

As an American living abroad during the past two election cycles, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with the state of things back home.

To say things are toxic would be an understatement.

It seems like everywhere you turn, people are at odds with each other about everything.

“Things are changing, get over it.”

Before I became a coach, I used to be one of those folks who walked around thinking, “just get over it.”

However, these days it is my opinion, and the belief of many great scholars, thinkers, and leaders before me that love and compassion are necessities for living an honest and substantial life.

And the truth is; I couldn’t do this without being more loving and compassionate to myself.

Self-compassion is something with which the majority of us struggle.

It’s much easier to beat ourselves up about our perceived failures or prop ourselves up for our perceived strengths while comparing ourselves to the faults and advantages of the other people than it is, to be honest with ourselves.

When we evaluate ourselves so stringently, it doesn’t just stay with us.

When we are cutting towards ourselves, we tend to be less kind to others in turn.  I’ve worked with clients who pick apart other people’s lifestyles, partners, and appearances and it is just down to how they feel about themselves.

We all have done this, and it is not helpful, because as the saying goes (and I may be butchering this, so don’t quote me!) “What Sally says about Jane says more about Sally than it does about Jane.”

In other words,we only end up burning ourselves by thinking and saying cruel and judgmental things.

It is not entirely our fault.  Sometimes, the human default setting is not to reassure ourselves that people are doing the best they can.

Sometimes, our default setting is to scrutinise others as harshly as we would ourselves.

When I ask, is social media a mirror of discontent I mean it regarding how we judge success and failure nowadays.  Is everything we scroll and swipe through our way of looking for a source of feedback by comparing what we see in others in ourselves?

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I see this especially on social media over and over again.  And I’ve fallen victim to it myself.  Say you’re having a bad day and are frustrated with your life, all it takes is a scroll through Instagram or Facebook to watch the highlight reels of other people’s lives to set us off into critical mode.

But guess what?  Most of what we see on people’s social media accounts is (at least) slightly fictional.  I have worked with individuals who show how great their relationship or career is online and then tell me things are hanging by a thread in real life.

Our perception of other people’s lives doesn’t obligate us to beat ourselves up for not having the same story as they do any more than it does to judge them for living differently than us.

And truthfully, most people are not very transparent about their true selves, and it keeps them from being able to show their vulnerability.  If you’re as big of a fan of Brene Brown as I am, then you know what the cost of hiding shame and vulnerability is.

Success is not having an expensive car, high paying job, significant other, or  1% body fat.

Failure is not the absence of those things either.

Success and failure are just feedback, and they are what make us more resilient.

This feedback encourages our self-efficacy, as this detailed article on Positive Psychology defines as the “overall belief in our ability to succeed.”

Your resilience is far greater than you give yourself credit.  Just stop and think about all of the things you’ve been through in your life – hell, this month alone.  I assure you that you have picked yourself up and dusted off more times than you even realise. Positive Psychology also states that those with a high level of self-efficacy are not only more likely to succeed, but they are also more likely to bounce back and recover from failure.

So, what if you could be more aware of your resilience?  What if you could constructively comfort and console yourself along the way?

Is social media a 'mirror of discontent'? #comparisontrap #bestlife #selfcompassion #selfefficacy Click To Tweet

Being kind to yourself, when you need it most, is a necessity it is part of what being human is.

As Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the world of self-compassion states: there are three main components to self-compassion — self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.  It is part of the human experience to feel vulnerable and to experience failure or disappointment, but what we don’t need when this happens is to be our worst enemy.  It is our moral imperative to build a healthy self-support system and realise that we all feel discontent and we all struggle.

Self-compassion will enable us to be less critical of ourselves and others and further develop our resilient spirit.

5 Tips for Handling Constructive Criticism

FIVE TIPS FOR HANDLING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM _ erin's life bites

I can tell you — for a fact — that there is probably nobody who struggles with criticism more than I do.  In fact, if you were to ask any of my former employers, they would all probably say that “being defensive” was the one quality about me they struggled with the most.

Nobody likes criticism.

I used to have a severe problem with acting like a victim.

I always felt like I was being “attacked” for something.  From the biggest to the smallest of things, I did not like to take ownership for my part — or worse — be told how I should have handled things.

I used to become incredibly defensive and angry at anybody who would give me the slightest bit of constructive feedback because I always felt it was unnecessary.

I’ve grown to learn that criticism is a necessity.

Even though we each will receive a fair bit of less than desirable feedback in our lives, there is no need to feel threatened, defensive, or ashamed of it. It’s all part of breaking away from our comfort zone.

You may have your own criticism triggers. I know that I still struggle with mine; the question, “Why do you do it that way?”

To which my usual response is something like:

Kristen Schaal Eye Roll GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

5 Tips for Handling Constructive Criticism

  1. Avoid being defensive whenever possible.  I’ve learned to choose not to be defensive when I receive criticism works best for me.  I used to get super defensive whenever I felt criticised.  And the only thing I ever accomplished by becoming defensive was to prove I was incapable of respecting other people’s observations.  We cannot grow from staying inside a bubble.  So, if somebody bursts yours, try and keep calm and hear them out.
  2. Avoid being quick to react.  My father used to tell me all the time that I’m a “highly reactive” individual.  As soon as I heard something I didn’t agree with, I would react and typically regret doing so.  Being reactive is similar to being defensive, but the difference is that when we respond quickly, we don’t give ourselves time to process the situation correctly.  Now, I try to step back from the situation and breathe and think about how I’m going to handle it.  I may choose to confront or concede, but I will have given myself the opportunity to have a choice.
  3. Assume the responsibility when it’s your fault.  When I’m the root of the problem, I owe it to myself, and everybody involved to accept responsibility for it.  Nobody likes the blame game (especially when you’re the one to blame), but it’s a necessary evil sometimes.  Assuming the responsibility for your mistake shows that you are big enough to accept and learn from a situation.
  4. Take it as an opportunity to gain some insight.  In every occasion, there is something positive to come out of it and to be at the forefront of criticism is a chance to gain some valuable insight.  For example, after you receive criticism is a perfect time to ask questions about how you can better handle the situation in the future.
  5. Stop taking criticisms as a personal attack.  When objections occur, we often internalise them as an attack on who we are not what we’ve done. You will likely never be able to please everyone.   Just because someone questions your work doesn’t mean they are criticising who you are.  We all can produce work that disappoints, but that doesn’t mean that we are disappointing.

Learning how to handle criticism constructively is something we all should master.

We can choose to see critiques as an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.

Do you struggle with receiving feedback? Check out my post: 5 tips for handling constructive criticism. #personaldevelopment #criticism #growthmindset Click To Tweet

As with any behaviour, it’s a choice.

What do you guys think – do you twitch when you hear criticism headed your way?

30-Minute Functional Boot Camp Workout

30 minute functional boot camp workout _ erin's life bites

I love functional fitness workouts.

What is functional fitness you might be asking?

Functional exercises are moves which aim to allow for the body to adapt to daily activities with proper form to prevent injuries while building strength, improving strength and coordination.

Even if you think that utilising workouts designed to enhance functional strength and agility are not going to help you reach your goals, you might want to re-think it.   According to the American Chiropractic Association, low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is also the number one reason for calling out of work as well as the second reason for doctors visits.

One of the best ways to prevent back (and shoulder and neck) pain is to engage and strengthen the muscles throughout the body.  And one of the best ways to work on building stamina and flexibility is to engage in workouts that use functional exercises to ensure that even those of us who sit at a desk for most of the day can do so with proper posture.

As you continue to read this blog, you will discover that I am a massive fan of boot camp and circuit training styles of workouts.  Even as a fitness professional, I like to get through my workouts and put them behind me so that I can move on with my day.  Boot camp workouts are a great way to keep things fresh, exciting and challenging all while getting in a fabulous workout without spending hours on a machine or at the gym in general.

Give this functional workout a try the next time you’re at the gym or want to fit in a quick and effective workout on your home treadmill.  I have even done this workout at the park using wrist weights.

Short on time for your workout? Try this 30-minute functional boot camp workout! #HIIT #Fitness #Coach Click To Tweet

Wherever or whatever works for you this one and done 30-minute workout will leave you feeling healthy, energised and ready to conquer your day!

Be sure to pin it and share it with friends on social media!

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