Are you stress eating?

Tanya Unkovich Weight loss expert Food Freedom Grief Expert

It’s not about the food.

I remember the day I gave up. It was a Saturday, just after lunch, when something inside me said, “no more, I cannot do this anymore”.


What I gave up was trying to lose three kilograms that had haunted me for so long. Three powerful kilograms, that kept me stuck, unhappy, and in a self-destructive cycle of highs and lows, which slowly, over time, eroded my self-worth.


An extrovert, at five feet eleven inches tall and of normal build, no one would have known of my inner turmoil. I didn’t look overweight, because I wasn’t. The pain I carried wasn’t about my size, and I knew that. It wasn’t even about the food, and I knew that also.


Still in my twenties, and after years of dealing this issue, I knew it was really about what resided within. A deep belief that I wasn’t enough, that I was unlovable unless I looked perfect, (whatever that means), and on those really dark days, feeling that I was flawed to the core.


On this magical Saturday however, I said “sod it”.  (Actually, it was a little stronger than that)! I’d had enough. My decision was to no longer punish myself by continuing on this self-destructive path.


No more starting a new diet on a Monday, no more magical quick fix scheme, and no more gagging on bland foods that I couldn’t stand. I would no longer deny myself of the pleasure and taste of food, nor would I deny myself the pleasure of life itself. If it meant that these three kilograms were to remain forever, then so be it, as the pain of not accepting them was worse than what I was putting myself through to lose them.

Whilst the journey has certainly had highs and lows, three decades on, I continue to live freely of the obsession and shame I once carried regarding my body, weight and food issues. Whilst I had not hit a rock bottom by any means, I no longer wanted to live this way, and in an instant, something inside me snapped, and I said yes to life. I said yes to me.


The first step is to decide, that once and for all, you are going to fix this problem and no longer waste another day of your one precious life. You draw a line in the sand and commit that from this day forward, you will do whatever it takes to heal.


This means letting go of any stories you are holding on to as to why it can’t possibly work for you. Stories, like, “I am too old, I have tried so many times before, I have just accepted I am stuck with this problem for life”.


Why not instead believe that, yes it will work for you? Why not instead believe that what can happen for others can happen for you? It is possible, once you decide and commit.


The next step is to reach out and talk to someone about it. I mean really talk about it. Admit to yourself, and another person what is going on for you. This action alone is like taking the lid off a pressure cooker about to explode.

As busy professional women, we’re expected to be at the top of our game in every area of life. It seems acceptable to open up about most things, however, so many women I speak to still struggle in silence with overeating, body image issues, or not being able to maintain the shape they want.


We think there is something wrong with us because we cannot control our body weight or food intake. You are not alone, this is a common problem, and fixing it is not necessarily anything to do with willpower.


Sure, it is easy to be given another plan to follow and perhaps work a bit harder this time, however, I have discovered that this does not work long term.


I’ve worked with many successful women, who, despite being incredibly accomplished, still find it difficult to deal with what comes up when they put the food down. Eventually, the stress eating returns, as do the kilo’s, and once again they feel as though they are losing control.


As painful as it is, to continue on this cycle can be rather inviting. The adrenalin high of a possible new solution, and then the fall, when after a period of time, said solution fails.

As addictive as jumping back on the cycle is, I invite you to this time, choose you instead.


This means getting honest with yourself, (and others), and committing to do whatever it takes, with no more excuses. It means telling the inner critic to shut up and go away, then be ready and willing to break the repeating patterns that continue to show up and keep you stuck.

It takes courage to interrupt and eventually break the cycle. I mean, if we stop doing what we have done for years, then what else do we do? If I don’t have a diet plan to rigidly stick to, or if I don’t exercise two hours each day, then how will I ever stop eating? If I allow myself to eat whatever I want, then I am bound to walk around in a food coma all day, every day.


We feel in control when on a strict regime, and out of control when we deviate from it, even in the slightest way. This is when you must stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of who you are. The path you have now chosen is no longer of control and frustration with self, but one of patience, kindness and compassion.


Your new path means no longer listening to the external noise coming at you from all directions, and instead, going within, and listening to your intuition and your own voice.


In spite of the constant messaging from social media, well-meaning family and friends, many of my clients say that the viciousness of the critical inner voice is the loudest and most painful of all.


The nasty internal chatter that frequently drives us back to the food. “My face looks chubby, I hate my thighs, no one will ever want me looking like this, how will anyone love me this way, I may as well keep eating”, and so the cycle of shame continues.


When you are able to look past the external and instead, take a magnificent journey within, you will now begin to hear the loving voice, and discover the true beauty that lies within.


Learning to live one day at a time is vital. Each day, you awaken, remembering why you are doing this, and no matter what yesterday was like, looking back is no longer an option. You being your new day with a clean canvas.


This path is one of lasting change, with an outcome quite different to what you may have attempted in the past. It will take courage, resilience and tenacity, however, the gift of it all will be discovering your true worth.


The ups and downs of life will continue to happen. Challenges will knock on your door, followed closely by opportunities. People will continue to annoy you, you will burn the dinner, the deepest of grief and pain may also visit. This is life, and may have been your reasons for giving up in the past.


This is what I know to be true. You have already survived one hundred percent of your worst days ever, and no matter what life may send, you will overcome that too.

You are more resilient that you think, and now is the time to rebuild and strengthen your own personal foundation and inner beliefs.


Instead of pulling up a chair and inhaling everything in the refrigerator next time you are at home on a cold winters night, you will HALT, and ask yourself some powerful questions instead. Questions like, am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? (HALT).


If you find you are still tolerating the intolerable, you are going to stop and remind yourself that this is not who you are any longer, and take action.


Next time you are facing a stressful situation at work, and at 3pm have convinced yourself that something super sweet will get you through the remainder of the day, instead, you will move and energise your body in a more loving way.


The journey to lasting change on the outside, is an inside job. You learn new ways of doing and being. It is powerful, exhilarating, a little scary, and has a few speed bumps along the way. Expect them, anticipate them, even have a little fun with them, always focusing on the solution, and not the problem.


The problem with not addressing our self-worth on this journey is that we settle, we tolerate, in essence, we miss out. We miss out on love, joy, laughter, spontaneity, in fact, we run the risk of missing out on life, our life.

Often I boldly tell my clients they have no choice but to do this. “When are you going to finally show up in life and be who you were meant to be?”, I say. After all, what is the alternative? If living this way is clearly not working for you, why keep doing it? What will life be like for you in twelve month’s-time if you don’t make this change?

There will always be a perfect excuse for not allowing yourself to break those chains and truly shine in the world. Don’t wait until you hit rock-bottom. There comes a time when you must decide to live fully, to live deliberately, to live fearlessly.


If you feel overwhelmed by the number on the scale or the size of the mountain in front of you, then I invite you to live anyway. I know many people who, once they reached that magical number on the scale have said to me, “is this it?” They regretted waiting so long before allowing themselves to be happy.


As the saying goes, “Don’t wait for someday, as that will lead you down a road called nowhere”. Life doesn’t need to be perfect before you begin to live it fully. Why weight? (Excuse the pun!)


There is no time like the now, to being living your life, one precious day at a time.