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Stress Eating

During times of stress our bodies release cortisol to help us meet the challenge. Long-term exposure to cortisol can be damaging and we are biologically programmed to lower it as quickly as possible.

Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical that lowers our cortisol levels. It gets released when we anticipate a reward or something pleasurable. Dopamine also helps us remember and repeat the behaviors that were successful in getting us the dopamine release in the first place.

So when we grab a brownie or a bag of potato chips when we are stressed, our brains get a dopamine hit which makes us feel better – but not for long. Often, we start beating ourselves up for not having enough willpower to make a healthier choice.

But that self-criticism fires the same parts of our brains that fire when we feel punished and threatened. It increases our cortisol. Then we do what dopamine has trained our brains to do to lower cortisol – reach for a “comfort food” so we can get the dopamine hit and feel better. And so the cycle goes.

This is just one of the many ways our neurobiology undermines our good intentions for change. In trying to help us survive (lowering cortisol) it creates unwanted long-term consequences. 

One of the keys to ending stress-eating is learning to manage your body's stress response. It might seem obvious, but many people just focus on the behaviors they want to change, not necessarily what is underlying the factors. Trying to manage stress eating without lowering the stress can be an uphill battle.

A brain-focused coaching approach

When we work together, we actually address the source of the problem – the stress response and the stressors (internal and external) that are causing it. Coaching with the brain in mind means that we also use basic principles of neurobiology to work with your brain to make it easier to change habits and behaviors.

Is this brain-focused approach right for you? It is if you are looking for:

  • Greater self-compassion, clearer boundaries, less shame, and more control over your reactions and choices

  • Tools, techniques, and skills to interrupt and repattern your body’s stress response

  • Help in identifying the habits, behaviors, thoughts, and situations that are creating the stress in the first place

  • Support in changing even deeply ingrained beliefs and expectations about yourself and what is possible

  • Support and accountability in overcoming blocks and barriers to success

For some clients, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) might be an appropriate way to support the nervous system in re-establishing a sense of calm. Appropriateness of this program depends on a client’s goals and their medical/mental health history.

I am an Integrative Mental Wellness Coach and Educator, not a psychotherapist. The tools and approaches I use are intended to help clients learn to better manage their nervous systems and to support them in the process of behavior change. Skill-building and coaching support can be an effective adjunct to other forms of treatment, but they are not a substitute for appropriate medical or mental health care if it is indicated.

Qusetions? Want to know if this work is right for you?
I offer a fre 20-minute consultation.

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