13 Dec How to Help the Overstressed Overeater as a Dietitian Nutrition Coach
Stress is a HUGE factor that can not only affect weight but an individual’s health in many ways; high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, gut problems, and mental issues just to name a few. Some of the major causes of stress can be a job, kids, debt, marriage, and chronic illness, and ultimately a large number of people take this stress and suppress it by turning to food. Weight gain and overeating often result, however, with the help of a dietitian nutrition coach these individuals who are turning to food as a way to lower their stress can learn to cope in other ways, helping them live a healthier and happier life! Below are 4 ways you can begin to help this specific type of client.
1. Create a Stress Reduction Program
You can create a perfect nutrition coaching program for your client, but if you are not addressing their stress, that program will most likely NOT lead to any changes.
Let’s say you have a female client who has 2 young kids and a full-time job. She’s stressed every day and tends to turn to food as a way to relieve the stress she feels, which has led to frequently overeating, weight gain, and an unhealthy relationship with food. You can create a great macro program or educate her on nutrition, but do you think these will really help her? No! Her issues with food have stemmed from her stress; you need to address the root cause of her problems if you want to create real change.
Creating a stress reduction program for a client can be as simple as making a goal to journal each day, writing three things they’re grateful for first thing in the morning, exercising, learning a few breathing techniques, and/or making sure that they set time aside for themselves a few times a week.
2. Teach Mindfulness
A large amount of people overeat due to using food as a crutch for stress or other emotional feelings, and one tactic that may really be helpful for these types of clients is teaching them how to be mindful around food. Being mindful is a lot easier said than done for most people, so ensure that your clients know perfection is not the goal, consistency is!
I could probably write a 600-page book on mindfulness and food, but I’ll keep it short and sweet for this blog with just a few things we can do as dietitian nutrition coaches to help our clients become more mindful around food:
- Have them pause before getting ready to eat to ask themselves these questions:
- “Am I actually hungry right now?”
- “WHY do I want to eat at this moment?”
- “Am I choosing this food because I’m stressed?”
- Have them do something else to keep their mind busy. If your clients have asked themselves the questions above, what should they do next? Have them do some something they enjoy! This may be a walk around the block with the kids, playing with the dog in the backyard, taking a nice hot bath, starting a puzzle or book, etc. There are so many great options for keeping the mind busy, help your clients choose a few options that will work for them!
- Teach them to slow down when eating.
- A very important benefit of eating slowly is that it allows our body to recognize when we’re full. By the time we start eating, it takes around 20 minutes or so for our stomach to signal to our brain that we’ve had enough food. Eating slowly will allow your clients to feel satisfied rather than overly full!
3. Get Rid of the “Good Food vs. Bad Food” Mentality
Overeating often stems from dieting. Many, if not all, fad diets teach that some foods are “forbidden,” and should not be eaten due to being “unhealthy.” As online nutrition coaches, we know that as soon as a specific food becomes “forbidden,” that food usually becomes even more attractive.
If you’ve never experienced this before, think of it this way. Imagine someone bringing 5 fluffy puppies to your house, but they say the worst thing ever, “you are NOT allowed to touch these puppies.” I don’t know about you, but all I would be thinking about was petting those little furry pups, and then very quickly giving in because who can resist puppy cuddles and kisses??
Like my puppy example, eventually, a dieter will reach a breaking point and overeat on those foods that they’re not supposed to have. This is why it is so important to not restrict your clients! Getting rid of the “good food vs. bad food” mentality will not only decrease a chronic dieter’s stress, but it will also help build the foundation for a healthy relationship with food.
4. Get Rid of Distractions
Eating while distracted is a very easy way to overeat. For instance, when you go to a movie and you have a big bag of popcorn sitting on your lap, it’s almost as if it’s an involuntary response to keep putting your hand in the bag. You don’t even realize how much you’re eating when your mind is paying attention to the screen!
If your client is overeating, ask them what they are doing while they’re eating.
Are they watching TV?
Scrolling through social media?
Working on their computer?
You eat more than you think when preoccupied, so make this clear to your clients. Eating should be a distraction-free time, and guess what? By being distraction-free, this allows for more mindfulness too! It’s great how everything comes together, isn’t it?
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