Why Willpower Doesn’t Work For Stress Eating

If you are trying to use willpower to control  stress eating, you are probably feeling frustrated. Applying willpower doesn’t work because the eating serves a need – a normal human need, usually for distraction, soothing or comfort.

If the need goes unmet, then willpower is no match for the powerful emotions that are driving the need. Weight is not a food problem or a self-control problem. It’s an emotional, lifestyle and/or stress problem. [important] Excess weight is an indication that something in your life needs to change.[/important]

If you force yourself to stop stress eating, the habit will only be resumed or replaced by some other negative habit. The problem isn’t even the stress eating itself. Stress eating is just a symptom of something being out of balance. You are overextended, stressed and/or engaging in work or relationships that are not satisfying.

When you get away from the source of stress and are on vacation or engaged in creative tasks, then there is no need to escape it by stress eating. If eating is the most exciting activity you have going, then you keep going back to it. If you are unhappy with yourself for responding to stress in this way, it is misdirected, since you don’t lack willpower to begin with.

Yet the solution is not as simple as exercising self control. Stress eating is a symptom that a life change is needed, not that there’s something wrong with you.

Where to start?

Listen to your body.

Remind yourself (compassionately) “it won’t help.” Make a decision to reduce the stress and overwhelm in your life.

[tip]A psychological craving will never be satisfied with sweet treats…[/tip]

Recommended Resource Lose Weight Without Willpower CD

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Psychologist, Master Certified Coach and Certified EFT Practitioner. She is one of the world’s leading experts in using Emotional Freedom Techniques to help people lose weight without dieting, stop binge eating, and reduce anxiety and stress. She is the author of 4 Books on Emotional Freedom Techniques, the EFT Tips Newsletter, the Binge Eating Teleseminar and the EFT Weight Loss CD. Carol has a thriving coaching practice and is passionate about helping others succeed.

5 thoughts on “Why Willpower Doesn’t Work For Stress Eating

  1. This is so true. And sometimes it’s not so much ‘now I feel stressed; now I don’t” but a constant nervous stress that can come from a feeling (emotion!) of being UN-FULL-filled.

  2. Thanks for all of your great tips and articles Carol. While I do my best as a Nutritionist to stay current with all of the health/nutrition information about diet and weight loss, you keep me informed about the important psychological and behavioral issues. I appreciate your work!

  3. I love this article. I think that I eat ’cause I’ve got nothing better to do. Each time, I’d say no, but then, I wouldn’t know when I start saying yes again. I’m so bored of this whole thing!

  4. This is Just a quick response. Telling yourself this won’t help? Of course it does! Temporarilly, that is… And that’s what you are craving. I know because just as I read this and many other times it is a chemical “pick me up”. You feel low on feel good chemicals/stress and you know a quick and easy source of happy… Will power does work for stress eating, pre-emptive will power… When a person is caught in a valley of low feel good brain chemicals your decision making process changes too. Know this – you can’t trust yourself then anymore than when your grocery shopping hungry! to stop stress eating you need to find the release that let’s out bottled up stress, call a friend, write an angry email to yourself, Vent! I lost fifty pounds in 45 days by learning how to vent my frustrations the right way I got pissed and told people how unfair things were and ate whatever I wanted on the weekends! Walk, complain out loud while walking… Etc. Hope this helps you too 🙂

  5. Pingback: The Willpower Trap

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