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The Truth Behind Stress and Emotional Eating

Episode 22 of the Fuel the Fire Podcast hosted by Shanon Safi, RD, LDN.

When we are under pressure, we default to habits that temporarily alleviate the multitude of emotions we experience. Emotional/stress eating is one of the most common coping mechanisms because of the accessibility and normalcy of highly palatable foods.

High fat and high sugar/carbohydrate foods activate receptors in the brain that release serotonin into the blood stream. Serotonin gives us that “feel good” feeling; this is what makes it such a tough habit to break!

We try to respond by not having these “feel good foods” in the house, but, that just leads to overeating other foods or seeking out alternative coping mechanisms.

It’s time to ask yourself: Do I properly deal with my stress, or am I perpetuating a vicious cycle?

In this episode, Shanon discusses how to recognize stress, how it affects our bodies, and the 4 key points to heal stress and emotional eating. In this episode, we talk about: Rules and restrictions do the opposite of what we want. It’s time for us to take control. (02:30) We can’t change what we don’t recognize. Are you really aware of your stresses and triggers? (09:15) Often, we lack connection to our body; why is it important and how do we nurture it? What are some signs of stress that we might not notice? (15:30) How can we regulate our central nervous system and what are the benefits? (22:43)

Episode Transcript:

  If you are struggling with emotional or stress eating, know that it has probably very little to do with food. The food itself is a tool that we are using to numb an emotion. If you are trying to heal this truthfully, it requires you to go deep within. Hello, hello. Welcome back to another episode of the Fuel Fire Soul podcast with your host, Shannon Safi.

I'm really excited because I've been gearing up to get ready for the official launch of my first ever group. coaching program. This has been something that I've been wanting to do for years. Community is such a big factor of what I like to bring to my business and feel the fire as a whole. So having something that allows us to all come together and really experience the true meaning of connection and how healthy that can really be.

And how much that can really help in your journey of self-development and any type of healing, or just accomplishing goals and anything that you want to shift in your life. So often what I would see is, you know, a lot of people going through this feeling of loneliness, which really just made it so much harder to see change happen.

When we're in that state of feeling really lonely and disconnected from others, we tend to have even less motivation and really less of a drive. To make change. Being a human, connection is so important, and especially when we have to face things that we're feeling a lot of shame around, it can really drive a lot more disconnection in our life.

So, when we're working through things that we're feeling shame about, or embarrassed about, or struggling with. It is really important to find a community and people to support you through that. So that's why the group coaching aspect of what I'm bringing to Feel the Fire is so exciting, and I think it's going to really help create such a big shift for so many people in a way that they never anticipated.

So, look out for that. The links to apply to that Instagram profile. You can DM me, email me, text me, whatever means of contacting me you have if you're interested in this. It is going to be officially starting in the beginning of October. So, for August and September, I'll be taking initial consultations or free consultations to chat a little bit more about the program so that you know that you feel like you're a good match and I know that you're in a place to enter that program.

So, if you haven't already checked it out, go check out the links, we'll include the link to that in the show notes, but without further ado, we will jump into the topic that has been part of the driving force behind creating this group coaching program. Because I've been counseling in the nutrition space for like eight years now, the biggest thing that I have seen is how difficult it is for a lot of my clients to manage their stress and emotional needs.

We're kind of like raised in this society where we're supposed to ignore our emotions and we're just supposed to exist with a high amount of stress and learn how to ignore it. The problem with that is, is that mismanaged emotions and high levels of stress lead to disease. And there's so much more research coming around to support that statement.

What I think has been the most important thing for me in my career is to really send out that message and help people understand That it is normal to experience emotions and stress, especially on the negative end of the spectrum and how important it is to actually embrace and process those emotions in order for you to actually allow yourself to experience better emotions.

A lot of people will come to me feeling unhappy and disappointed and frustrated. And the thing about these emotions is that usually they're kind of like surface level feelings that we have that are actually just a sign of something deeper that's unprocessed within us. So, a lot of times, what people try to do is to kind of stick a band aid on these things.

We try to push down the emotion, we try to ignore it, we try to do things externally that make us feel good temporarily. However, what really needs to happen is what's, like, deep within for that to actually Come out and be released so that you don't just continue this cycle of like feeling better temporarily than going into a dark hole, feeling better temporarily back into the dark hole.

Because that is just, it's the vicious cycle that so many people go through because there's, it feels like we don't have the proper resources or understanding of how the body truly works. to know what we should actually be tending to and focusing on in order to heal our struggles with our emotions and our stress.

So, I wanted to go over four key points with the truths behind healing this emotional eating problem that we might be facing and the stress eating. And any type of. deep emotion that needs to come out of us. This is the truth behind it, because this is going to be the key to you really and truly living a happier and healthier life.

The first thing that people tend to jump to when it comes to this and what we're actually going to do is so different. So, letting go of rules and restrictions is so important for you to do as a step one for the experience you start to have with emotional and stress eating, what we tend to want to do is almost like dive into like a diet program or an exercise program because we think that we have a problem with our ability to control ourselves.

So, a lot of people initially think like, Oh, if I just had better self-control, I wouldn't be binge eating. I wouldn't be stress eating if I.

Band-Aid solution to something that's deeper. So, what's really going to help you is letting go of creating these rules that you have to follow. Because all that's going to do is create more stress on you. create a deeper sense of disappointment and failure within yourself when you can't stick to rules that are actually not serving you.

So, we think that rules and restrictions are going to help keep us in check and keep us eating things that we quote unquote, like are supposed to be eating. But the thing is, these rules, it goes back to this diet mindset where this puts us in a position of, again, more stress. And what we tend to do is want to rebel.

And that's human nature. The more rules we have, the more temptation there is to do the exact thing that we're trying to not. do. So, by removing those rules and restrictions, you're actually going to find yourself in a space to have more freedom and to come from a place of nurturing rather than disciplining and punishing yourself.

So, rules like, you know, not eating after a certain time or like, you know, following this diet, no carbs, no sugar, eliminating this food group no longer going out to eat. All of these things can really actually detract. From you having a positive experience and being able to grow from what is going on.

So, what we want to do again, like I said, is actually stop thinking that there has to be rules and limitations on how we exist and how we nurture our body. We want to look at it as coming from a place of nurturing and taking care of ourselves. And so, what that would really look like more specifically.

Is allowing yourself to have the things in your house that you enjoy eating that will give you permission to start to take control of yourself and your emotions, because what we don't want to do is give the control and the power to the food. And so, by saying, if this food is around me, that equals me not having control.

We want to flip that narrative and say, I am in control of myself. Therefore, it does not matter if that food is around me. You know, it's, I'm not going to say that it's a perfect system where you decide to have that mindset shift and you never overeat that food again. But what we need to understand is that it's not a way to live by eliminating that thing forever because you can't eliminate it from the face of the planet.

So, you don't want it to come up where you see that food and every time you see it, it becomes this like kryptonite to you and it's your weakness and you just like go back on everything that you've been trying to do. What we want to do again is really empower ourselves rather than continuously give away our power to other things that we feel make us weak.

Other things cannot make us weak. It is a weakness within ourselves that we need to strengthen. So really shifting that mindset is going to be so critical and so crucial and an important step one to remember when you feel yourself sinking back into old patterns and habits. The second thing that you want to start to think about is now you want to become aware of what your triggers are.

You want to start to see what is actually causing the stress and the emotion that is coming up in your life. We so typically turn ourselves off to this because we, like I said, as a society, believe that we're supposed to be stressed out all the time, so we just say like, oh, you know, I should be experiencing this stress.

This stress is normal. I should always be in this heightened sense of concern and awareness about everything going on in my life. on in my life. Otherwise, how would I be a responsible, accomplished, high achieving adult? But the thing about this is, we really need to peel back the layers and see where the root of this problem and this turbulence is actually coming from.

And it's not to say that you can necessarily eliminate that cause. There are certain situations where you can eliminate that cause, but we won't even know that until we become aware. of what that cause is. And like I said, that's going to really just lead us back to the deeper root of what's going on.

And usually that leads us to something that's unhealed internally within ourselves. Again, it's usually some kind of like pain or trigger point around shame that we have. And so, we really want to figure out what that is so we can properly nurture it and take care of it and heal that wound. An example of what this might be, so say when you have a really big deadline coming up for work and you're finding yourself coming down to the wire and you're like, wow, you know, I'm running out of time.

I'm freaking out. I don't think my boss has any idea how long this project was actually going to take me. No one is really supporting me the way I anticipated through this. And I, you know, I need to stay up all night. And then we want to turn to eating something as a means to feeling like it's keeping us awake and making us feel better in a time that we inevitably feel stressed.

So now you kind of look at the situation, and you really need to kind of work backwards from this. So, it's like, okay, when I feel that I have a crazy deadline that my boss... Puts on me and doesn't understand the work that this actually requires, I start to stress out. And what tends to happen is most people don't say anything to their boss and instead of trying to communicate what's going on, they just ignore it.

And then the problem typically just gets bigger because there is no communication that you are struggling to the person that has the ability to potentially alleviate. this. So, a lot of times this comes back to a boundary that we haven't set. And this can even happen, you know, not only with our bosses, but even more often our family members, the people that we look at as the ones that are supposed to love us and take care of us and respect our boundaries the most.

They cannot do that properly if you have not communicated how things make you feel and what those boundaries are. And if you're in an environment where you're not feeling safe to do it, that in itself is an even deeper issue that we would have to address and kind of work with that. So, if you're not communicating...

what your boundaries are, and you're not acknowledging the things that trigger you and the emotional response that comes from that, it's going to be so difficult to make a shift and a change. So that responsibility, that really comes back on you. So, what we, again, tend to do is just complain about work, complain about our boss, complain about your partner, complain about our children, complain about our parents, rather than having the adult conversation and saying, hey, this is how I'm feeling when these situations come up.

What can either happen is they meet you there, or they can say, you know what, no. And so, then you come to the position of, okay, if you're not respecting my boundary, maybe I need to change jobs. Or maybe I need to be patient and give you time to work on it. But... Like I said, change can't happen without you communicating, you're going to feel so much relief even just from saying it in that situation.

So, one thing that I've done in the past when it comes to the triggers, I initially started creating a trigger journal. I would write down any triggers that came up for me. And the first week that I did it, I didn't write a lot actually. And I thought, Oh. I don't have many triggers, like. How strange. And then when I was working with a coach at this time and she was like, the fact that you have so few is showing me that there needs to be more consciousness around what is going on in your day and what is actually triggering you.

And so, I continue to do it. And when I really looked at it through. A more intense lens, I was starting to realize I've just been so conditioned to feeling normal under stress that I didn't even realize how much stress I've been under. And I hear that from my clients all the time where I'll say like, oh, have you been feeling stressed lately?

Because a symptom of stress will come up like stomach discomfort or irritability with certain foods. And a lot of times that has an underlying stress cause. So, when I tell my clients or ask my clients, Hey. Are you under stress? And a lot of times they'll be like, no, I don't feel any stress in my life.

I'm not really doing anything stressful. Like I don't feel stress. And then, you know, I'll be like, okay, well then what I want you to do is just massage your traps for a second, a quick self-massage. And they'll be like, oh my God, my traps are so tight. And I'm like, yeah, that's actually you storing tension.

So, your body is much more sensitive and aware to this stress than sometimes our conscious brain is. And so, there are really great ways. And this leads into my third point of how important it is to connect to your body in order to even know and be aware of that first signal when it goes off. Again, this is like a big thing, a big challenge that I see our society faces with this disconnection to our body.

Our body is our number one method of protection, right? Like our body will protect us literally from things in the physical environment. And it has the ability to pick up on things that our conscious mind yet cannot do. Our subconscious picks up a lot, which is kind of where a lot of it comes from.

But like that first layer is our body. Like, our body shows us so many signs that we just don't know how to see or acknowledge or use. This information is gold. And so, knowing and understanding and taking the time to connect to your body is really going to help truthfully heal the emotional and stress eating because that is going to make you more aware of what's coming up.

So, when these signals come up and these can be very, very many different things, there's so many ways our body can actually store stress muscularly, that's a really big one. So, like I said, from the beginning, when we have that moment, even recently, I had a client too, and we were walking through this. So I said, okay, we're going to do a little bit of self-massage here.

So, we kind of walked through this process and we started from the crown. So, the top of our heads down to our feet to really. Analyze like, am I storing tension in places where do I feel tight and what can I do to actually release this? Because what is really powerful, if we're not fully conscious of what is going on and the stress and the emotion that we're experiencing, we can still have a release of it through our body.

And that's really important because the conscious piece takes time to develop, but you're able to release that stress and tension in the body, kind of bypassing that consciousness a little bit. The conscious piece is still important and crucial to you getting deeper and unearthing more, but understanding how the body works is really going to help you start to experience a shift as the consciousness continues to develop during this process.

So, when we did this self-massage exercise, we started at the top. We began with the temples. So, we would massage our temples and kind of see, okay, is there tension coming from my head here? And in the head, there's a lot of regions. So not only will look at the temples, I love going to the back of the head.

So like kind of behind the ears, towards the back of your head, you'll feel that. That can be a really tight spot for a lot of people to where we'll store tension. And then down the back of the neck, this can be a big one as well. And then if you feel to the front of your face, so our jaws, this is such a big one.

People store so much tension in their jaw. I know that I'll start to feel that. Even like in the front of the head to our forehead, we'll feel that, but coming back to the jaw, that is such a common one. So, kind of just like massaging. In front of the ears kind of coming towards your nose. So, it's like right where you're the top of your cheeks almost, I would say closer to your ears.

That's going to be a really painful spot for a lot of people because you know, especially if you've ever experienced TMJ, that is really heightened by stress. So, massaging even beneath the jawline, you're going to feel that there Through the sides of the neck, and then coming down into our traps, that's going to be a really big region too, so you're going to find so much tension stored in, like, you know, that's probably where most people really start to notice it, is in, like, the shoulders and up.

And kind of, as you work your way down through the center of your chest, you can kind of think about that too, that can be a really tight place for people and a place we don't even think to really touch or acknowledge too much through the center of the chest, especially for women. So, you know, if you think about the breast tissue that can sort of feel like an obstruction to the deeper musculature, but that in between place right around your sternum, you can really feel that if you start to kind of become more aware of it.

As we kind of work our way down, I do think in our hands, we can feel a lot of tension. Our forearms, we can feel a lot of tension because again, grabbing and clasping our fists, that can be another big thing that we'll subconsciously do when we experienced a heightened sense of emotion or stress. So, you can kind of think of like stress balls, that's where it kind of came from, where it's like, you know, when we are stressed, it feels good to tense up and that will help us kind of like alleviate it and release some stress.

But again, we'll tighten our muscles when we experience stress. Then into your hips, this is a huge one. And that's part of the booty yoga practice that I love so much. We do a lot to release the tension in the hips. If you haven't tried booty, I highly encourage that you try in class with me because not only is it really fun, it's an amazing way to connect to your body and release stress and tension.

And that's why it's such an important part of my practice and why I'm trying to encourage others to try it and I'm providing it. In a lot of my programs that I'm offering. So, in our hips, we store so much trauma and tension, things that we don't even know or have conscious awareness around. And through activating our hips through that movement, it can actually bring up memories and things that have been suppressed for years.

And that's, what's so beautiful about it. So, a lot of times these emotional practices or I'm sorry, the practices of the manual manipulation. So, like even going to someone that does like fascial stretching or massages, it's really normal to have an emotional outburst after that or during it. So, it's really normal to cry or laugh and these sorts of things.

All of this emotion is in the body and as you move it around and circulate it and put pressure in certain locations, it's going to allow those emotions to come up and be processed. I know I will, I tend to tear up after I get a massage and it feels, because it's like, it's like a happy cry because I'm like, oh, like that was such a release and it's, you just have to let it come up.

If you don't let it come up, it's only going to be pushed down deeper and you're going to eventually have to process it to move through it. So let yourself process things as soon as possible. The sooner you do it, the inhibition you're going to feel. Allow the emotions to come up, connect to your body.

And yeah, from the hips down again, there can be a lot of tension stored there, especially our feet. That can be another spot. If you've ever seen like reflexology, a lot of times they'll do things within the feet around the feet. And again, that can be a release of emotion and different pressures and different stressors that we're storing.

All right. And the fourth thing that I'm going to talk to you about in terms of emotional eating and stress eating will be the importance of learning how to regulate your central nervous system. So, our central nervous system is really important to nurture. And again, you know, if you're not familiar with these different modalities of taking care of your central nervous system, you're kind of in a space where it makes it harder.

To naturally take care of your emotions. One big thing. So, a lot of people, a lot of my clients have tried medications or are on medications for depression or anxiety. I completely understand and I think that it can be a really important part of people's journey. And I do believe that the more you learn how to regulate your central nervous system, the less you will feel that you need any kind of medications to treat anxiety.

Or depression. So, things that can help you regulate your central nervous system would be things like breathwork. The reason why it's really important to actually take care of your central nervous system is because this is what is actually like helping you regulate your emotions in a sense. With this, when we have these stressful responses, it becomes stored in our central nervous system, which then again leads to tension throughout the body.

And so, we can kind of feel our nervous system regulating, but again, coming back to connecting to the body, these kind of go hand in hand. So, with breathing, this is my favorite because it is something that at any point, no matter where you are, what you're doing, who you're with, you can come back to it, no matter what the setting or situation is.

So, in this moment, all you have to do is really start focusing on your breathing. It can be that simple. So, you think about that, and you say, okay, I'm just gonna focus on my breaths in this moment. You know, you could be talking to someone and doing this, and they won't even know that you're regulating your nervous system. So that's why it can be something so subtle, and you don't have to worry about leaving the room, or feeling embarrassed or ashamed, or, you know, feeling judged. You can let all of that go. I mean, in general. I encourage you to let all of that go but especially when this is new and you're looking for something and trying to be subtle about it, coming to your breath is going to be a great thing.

So, a lot of times, especially if you're familiar with anxiety, you're going to feel your heart rate starting to become a little more rapid. So, you'll feel your heart beating a little bit faster. And so, during those moments, what I'll tend to do is I'll kind of place my hand on my heart to connect to it for a moment.

Acknowledge the feeling that I'm experiencing, so I'm not trying to rush it away, I'm not trying to make it stop, I'm not trying to judge myself for it. All I'm doing is acknowledging what I'm experiencing. So, I'll connect my heart for a second and I'll feel that. And in that moment, I’ll take a nice breath, so a deeper breath in and a deep breath out.

I'll consciously try to exhale slower than I'm inhaling. This, again, is a really good method to helping you control your central nervous system and starting to bring it back into its normal regulation. So that you're not in fight or flight mode. So, when your central nervous system is activated, you have those stress hormones that are getting released in your body.

So, there's a complete hormonal shift within you happening when your central nervous system is activated. So, when you start to feel your heart rate increasing, connecting to it. Acknowledging it, no judgment, connect to your breathing, and continue to connect to your breathing until you start to feel a shift happen physically in your body.

So just keep focusing on that breathing, you know, if you're mid conversation. You have absolutely the right to ask for a moment to catch your breath and just say, hey, or, you know, again, if you want to be subtle, please excuse me, I'm going to go to the bathroom wherever you're at, wherever you feel most comfortable right now, that's what you can do and allow yourself that space to again, just come back into your body.

Because what's happening is when our anxiety is activated, we're going into our mind and disconnecting from our body. But what you want to do is the more aware you are of your body and its signals, you're going to be able to catch it and keep yourself from spiraling down a deep, dark rabbit hole of terrible thoughts.

Another thing that you can really do is EFT. So, this is emotional freedom technique, and this is something that I am getting certified in. So, I'll have that certification within a couple months. I'm really excited about it. This is tapping. So, a lot of people know it as that. So, it's, there's like a system to it.

So, you're like tapping your forehead and you're tapping underneath your eyes, above your lip, on your chin, your shoulder blades, you start with your hands. So, there's a whole system to this to actually, again, the goal of it is to bring yourself back into your body. Through these tapping sensations, and a lot of times it is connected to mantras so we can do mantras with ourselves.

So sometimes when I start to feel a little bit stressed, like if I've been rushing around all day and I'll just catch a moment in my car, I'll just do a little bit of tapping again to help regulate my central nervous system and bring my heart rate down and feel a little bit more relaxed and deactivating my fight or flight mode.

This I really love too. I highly encourage it. And like I said, I love it so much that I wanted to get the certification in it because again, it's something that you can do anywhere. Like you don't need anything with you to do it. You can just dive into it, which is so nice. Another thing, so regulating your central nervous system, meditation.

I love, love, love, love, love meditation. I know I've brought it up probably so many times, probably in like every single episode. It is such an important practice to do daily, especially when you are trying so hard to make changes in your life. If you are not taking the time to check in with yourself, you will not know how you are even feeling.

We, don’t acknowledge how we feel for like months on end sometimes and when you're trying to break that habit Making it something daily is going to give you so much more of a powerful shift Like if you're taking medication for it, you're doing that daily meditation is like You know, something that can really decrease the need for medication.

Meditating daily, like I think of that as medicine, like that is a natural medicine. You are giving your body a moment to connect to yourself, to ground yourself, to remember that you're connected to this planet, that you are nature. That is so important. You have to remember who you are and what you are, and that's going to allow yourself to understand better what you need to heal and work through this.

There are so many other methods to help with regulating your nervous system. I just wanted to give you my three favorites that you should consider working into your day, working into your weeks, your months, however you want to look at it. But yeah, I think it's going to be awesome if you really take the time to think about some of the things that I mentioned, this is going to allow you to start being more in control of this.

Like I said, I mean, a lot of these practices, what's so helpful is to really work with someone to work through these things. And so, for me, like, I needed a coach to help bring awareness to things that I couldn't see myself. You know, it was through the reflection process and through having a conversation, through speaking it, it brought so much more into my awareness and consciousness.

I, I just love the idea of having a coach myself because it really just helps you come into a new place, shift your perspective, look at things differently, open up to possibilities that are beyond your current awareness. And that shift is so beautiful, so profound. And I love to see it in my clients.

Like I said, I mean. I've been using some of these modalities with clients throughout the years, and I love the shift. The people that are really open to receiving that message, I have seen have the greatest shifts and the people that are closed off to this message have not seen as great of a shift and end up in these cycles.

So, you know, being open to this message and understanding how important and crucial that understanding your emotions and stress is, that's really the only way to allow for this to change. So, if you are struggling with emotional or stress eating, know that it has probably very little to do with food. The food itself is only a tool that we are using to numb an emotion.

So, you taking the time to learn more about nutrition isn't the thing that's going to take you. to the next step of healing this. If you are trying to heal this truthfully, it requires you to go deep within. And so that's my biggest takeaway that I want you to have from this episode. All right, guys, I hope that this episode finds you well and allows you to start shifting your perspective and open up to a different way of doing things.

Don't run back to things that you have tried in the past that haven't worked just to cling onto something that feels normal or comfortable. Open up to something new. If you want something different, you have to do something different. Thank you so much for listening. If you've enjoyed this episode, please, please, please write a review.

I appreciate that so much. If you didn't enjoy it, you can also write a review. Whichever you feel called to do, or if you have no opinion at all, you don't have to write a review. It's really up to you. The more you write reviews and share this with others, the greater of a ripple effect it can really have and send out the message that I think has been hidden for so long.

And the way we really need to collectively shift our perspective on how to take care of our bodies and our health, I really appreciate it. The more you're enlightened, the more you help others feel enlightened. So, keep sharing that energy, do something nice today for yourself, for someone else. Just spread that joy.

That's the best thing that you can do. And again, take the time to check in with yourself, see how you're doing, regulate those emotions, take care of your stress, have the conversations that feel difficult to have, and you will see a shift coming to you. Thanks so much for listening. Love you. Bye!



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