thin person eats, while heavy woman diets

Dieting Causes Stress Eating

Dieting is a major cause for stress eating according to a study published in Physiology & Behavior. If you tend to gain weight under stress, you’re probably a “restrained” eater under normal circumstances.  That means for women who are constantly watching their weight, getting on the scale, avoiding “bad” or “fattening foods”, under stress the rules go out the window. So if you tend to have a diet mindset or are under stress, you’ll choose foods that you decide are off-limits like high-fat and high-sugar treats.

In contrast, it’s the opposite for “unrestrained” eaters, non dieters who are slender and just eat what they want, when they want and are not “watching their weight”. These people tend to eat less food when they’re under stress. It’s because they didn’t have a “bad foods” list- everything was allowed!

Why Some People Don’t Gain Weight

My friend Yolanda, the one who could eat more than a Sumo Wrestler ate cookies and snacks all the time. She never counted how many she ate. She just ate what she wanted. I sat by her and ate “rabbit food”. We were great friends from the time our girls were 3 years old. We played tennis together, exercised together (aerobics and step classes) and walked up hills together.  But there was a difference.

Old friends- Lianda & YolandaYolanda never gained weight! You can see she’s STILL thin (and her hair is even still red without coloring!!). But after every diet I regained the weight I lost and added a couple of additional pounds. Although I had “bad foods” when I was dieting, I ate everything- just a spoon full of ice-cream, or a cookie. I remember spitting out food unless it tasted good enough for me to “waste calories” eating something I didn’t love. Yes, I was disciplined!  But I STILL regained all the weight I lost until I got to the size I am in this photo, and stopped dieting completely.

The study went on to show that twice as many dieters eat from stress than non-dieters. Why don’t they have different stress reactions like having a drink instead? That’s because stress takes away inhibition and makes it much harder to be self disciplined. Thinner people probably who don’t drink for stress relief probably allowed themselves to have a drink when they wanted it. So it wasn’t on their “bad food” list. The things that you can restrain yourself from doing when life is good is no longer that easily controllable under stress.

For example, if you’ve been avoiding eating carbs or sugar most days, when something is really stressing you, you go right for those items. It’s even find it hard to stop eating them once you start. No, having one cookie is not enough, you have to finish the box. A dish of ice-cream won’t suffice- you have to eat the entire container!

Can’t Stop Eating

I was in my doctor’s office and chatting with one of the patients. When I told her I taught women how to manage stress eating she said- “That’s ME! I try to stop but I can’t!”

I looked at her and she was an average weight. She told me she used to model and really starve herself. But once she stopped that extreme low caloric eating she gained weight. She was terrified of gaining more and exercised by running 5 miles a day. It did nothing to bring her weight down. She said that now she has a lot of bad foods that she avoids and tries to stop stress eating but she can’t.

I explained to her that if everything was “allowed” the “bad foods” would lose their power over her. She got the point immediately. I explained to her that the foundation for stress eating is a diet mentality that comes from fear of getting fat.

Fear of Getting Fat

Our society is fat phobic. If there’s any epidemic it’s an epidemic of dieting. And if the diet industry and doctors told you the truth, they’d tell you that dieting causes eventual weight gain and there is NO DIET, NO LIFESTYLE CHANGE, NO ANYTHING that will make you lose weight and keep it off! Oh sure, having lap band surgery has a higher success rate, but do you know one of the side effects is ANAL LEAKAGE?? They tell you never to wear white pants. And I am NOT kidding! Do you think that’s a good trade for being thin? I sure don’t!

Since the time of the model Twiggy, the fashion has been to be overly thin. Don’t fall for this crap. So many of the women I counsel are normal weight and just living in fear of getting fat! It’s that FEAR that causes a focus and a stress reaction which can actually change your metabolism because of excess cortisol in your body. That creates belly fat.

We have to start accepting ourselves as we are, eating all foods and enjoy them. We should realize that exercise is enjoyable and do it because we WANT to, rather than the victim mentality of “have to exercise”. It’s time to realize that feeling good about ourselves is our RIGHT.

There are different body types of people all over the planet. Research is now showing that much of time the reason you gain weight is because of genetics – you probably look a lot like your family! For women, it’s so important to realize that we are more important for who we are than what we look like. Sure, it’s nice to be admired, but remember: if you are lucky enough to live a long life you are not going to look like a 30 year old your entire life. If you spend your time and money trying to achieve that look you are probably a pretty shallow person, and not very interesting to be around.

Love yourself NOW- just like your dog does (or if you don’t have a dog, imagine it!) old or young, thin or fat!

Love yourself unconditionally like your dog does




Lianda Ludwig, Stress and Weight Management coach

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