Friday, March 4, 2011

Too Much On Our Plates…

We’ve all heard this phrase before (or the related expression “my plate is too full”). Mostly we’re referring here not to our literal plate, though it’s often the case that indeed, we do have too much to eat. I’ll come back to the food later; for now, I’d like to focus on the metaphor.

When we say we have “too much on our plates”, we really mean that we are inundated, often drowning, in our responsibilities and obligations: work, family, household, community, relationships, etc. We simply can’t handle one more thing; there is literally no more space, no more energy to spare. We’re overworked and overwhelmed, and for many of us, this leads to overeating!

I first heard this idea several years back from Hale Sofia Schatz. If you’ve not read her excellent book If the Buddha Came to Dinner: How to Nourish Your Body and Awaken Your Spirit I highly suggest you do so soon. Reading the book and participating in a cleanse with Hale was transformative for me personally and professionally. She’s one of those gentle, soft spoken powerhouse women. Check her our at

Anyway, recently this idea of too much on our plates came around again when I stumbled upon the website of Dr. Melissa McCreery. Dr. McCreery specializes in emotional eating and offers solutions for women “struggling with food, weight, and overwhelm”. Last week I listened to a free teleseminar entitled “3 Emotional Eating Triggers You May be Overlooking”. Wow. Powerful stuff. You can visit her site and dowload the teleseminar. Dr. McCreery specializes in emotional eating and to get access to the teleseminar and other free goodies, but I’ll summarize the 3 main points here.

According to Dr. McCreery, the three things that trigger many of us to overeat are:
1. perfectionism
2. anger
3. lack of sleep
Allow me to elaborate just a little bit on each of these three triggers.

Perfectionism is seeing things in “black and white”. We’re either good enough, or we’re awful. We’re eating really well (“being good”), or we’re grabbing the leftovers off our kids’ plates and scarfing sweets late at night. When we’re in perfectionist mode, we are judging ourselves all the time, and we don’t allow ourselves to experience our innate goodness. This rigid view can keep us stuck from making lasting changes in our eating and our lives. Her solution for moving beyond perfectionism? “Acknowledge it, look for it, label it, and start reminding yourself that it is not helpful.” Perfectionism is not a virtue, and there is no such thing as a “perfect diet”!!

We’re not speaking here about rage; but rather the low-level, insiduous irritation, frustration, sense of unfairness, or anxiety that many of us experience on a daily basis. We’re often uncomfortable with these feelings, and unsure of how to process them. So, we use to food to soothe ourselves; we literally swallow our anger! If we learn to cope with and express our anger directly and with compassion and kindness, then we won’t need to turn to food.

Lack of Sleep
Wow. As someone who has been fairly consistently sleep deprived for over a decade, this one blew me away! According to Dr. McCreery, sleep deprivation (which she defines as 5 hours of sleep or less a night) contributes to us being less effective, less focused, more irritable, more stressed, more overwhelmed, more hungry and weighing more!! Simply put, lack of sleep drives hunger. When we’re tired, we often turn to unhealthy foods to give us energy, lift our mood, or simply keep us awake!

Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in levels of the hormone leptin, which tells us we are full, and increases levels of a hormone called grayling, which tells us to eat. Not only that, sleep deprivation can predispose us to gain weight by affecting our metabolism, regardless of what or how much we are eating. Startling facts, indeed. But the resolution is simple: getting 7 ½ to 8 hours of sleep a night can help us transform our relationship with food permanently.

Which one of these 3 emotional eating triggers affects you the most? I’d love to hear about your experiences, your goals, and your successes.

To close, a quote from If the Buddha Came to Dinner:

Not only are our plates to full, our bodies are too full, our houses and calendars and just about everything else in our loves are too full…This excess creates confusion. Anytime there’s excess, we can’t think straight, feel straight, or know what kind of nourishment we need to receive from moment to moment. To receive nourishment, we need to make space, and making space means perpetually letting go of that which is no longer necessary.” Hale Sofia Schatz

What can you let go of right now??

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