Dear Dr. Pam,
I’ve been in my present job for two years and things have gone haywire. From the start I never got on with my boss who is very demanding and constantly does things like bring deadlines forward often for no apparent reason.
I’ve never been too concerned about my weight you’d call me an average girl around size 14 or 16 depending on the brand. But in the last year I’ve piled on weight because of the stress of working with this boss. I know it’s comfort eating but it seems so hard to stop now that I’ve got into this habit. I’d love to be back to my usual size but I’m now wearing a 18, even a 20 at times and don’t feel I have the energy I once did. Any advice is appreciated. Best wishes, Samantha (I’m 31) Hi Samantha, I’ve been meaning to tackle emotional eating for some time and with my new book The Emotional Eater’s Diet out in a few days I hope I can offer some tips. The very first starting point is that you know this is about seeking emotional comfort when you’re feeling so emotionally unhappy inside. Ultimately – as you’ve found – this isn’t the solution to any problem – in your case the problem being stress related to your boss’s difficult behaviour and attitude. I’m also delighted to hear that you simply want to be the weight that you feel suits you best – a 14-16 – and you’re not concerned with trying to become the size of a stick thin model. My new book is completely against unrealistic body shapes and striving for so-called “perfection”. Instead it’s all about being a healthy weight where you feel energetic and well – and you use food to fuel your energy needs and to enjoy when socialising. And you don’t use it to fuel your emotional needs. Here are some tips to get you going: you’ve identified general stress from your boss as sending you towards comfort food but keep a food and feelings diary (this is outlined in detail in chapter 4 of my book) for a week (ideally two weeks if you can) and identify the actual triggers that make you want to comfort eat. Is it specifically when your boss moves deadlines? Is it specifically when your boss seems to take you for granted? It’s important to look at the power of those triggers. There may be a number of such triggers, or just one such trigger, or maybe nothing specific but the ‘diary’ is a great starting point for looking for any pattern to your emotional eating. Next you need to think of how do you respond to those emotional triggers that make you feel bad inside? What can you do that makes you feel better? Can you get in touch with a friend for a quick convo? Can you email a friend and tell them you’d like to meet up soon – just to get your mind on happier emotional territory. How about taking a brisk walk for three minutes to the staff toilet – and back to your desk – just to burn off a little of that stress. Whatever works for you start doing it when you feel tempted to reach for comfort food. Now over the long term you need to think how can you address these issues with your boss? Is there a human resources department you can go to discuss (in confidence) moving forward on this? Do you ever have staff assessments and the opportunity to discuss how you’re doing? Whatever opportunity you have to talk to your boss about what you find difficult in your job is the time to plan to tackle this in a positive way. Always begin with what you can say to your boss about what’s working well in your position – a positive starting point in any such conversation sets up a confident attitude between you. Also flag up any part of your relationship with your boss that works well. Next raise things that you’d like to “improve”. This will open the door for talking about deadlines and how sometimes you find it difficult when they’re changed, etc. Finally I’d like to say that there are times when we’re stuck with a boss who causes us some stress but it’s hard to get them to change or unfortunately HR isn’t much help, etc. And because they aren’t a serious bully – where you can obviously make a note of their bullying outbursts – it’s more difficult to tackle. So part of improving a situation like yours – where your boss does things like make deadline changes causing you stress – it can be super-helpful to do all of the above plus change your response to such requests. In your case it might mean taking the attitude that, “Oh well, this deadline’s been changed and I’ll do my best to meet it – but if I don’t meet it there’s nothing more to be done. I’m not going to worry about it. Worrying doesn’t help me.” You can practice taking this “I’ll care a little bit less about these things” attitude through every area in your life. Good luck and I hope if you check out my book I hope you find it helpful, Pam x THE EMOTIONAL EATER’S DIET – How To Understand Your Emotions and Become A Healthy Weight For Life – Available here — Visit my Website – life, love & sex advice at your fingertips I’m finally on Twitter P x