Find yourself reaching for chocolate after a long and busy day? Here’s how women over 40 can learn to stop rewarding with food.

We’ve all been there; reaching for the Doritos after a busy day. Whether it’s after back-to-back meetings or facing a stressful situation with colleagues… it can be all too tempting to reach for the nearest salty snack and reward ourselves with food.

When you’re managing a team of people, or you simply have an extra busy workload… work stresses can become overwhelming. This frequently leads to rewarding with food (usually unhealthy choices, too!)

As coaches who work with women in their 40’s and 50’s, we’re well acquainted with hearing about women over 40 who reach for that pick-me-up when work gets stressful. For some, they find themselves slumped watching TV and filling up with crisps. For others, the weekends are their downfall. When Friday evening rolls around, it’s tempting to think ‘oh well…’ and opt to try again on Monday. After all, you’ve earned it, right?

Rewarding yourself with food as a woman over 40

Over time, the pattern of rewarding yourself with food WILL lead to weight gain. This can be especially difficult for women over 40, who are already facing the physical and hormonal changes which make weight loss difficult. This can easily lead to weight gain spiralling out of control.

In our most recent podcast episode, we revealed the top strategies we use to help thousands of women over 40 break this pattern. Get your eating under control, shrink your waistline and find your confidence with these tips!

Here’s how to stop rewarding yourself with unhealthy foods…

1. Break the pattern: Make unhealthy food hard to access

Ever blame a lack of willpower for making unhealthy choices? If so, you’re definitely not alone. So many people we work with try to rely on their willpower to make good choices… the problem with this is that it doesn’t always work!

Here’s the thing: your decision-making ability is like your phone battery. The more decisions you make, the more it depletes. Until eventually, your battery is dead and no longer works. At this point – your willpower is zero… and when you have nothing left in the tank, it’s nearly impossible to resist the treats.

So, what should you do instead?

Here at Trinity, we admit that sometimes even we can’t resist a slice of cake after a long and stressful day! Instead, we suggest not relying on your willpower at all…

We recommend focusing on something that’s 100% reliable instead; set your environment up for success. We do this with our clients using a process called the Cupboard Cleanse. This method often leads to clients dropping 3-5lbs in the first week alone! Here’s what we recommend:

  • Start by getting rid of all the tempting foods in your home. Give them away or bin them, so they’re out of the way.
  • If you have children, put their snacks in a lockbox. You can get these from Amazon for less than £30.
  • Get rid of any takeaway apps on your phone. It’s a good idea to throw away any menus you have lying around. Even delete the takeaways’ phone numbers from your contacts!
  • Treat yourself to a healthy shop. Head to the supermarket and buy bucket loads of healthy choices, for when you feel the urge to snack.

2. Focus on eating proper meals, NOT sugar and snacks

The least filling types of foods are those with limited nutritious value. Foods made up of simple, refined carbohydrates tend to be the worst offenders. Low protein items are also best avoided if you want to keep yourself feeling full. Foods like biscuits, crisps, cakes, chocolates and pastries might be limiting your weight loss efforts.

Eating these, usually beige, foods is like pouring petrol on a fire. Initially, there’s a huge burst of energy that lasts a short moment… then the fire returns to where it was before. Often, needing even more fuel just to keep it going.

When you’re snacking on empty calories… this can cause huge energy crashes throughout the day… and when your energy crashes, it becomes almost impossible to resist treats after a stressful way of work. This leads to a cycle of rewarding with food.

So, what should you aim for instead?

The most filling foods are those which contain fibre and protein. This is due to them taking a long time to digest in our gut. They slowly and steadily release energy, keeping us full for hours.

Eating plenty of vegetables alongside meat, fish or veggie protein (like Quorn, tofu, eggs or quinoa) will keep you feeling full and satisfied all day. Complex carbohydrates like potatoes, rice and oats are also very filling.

Now, instead of burning your fire with petrol, you’re using a large, sturdy log! This burns slowly and releases a constant stream of energy for hours… so you’re less likely to get tempted by snacks.

3. Always have some healthy options prepared and ready to go

Work can be unpredictable. Often, something comes up that throws your plans for a healthy meal out the window… In this scenario, if you have nothing healthy available, it’s easy to turn to comfort food as a reward. Whether it’s ordering a pizza or indulging in a chippy… these foods could set you back for days.

In our experience, it works much better to either:

  • Batch cook plenty of food once or twice a week. This way, you always have some healthy meals to hand so you can stop rewarding yourself with food.
  • Cook an extra portion of food every time. Pop it in a container for a night where you’ll be too busy to cook.
  • Have a few low-calorie ready meals to hand. Whether they’re from M&S, Waitrose or Sainsbury’s… low calorie ranges tend to taste pretty good without being too high in calories!

4. Challenge your thought processes

After a stressful week at work, it’s very common to think “sod it, I deserve a treat!” You might say you’ll only have one… or that one more won’t hurt. “I’ll start tomorrow” is always a go to!

For most women over 40 that we work with, these thoughts are so frequent it becomes automatic. As soon as they start thinking like this… they’re already opening the bag of crisps, reaching for the wine or on the phone to the local takeaway.

However, it is possible to rewire the way you think to break these destructive thought patterns. We actively encourage this inside our Fit Over 40 programme, using a tool called the Thought Transformer.

This enables our clients to see the effects of these thought patterns more clearly… and to change their mindset to make better decisions. Whether they’re stressed or exhausted after a busy week, they can make the healthiest decisions for themselves instead of self-sabotaging.

An example would be, instead of “I deserve a treat,” they might say: “I deserve a treat, but it doesn’t have to be with food.” Instead, they’ll run themselves a bubble bath or read a book.

5. Get some accountability

Clients tell us all the time of how they nearly caved. Yet, because they knew they’d be speaking to us the next day… and we’d be reviewing their week… they’d pull through and say no. They’ve learnt that it’s not worth it to reward with food after a busy week.

It’s very easy to fail alone. When you have a tough week at work and you just want to comfort eat… what happens?

If you have no one to answer to, then most likely you’ll turn back to old habits. This may undo the hard work from the week before, and you’re back at square one.

Accountability is a huge factor in long-term weight loss. This is a key reason why so many of our clients over 40 see the results they deserve! Every week, we have catch up calls with clients. They tell us they’ve stayed on the plan, even when things were really stressful. This is usually because they knew they’d have to report back on how the week had gone.

If you’re interested in finding a long-term, sustainable approach which is designed for women over 40, you can find out more about staying accountable with us here!