3 Sabotaging States to Heal Overeating

Do you know that we all have self-sabotaging behaviors when we are stressed? Today’s episode mainly focuses on understanding and regulating emotional eating and how our nervous system is set up to protect us using the coping mechanism we learned as children.

I’ll dive into:

✔️The autonomic nervous system’s role in reactive behaviors, including emotional eating. 

✔️The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, 

✔️Introduction to the polyvagal theory.

✔️How different states of nervous system activation can influence eating habits. 

By delving into body-based practices and incremental movement, I provide practical methods for achieving nervous system regulation. These tools are designed to help you break free from the cycle of emotional eating, offering a tangible way to improve your relationship with food.

Don’t miss this episode to learn practical advice on identifying and regulating these nervous system states to achieve a thriving state while emphasizing movement and body-based practices as tools for regulation.

Resources and Links:

Register for my FREE Food & Body Freedom Challenge 

I’d love to hear your thoughts…Drop me a DM on Facebook or Insta!


00:50 Navigating Life’s Chaos and Finding Regulation

02:19 Diving Deep into the Autonomic Nervous System

03:27 Understanding Our Protective Mechanisms: Fight, Flight, and Freeze

18:43 The Journey to Regulating Our Nervous System

19:25 Practical Tips for Nervous System Regulation


Full Episode Transcript:

3 Sabotaging States to Heal Overeating

Hey, welcome to the Hello Body Freedom podcast. It’s been a minute.  I can always tell when I get a little nervous because I start singing my words. I go, Hey,  how are you?  All right, I’m going to stop that. Now I’m going to take a deep breath. And the reason why it’s been a minute is I have had a very dysregulated nervous system.

It has been a lot going on. I won’t get into the details of all of it, except for if you were following my story, kind of like the, I seen on the cake was a leak in our dishwasher that led to a flood that led to just crazy. So if anybody has ever dealt with anything like that, which I’m sure a lot of people have,  it kind of like jacks with your life.

Like your entire home is in disarray and I work from home. So,  this is, if you were watching the video of this, if you’re watching this on YouTube, this lovely office that I love so much also happens to be a giant room in our house. So this became the kitchen over there and the bedroom right there in my office right here.

It was crazy. Anyhow, I am definitely feeling a lot more regulated and  that is exactly what we’re going to talk about today. Cause I’m feeling it’s very, very alive inside of me.  And whenever we can understand that our self sabotaging, uh, Behaviors happen in  three different states  inside of us and they’re all nervous system based when we can understand this, it will start to make the process of untangling it a little bit easier.

So what I’d like to do is dive right in and hope that you enjoy just a little science lesson and a little nervous system regulation lesson. So let’s first start with. an understanding of the autonomic nervous system. So it is the oldest part of our brain. It is the brainstem. I always point to my neck whenever I’m teaching.

I always put my hand on my neck. We’re talking 500 million years of evolution. It is the part of our brain that has learned how to keep us safe and alive, our entire species safe and alive. So that way our ancestors could have procreated and done all that they did for us to even be sitting here today.

It is pretty. freaking epic, but for us to understand that it’s main job is how are we keeping you safe and alive? And all of it is unconscious, right? You don’t think about digesting your food. You don’t have a thought. When somebody comes up behind you and goes surprise or spooks you or something, there is no thought.

It is just all of the sudden a pounding heart, blood pressure goes up, fight and flight responses go up, right? There isn’t a thinking part here, right? You don’t have to do anything about it because the autonomic nervous system does all of these things in order to keep you safe and alive. 

So maybe you’ve heard, and I know that I’ve taught in a lot of ways,  understanding the nervous system as two different branches. So we have the sympathetic branch and the parasympathetic branch, but, polyvagal theory basically takes the parasympathetic branch  and it helps us explain, one, the parasympathetic nervous system, which is that rest and digest way to be on the planet.

But it also helps us explain, the shutdown that can happen when our nervous system gets really hijacked. So  let’s go ahead and start with. This idea that our nervous system would prefer for us to be in a state of thriving, which is, what you would call , the ventral vagus nerve. So the ventral part, and it’s also, it’s the ventral part of the parasympathetic nervous system, right?

So rest and digest is equanimous to this idea of, I don’t even know if that’s even a word. Is equanimous a word? If I just make that up. I probably made it up.  I’m telling you perimenopause is a thing party people. It is a real legit thing. My brain is going cuckoo. All right, back to the story.  So thriving is the state that our nervous system likes to be in.

So I like to imagine our ancestors where they were all in community, and everybody was kind, and everybody kind of had a job, and there was purpose and meaning, and some people would hunt, and some people would gather, and some people would, you know, build stuff, and I don’t know, like, however it may be, it worked back in the day.

That’s always easier for me to imagine that, than it is my day to day, because it’s too complex, and there’s so many little things going. So, I’m just imagining my ancestors, a beautiful, sunny, warm day, they’re not worried about the weather. Life is going good. They’re going to have a nice fire and a party tonight or something like that.

That’ll be fun.  Now there were also stressors, right? So the stressors and the stress response, we also have, so we have the parasympathetic nervous system, specifically ventral vagal, which is this rest and digest and this place of thriving that we strive to be in. And I want you to think about that when you are.

You are grounded and you are connected and you feel a sense of connection and love and purpose and, an ease in the body and peace. And we can all feel this and we can access this. When our stress response isn’t chronically being triggered. So just, Imagine if you can’t experience it right now, after you’re not experiencing it right now, let’s just take a big inhale and then a double inhale,  an extra inhale,  a little more,  and then let that exhale just ground you a little bit. 

And just notice that this space feels good, right?  It is a sense of thriving. It is a sense of connection. It’s also a place where we digest our food better. It’s It’s a place where we experience more creativity and love and connection. It’s just this really beautiful, magical place to be.  Now, the other side of the autonomic nervous system, one is the rest and digest this, part of the parasympathetic nervous system.

And then the other part is the sympathetic nervous system. So this part is where the stress response starts, right? So our ancestors Are, humming along and then I don’t know, it starts raining and then maybe it turns into like tornado weather or something like that, where all of a sudden it’s a huge stress or what do we do with the animals?

How are we going to find shelter? Like a lot. It’s a lot going on. And whenever we get into this kind of stress response, your kitchen floods  there’s my example for today.  What happens is you’re like, amazingly, without you having to try or think about it, your stress response of your autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic part of your nervous system, it gets on board and it’s like,  what are we going to do?

Right. It’s a very like, we need to do something. We can do something. Let’s go. Right. So this is why it’s called the fight and flight. So you can fight something off. You can run. If you need to, you can mobilize yourself, mobilize your body.  And it’s very powerful. And I want you to think about this from like a stress response.


Whenever you start feeling activated, mobilized, stressed, Anxious, right? All of that kind of energy just makes you want to like, go, go, go, go, go. And then you do. And then you go, and then you go, I have a client who struggles because her job has very stressful and her red flag moments are, inside of HelloBodyFreedom, her red flag moments are midday, so her stress response… 

Is like, it is that sympathetic way of being where it’s like high intensity, jittery, shaky intensity in the body and mobilization, mobilization. And the way that she’s recently discovered that she handles it is with crunchy food,  right? Chips or popcorn or something, just have something, or even just like the munching, the behavior of munching that gives her jaw, which is also a very strong muscle.

Go, go, go, go, go. It gives her something to do. And she found whenever she started to finally get ready to break that habit, which we will talk about,  maybe the next podcast,  what it takes to start to break these habits. But really she,  it was not easy for her, right? Because this like really strong habit loop of this intense way.

So look at your own life and see how, when the sympathetic part of your nervous system activates how very likely that dysregulation might look like. eating. Now, this isn’t for everybody. Trust me. We all have a flavor here. And so don’t worry. That might be you. That might not be you, but just notice that it is one aspect of that nervous system dysregulation, right?

When the stress response comes on. Now, before I move on, I just want you to hear that our nervous system is genius. It’s been around forever, and it is literally here to keep you safe and alive. I know I’ve already said it, but You learned a long time ago, if that stressor happens, just like my client, this particular energetic dysregulation in the body equals I spontaneously eat.

And that doesn’t just happen by coincidence. It happened because at some point in her life,  it was the thing that kept her safe. The behavior of eating was the safety mechanism. Like our bodies are so amazing in this way. Okay. So I totally get that that behavior right now, at least if you’re in Hello Buddy Freedom, or if you’re listening to this podcast at all, you don’t want that behavior anymore.

This behavior isn’t serving you. And I get that and you get that. And that’s wonderful. But for us to understand, it is so much better to come from a place of seeing it as the truth that it is, which is here for your benefit. It is doing the only thing that it knows how to do in the way that it knows how to do it, which is to protect you via eating.

Okay. So we really want to get off the shame bus. The willpower bus, the beat ourselves up, the inner critic bus.  And I’m not saying that we’re going to take those parts of us and shove those as, you know, under a rug as if they don’t exist either. But whenever we get lost in that energy, it doesn’t actually help the problem because your body believes that it’s helping you.

It doesn’t think that it’s a problem, okay. Your behaviors and that those parts inside of you, Are really protective parts, right? So  that is the fight and flight energy. Now here’s what happens next.  If the fight and flight, right? If that sympathetic energy, that mobilization, we can figure this out. We can seek shelter.

We can do this. We can deal with the stressor. We can call the flood remediation people in my house, like whatever it is. Go, go, go, go, go. When whatever the stressor real or perceived, this is very important. It’s your nervous system, right? So stop, stop judging your stressors with my stressors because it doesn’t really matter.

If your nervous system continues to get more elevated and elevated and elevated in the stress response, eventually what happens is we pass a threshold. So what happens is inside of the body, the nervous system becomes way overwhelmed. And when that starts to happen, this is what we call it. I’ve heard it called hypoparasympathetic, which is like an absolute shutdown.

So remember, if we’re talking about  fight or flight energy versus rest and digest, Right? Rest and digest is this idea of thriving, relaxation, and it is a part of the parasympathetic  nervous system, right? This is why, polyvagal theory is so powerful because it helps us understand why when the stressors get so high  that all of a sudden we move from mobilization to immobilization, it’s like hypo parasympathetic and this is called a dorsal.

So the dorsal vagal part.  And this is. I can’t do anything.  This is where we start to get into,  Apathy, depression. This is where we start to get into shutdown.  And this I find to be a very strong place where we use food in a big way because we’re using food as a way to disconnect, as a way to not feel, as a way to dissociate, right?

As a way to check out,  right? And so again, you don’t really get a say in these dysregulated nervous systems. Remember, you can’t out think the smart part of your brain, that front part of your brain, your prefrontal cortex, it likes to think that it’s so smart and it can just do anything. But if your whole nervous system that is ancient and old and evolutionary speaking is in charge in this moment,  then you, we can’t outthink ourselves into going from that stress response sympathetic into that like hypo parasympathetic, That dorsal vagal immobilization shutdown.

And if we just think about this from a protective mechanism, the reason why we would end up spending a lot of time there, and I’m going to actually stop, we’ll talk about the reason in a second, take a big inhale and just exhale and just notice.  If you spend time there, notice if you can sense the connection between your, comfort eating, eating after a long, hard day because, I need a break and I need to disconnect the eating that we do to just check out in front of the TV.

Right. And it might not seem so like dramatic and traumatic in this moment today, but it really is a habit and a behavior that it’s like, Oh my gosh, how do we, ah, what do I do? And how do I fix this? Right.  And you don’t fix it. You learn that a long time ago, your nervous system, likely when you were a kid,  It got really, really, really overwhelmed so much so that we went into a dorsal vagal shutdown that hypo parasympathetic, right?

And in that moment you did your body did what it could figure out on its own of how to survive.  And the eating became part of the soothing behavior when that nervous system would get triggered into that immobilization, that not the, I can, I can get out of it, but the, I cannot,  I am stuck. All right.  And so just tuning into these two self sabotaging states, right?

The reason why I call themselves sabotaging states is really to get your attention because I know that’s what you call it. But at the end of the day, these are protective mechanisms inside of you. These are stress responses, your own autonomic nervous systems way that it’s figured out how to like activate and, shut things down.

If it needs to get out of there, run, fight, flee, stress, munch, right? Whatever it needs to. And then the food got tangled over time. Into really strong habit loops that are connected to these sabotaging stages. So the very first one, the fight and flight, which is sympathetic nervous system, which is mobilization.

And then as the nervous system gets more overwhelmed, we get into that dorsal vagal, which is the absolute shutdown. Okay. Now some people think that that’s freeze response, but actually freeze is equal parts sympathetic. So got to go, got to go, got to go, got to figure something out, got to do something.

Matched with equal parts dorsal vagal immobilization. Think about that. It’s like you’re a deer in the headlights. You’re like, gotta go, gotta go, gotta go. But I can’t, I can’t move. I can’t go. All of this intensity inside of you that all of the stress hormones, the cortisol, the adrenaline, everything’s pumping and pumping and pumping.

So that way you can run, fight or flee. But then. You’re stuck and you can’t, and you feel frozen.  So take a moment and just notice, is that a survival mechanism? Is that a nervous system way that you show up in a regular way? And when you are in there, do you notice that food is the answer?  So with our clients and Hello Body Freedom, I can tell what kind of an emotional eater they are just by this information, right?

And that doesn’t mean that, for some of you are like all three of them. And of course we might have. It might be equal. Some might just be more one than the other, but to understand that whenever we spend, well, let me start over to understand that all of those states are inside of us, it’s evolutionary.

It’s been around forever. It’s there to keep us safe and alive. Okay? These are not wrong states of being.  However, if we get stuck there, what it becomes is nervous system dysregulation. When we are spending, it’s one thing. If we have the stress response and all of these things, ah, and then we are able to take care of it, figure things out and then now we get back to thriving.

We get back to that ventral vagal part of that parasympathetic nervous system, right? And that is a, that, that’s where, you know, we’re connected. This is where there is an ease and relaxation response. And very often we’re not using food as a coping strategy in those moments. We’re using food because, well, we’re physically hungry.

It makes sense to eat. We make better choices in that state of regulation. Okay.  And so what we want to do is number one, be able to recognize that there are three dysregulated states.  And if we are spending a lot of time there again, I want you to think of this also in terms of survival mode. So just notice life. Does life feel like survival mode?

Is it just ongoing and ongoing, right? Or is it more like thriving mode? So if you are in that thriving mode in a regular way, then  Very likely you’re not using food as a coping strategy, or it’s a whole lot easier to break those patterns.  When you are in a major nervous system dysregulation,  it is a lot harder to heal overeating, emotional eating, binge eating.

And I’m not saying that you can’t, we learn how to do both in Hello Body Freedom. It just takes longer. It’s a longer process for sure. So one of the biggest tricks and tips that we can do is to Is recognized when we are in either of those states of dysregulation and then work on practices to get back into regulation.

The more that we do this little by little on a daily basis, the easier things get, the more you start to spend more time in regulation and less time in dysregulation. And the more aware you become of this, then the faster you can go from dysregulation back into regulation. So the question you should be asking me is girlfriend, how the hell do I do that?

Let’s go. I’m going to go, all right, let’s knock this out of the park.  Okay. If you find That the fight or flight sympathetic energy is what is dominating you. It’s go, go, go, go, go, go, go. You can’t stop. It’s like this very frenetic, anxious energy. And our culture like really has us think that this is the way it’s supposed to be, but it doesn’t feel good.

It can be very just exhausting and tired. And just like always running, always running away, always fleeing, always fighting. Like it’s just like intensity. Right.  What I have found is that, And what research shows is that using body-based type, like practices, like it’s happening in the body. So let’s utilize practices that use the body in order to match it, meet it in order to feel more grounded.

I want you to think about that.  If you were going to learn how to go snowboarding, And you read like a whole book on snowboarding and you’re like, Oh my God, I know everything about snowboarding. I took a college class and we read all 10 books on snowboarding. I know everything from boots to bindings, to boards, to the kind of clothes that you wear to different, but you’re never really going to know snowboarding unless you actually put a damn board on your feet and go snowboarding.

It’s an embodied experience, right? So all the stuff we’re doing right now is we’re talking, but what I want you to do is feel the embodied experience of what it takes to dysregulate. Okay. So for instance, if you are finding yourself in the mobilization sympathetic,  any level of exercise that feels good for your body, that is appropriate for your specific body, any kind of movement that could be shaking, that could be dancing.

That could be, big breaths, right? Movement.  Has been shown to be a very powerful way that you can get yourself grounded and kind of more regulated more. All right. So move that body.  Now, if you are in immobilization,  so you can’t move at all,  the best practices, and these are so, so gentle is that you have to learn how to take very small, tolerable steps. 

With movement. We’ve actually got to get you moving, but it cannot feel so impossible. Okay. So I was just recently working with a client who’s really struggling in her life and in college and, just has like, I’m going to work out every single day. And then she doesn’t work out at all. And I’m like, yeah, cause you’re like in a shutdown.

Like that’s way too much. I’m like, what if it was just walk outside and get some sunshine on your face.  What if that was enough? Like, did you hear how small that stuff was?  So what happens in immobilization is we keep trying to get us to move and we  frustrated that we can’t move. All right. But the only way out of immobilization is very, very gentle.

It could be as simple as just getting some sun on your face. Just,  walking, maybe around the house a little bit, right? Like little itty bitty baby steps to get you moving in the right direction. Okay. It might be as simple as showing up for a class or texting, like texting a friend or something.

I’m thinking about like our coaching calls. Sometimes, you’d be so dysregulated, but you show up for a coaching call.  Yes. All right. And then the last place.  Is that frozen state. And the frozen state we can’t actually get to the mobilization part until we move through the immobilization part.

So your first homework, if you’re finding yourself in freeze is to take those small baby step, tolerable steps, small baby, tolerable steps. Okay. Just a little walk, just some sunshine, maybe a couple of breaths, right? And what will happen is that will start to get you moving. And then what will likely happen on the other side of that is big bursts of energy because that sympathetic intensity mobilization is right underneath it.

And that’s when you can start to use your body in more ways in order to really get it to regulate down. And notice none of this has anything to do with food. Not one thing has to do with thinking about food or changing it. Okay. Ultimately, one of the fastest and easiest way to make this whole food journey easier.

So overeating, emotional eating and binge eating is a whole lot easier is to regulate that nervous system over and over again. So I hope I gave you a couple of awesome, ideas. I hope you really take this and start to pay attention. This is one of the very first things we do in Hello Body Freedom with all of our clients, which is Like from day one, we’re going to start to pay attention to what nervous system dysregulation is, and then what thriving is, what it means to actually feel like we’re in that state of ventral vagal, which is parasympathetic and it feels good and thriving and connection, right?

We want to spend more time there, but we want to know what it means to be there versus what it means to be dysregulated. Regulation versus dysregulation. And then the next step is what are the tools I’m using? The best tools. There are a ton of tools, but body-based tools are very, very powerful. Oh, I forgot one more. 

Tapping is a great tool,  for when you are feeling immobilized. Right. So you just can’t do anything. And I don’t know if any of you are familiar with, emotional freedom technique, EFT tapping this, like you start on the head and you move the eyebrows, temples and all this stuff. And then there’s like a dialogue, right?

There’s talking. I love and accept myself, which is wonderful. That’s great. But in terms of nervous system regulation,  it’s not about having the words. It’s that your whole body. Is  dysregulated. So just tapping quietly with outwards and then do it maybe for 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, something like that.

And then pause. All you’re doing is you’re noticing that still. Okay. So that’s, there’s your bonus one for you. Okay. All right, my friends. I hope this served you and reach out with any questions. I am here for it. Have an epic day. I’ll see you in the next episode. Bye everybody.