How to Stop Stress Eating: 3 Uncommon Tools for Ending Emotional Eating

This LEGO looks worried, probably because he doesn't know what to eat.

We are currently living through extremely stressful times.

If you find yourself responding by “stress eating,” know that you are not alone.

One of the top issues faced by clients in our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program is emotional or stress eating. With the eruption of the pandemic, these episodes have only increased.

Today, we’re going to show you exactly how we address emotional eating with our clients, including when it’s – GASP – actually okay to stress eat. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide:

How to Exercise With Your Kids (Work out as a Family!)

This picture shows a LEGO on a bike with a stroller attached.

So you’ve got kids running around the house… 

And you need to work out, but can’t seem to distract the little monsters any longer?

No problem!

We’ve been teaching people how to exercise at home since 2009. These days, since everyone’s trapped together, we’ve been sharing fun ways to get the kids involved too. 

If you need some ideas on how to work out as a whole family, this guide is for you.

(Sign up in the box below and I’ll send you even more home workout goodies). 

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide:

26 Easy Meals You Can Cook at Home (During the Apocalypse)

This photo is fitting for our article's title.

You’re stuck in the house and most businesses are closed.

Whelp, looks like it’s time to learn how to cook (apocalypse style)!

We’ve been teaching folks how to feed their family with whatever resources they may have available in our Nerd Fitness Prime livestreams. 

If you’re just learning how to cook while the pandemic is erupting around you, you’re in the right place! 

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide: 

Grab your apron, ready the fire extinguisher, and let’s do this.

The Star Wars Workout: Begin Your Jedi Training!

It's Star Wars time!!!

It’s time to start training like a Jedi!

We love Star Wars around these parts (our site is literally called “Nerd Fitness”), so you’re in the perfect place to begin your training, my young Padawan. 

We specialize in creating nerdy themed workouts and today one of our coaches will walk you through an exercise routine that would make even Mace Windu proud. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s guide:

Grab your lightsaber and let’s punch it!

What’s the Best Diet to Lose Weight? (Which Diet is Right for Me?)

Why the banana suit? Because it's awesome!

If you’re currently trying to lose weight, you might be asking yourself:

Which diet is right for me?”

What’s the best diet for weight loss?”

They’re great questions, both with many different variables to consider.

Today, we’ll unpack it all for you.

We focus on proper diet and nutrition extensively in our 1-on-1 Coaching Program, but we’re gonna tell you everything you need to know below too.

Here’s what we’ll discuss in answering “What’s the best diet to lose weight?”:

It’s a lot to cover, but DON’T PANIC

We’ll get through it together using science, stories from our very own community, and one too many pop-culture references:

Hang in there Spock, we're only going to get crazier with our nerd references today.

Let’s get started.

Healthy Eating Ultimate Guide: Start Eating Healthy Without Being Miserable

Is this breakfast part of a healthy diet?

So you want to start eating healthy, eh?

Amazing!

We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people like you transform into actual superheroes, and we focus on proper nutrition to do so.

These are the exact strategies we teach our Online Coaching clients, and we’ve used these tips to help them lose weight and get in great shape without being miserable.

Plus, we use fun LEGO photos and gifs to keep you entertained.

In this Ultimate Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to start eating healthy today:

The Ultimate Resistance Band Workout: How to Train With Exercise Bands

Today, we'll teach you everything you want to know about resistance bands.

Let’s start training with resistance bands!

Whether you just got exercise bands in the mail from Amazon during quarantine, or they’ve been sitting in your closet since the 80s, you’ve finally decided it’s time to learn how to use the darn things. 

Either way, you’re in the right place! 

After all, we’ve been specializing in home workouts since 2009! Today I’m going to  provide you with a full-body routine you can do with any resistance band, anywhere. 

(By the way, sign up in the box below and I’ll send you even more home workout goodies). 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

It’s time to join the Resistance…

How to Build a Home Gym (When All Equipment is Sold Out)

These LEGOs aren't six feet apart though.

Public gyms are closed for the foreseeable future and that sucks.

So you’ve decided to build a home gym, and that’s great! 

Luckily, we’ve been helping people train from home for the past 11 years, and today we’ll share with you our top 16 ideas for building a gym in your garage (or apartment).

We’ve already covered how to stay in shape while staying inside, so today we’re tackling how to create your own home-gym space! 

Yes, we know most gym equipment is on backorder right now – we still got you covered.

Here’s what we’ll cover in our guide, How to Build a Home Gym:

As you might be able to tell, we’re going to start with things you might have around your house. We’ll level up all the way to a legit home gym setup that you could charge a membership fee for. 

The Beginner Bodyweight Workout: Try this 20 Minute Routine At Home or Anywhere!

Teach you this beginner bodyweight workout, LEGO Yoda willSo you want to lose weight and get in shape, but you don’t want to leave your house?

Well, as your fitness Yoda, I will teach you a great bodyweight workout routine you can do anywhere: 

In your living room, at a park, or in a galaxy far, far away….

These are the types of workouts we build for our busy Online Coaching Clients, and I’m pumped to share it with you today! 

Here’s how we’ll dig into the different parts of this workout and get to the action:

Make sure you also download the Beginner Bodyweight Workout PDF so you can track your progress and level up at home.

I’ll send it on over when you join the Nerd Fitness Rebellion in the box below:

Note: If you’re here because your gym is shut down due to the outbreak of Covid-19, check out our guide “How to Stay In Shape (While Staying Inside).”

Advanced Bodyweight Workout Circuit: A Full Body Routine You Can Do At Home

Once you get good at advanced bodyweight exercises, you can bust out moves like this!

Want to get strong but hate the gym?

No problem!

With today’s Advanced Bodyweight Routine, you can burn fat, build muscle, and get a great workout in! All with no gym membership required!

It’s the kind of workout we build through our online coaching program. If you’re in a hurry, sign-up for our free weekly newsletter and we’ll send you PDFs of our “Work Out at Home” guides!

If you’re ready, click the sections below to get right into the action:

You might have come to this article through our Beginner Bodyweight Workout; if so, welcome!

If you didn’t, I’d recommend starting there before moving onto this routine, because this is uber-advanced and designed for nerds looking for a brutally difficult challenge.

The 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises: The Ultimate Guide for Working Out Anywhere!

Deadshot does his bodyweight training, in between "jobs."

Here are the 42 best bodyweight exercises you can do to build muscle and burn fat, no gym required! 

These are the exact exercises we start our coaching clients on, and many perform them from their house or apartment.

In a hurry? Sign-up for our free weekly newsletter and we’ll send you PDFs of our “Work Out at Home” guides!

We’ve organized the exercises in today’s guide by major muscle groups (click to jump to those movements):

Plus, we’ll pull it all together at the end so you can create a complete bodyweight workout routine!

Note: If you’re here because your gym is shut down due to the outbreak of Covid-19, check out our guide “How to Stay In Shape (While Staying Inside).”

Alright, let’s get to it.

The 7 Best At-Home Workout Routines: The Ultimate Guide for Training Without a Gym

Wonder woman trains at home, to the frustration of Superman.

So you want to start working out, but you don’t want to leave the house?

No problem! 

Our online coaches specialize in helping people get fit from home.

If you’re in a hurry, sign-up for our free weekly newsletter and we’ll send you PDFs of our “Work Out at Home” guides!

Let’s go over the 7 Best At-Home Workouts so you can start training today: no gym or equipment required!

Note: If you’re here because your gym is shut down due to the outbreak of Covid-19, check out our guide “How to Stay In Shape (While Staying Inside).”

How to Stay in Shape Without Leaving the House: The Ultimate Guide for Getting Fit at Home

Or if you have such a suit, you can ignore this whole article.

It’s time to learn how to get fit without leaving your home:

Maybe you’re practicing a self-quarantine. 

Maybe you work from your apartment and are avoiding the gym.

Or maybe you just like living like a house cat.

Either way, you’ve come to the right place!

With Coronavirus (and Covid-19) chaos swirling around the world right now, more and more people are being advised (or ordered) to stay indoors.

That’s why I put together a practical guide for rational people to help you stay fit even if you can’t leave the house.

We’ve had incredible success with no-gym workouts for our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program, allowing our clients to train from any part of the world…or an underground bunker.

Here’s what we’ll cover in our guide, How to Stay in Shape Without Leaving the House

Note: this is not prescriptive, nor guidance about protecting against the coronavirus – see the PS. 

Let’s jump right in!

No Gym? No Problem! Jimmy the Engineer’s Epic Transformation.

Using a home gym, Jimmy was able to transform like so.

“HOLY CRAP, JIMMY!”

It’s amazing what can happen in 12 months with the right plan!

This is Jimmy, an aeronautical engineer from Atlanta who is currently getting his master’s in aerospace engineering.

He joined our Online Coaching Program in early 2019 and let us know he had a dream of being able to dress up and cosplay as Spider-Man (photo below).

(As somebody who used to dress up like Superman 4 days a week, I get it.)

Jimmy’s situation had some interesting wrinkles:

  • He works a full-time job AND is studying to become an aerospace engineer.
  • He was a self-described “picky eater” and wasn’t sure how to fix his diet.
  • He had worked out in the past, but didn’t enjoy going to the gym.

To that, we said, “Well, Jimmy, let’s get to WORK.”

(cue the training montage and Spider-Man music!)

What is the CICO (Calories In, Calories Out) Diet? How to Count Calories for Weight Loss

Yeah, it can be confusing when you don't understand CICO.

It’s time to learn about The CICO (“calories in, calories out”) Diet!

You probably have questions like

Steve, does CICO work? 

Will counting calories help me lose weight?

Okay, what the hell IS a calorie?

Well my friend, you’ve arrived at the right place!

I’ve been writing about this stuff for 12 years, and our team of coaches help their Online Coaching clients with all types of diets (including CICO). We are really flippin’ good at it!

Here’s what we’ll cover to answer the question: “What is CICO?”

It’s time to get started!

What Is the CICO Diet plan?

I guess this is kind of CICO, in a way

“CICO” stands for “Calories In, Calories Out.”

The CICO Diet is a weight-loss strategy where the participant tries to tip the balance of what they eat (calories in) against what they burn (calories out).

That’s pretty much it.

It doesn’t really matter what food you eat, because there are no restrictions on any specific food groups with CICO. 

It also doesn’t matter what exercise you do (if any).

As long as you get the equation right, and the calories you eat are lower than the calories you burn on a daily basis, you’re good to go.

Naturally, Barney would like CICO, because it doesn't forbid beer.

The CICO Diet is really simple and has helped quite a few people lose weight

This is likely why the CICO Diet has grown in popularity in the subreddit r/loseit

Is Losing Weight Really About Calories?

One way to lose weight is to be eaten, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Yes. Losing weight actually does come down to burning more calories than you consume.

It’s about as close to fact as we can get in nutrition science.[1]

As we address in our guide How to Lose Weight (The 5 Rules of Weight Loss), our bodies obey the Laws of Conservation of Energy and Thermodynamics: 

To lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume regularly. 

With this knowledge, it makes sense to design a diet specifically around this principle: match the calories you eat (in), with the calories you expend (out).

No other food rules need to apply:

As long as you meet your calorie goal, you can forget about the rules of any specific diet.

I can see why CICO might appeal to the Joker...

This appeals to me personally, because I’ve created my own guidelines for how to eat, and I don’t pledge allegiance to any particular dieting strategy.

Because I’m a mind-reader, I know your next question is likely…

Does Calorie Counting Work? (CICO and Weight Loss)

You can totally eat Dim Sum on CICO!

In principle, CICO works.

In practice, it becomes a little more complicated. 

Okay, fine, A LOT more complicated.

That’s because a lot of things influence “calories in.” 

Ditto for “calories out.”

Let’s break some of this down.

Here are some of the things that impact “Calories In:”

  • Appetite: how hungry we are is going to drastically affect how many calories we consume. Hormones, our body composition, and tastes and preferences will all impact our appetite.[2] 
  • Calories absorbed: the preparation of food will affect the bioavailability of calories. For example, cooking starches (like potatoes) generally increases the calories available.[3] Your own individual gut microbe can also influence the amount of energy extracted during digestion.[4] So will the macronutrient content of the food you eat.
  • Psychological considerations: your stress levels, sleep quality, and certain conditions like PCOS can all impact the regulation of hormones, which can influence your metabolism and appetite.[5]

Oh, and all of the above assumes we’re actually tracking calories accurately. Which pretty much nobody does. Ever. But I’ll get to that shortly. 

And remember, this is only half of the equation.

I'll be honest, I don't really know what's going on here...

Here are some of the things that impact “Calories Out:”

  • Energy burned while resting: your Basal Metabolic Rate is a count of how many calories you burn at rest and will be controlled by your age, weight, height, biological sex, muscle composition, etc. 
  • Energy burned through Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): do you fidget a lot? That increases your NEAT, or the energy you burn doing stuff other than exercising. Think tapping your feet, twirling your hair, using your hands when speaking, etc. Even just an hour of this kind of movement can accumulate an extra 300 calories burned.[6]
  • Exercise: of course, how much you intentionally exercise will impact your calories out, although perhaps not as much as most people think (more on this later).

This is only scratching the surface on what determines “calories in, calories out.”[7]

The important thing to consider here is that none of the above invalidate the basic premise of an energy deficit being necessary for weight loss. 

These factors will just influence one end of the equation or the other. 

For example, protein has been shown to help keep people feeling full and satiated.[8]

Eating plenty of protein can help folks lose weight, not because it changes the requirements for weight loss, but because it might allow them to get through the day less hungry (lowering their “calories in.”)

Read our guide “How much protein should I eat?” for more on this subject.

To recap this section: from a biological perspective, eating fewer calories than you burn is 100% necessary for weight loss. 

But all sorts of things impact the amount of calories we eat and the amount of calories we expend. 

This is going to lead us to….

The Problem With CICO (Humans Are Bad Estimators)

Yeah, humans (or LEGOs) aren't good at estimating calories.

The majority of the problems people have with CICO is that it allows nutrient-deficient food to enter the diet, only limiting “how much.”

They’ll argue that people should be eating fruits and vegetables, lean protein, avoiding processed foods, and blah blah blah… 

We all know this. 

You don’t need someone else telling you to eat your veggies.

Eating veggies for health is a no-brainer.

This isn’t the problem with CICO. 

The problem with CICO is it’s really hard to estimate “calories in” and “calories out.”

Like, REALLY hard. We humans are TERRIBLE at it. 

Take “calories in” or how much we eat: people generally UNDERestimate how many calories they consume by about 30-40%.[9] Even dieticians, who are specifically trained in nutrition science, underestimated how much they eat.[10]

Millhouse is probably just realizing the issue with CICO

“That may be true Steve, but don’t worry about me. I read the label on everything I buy so I know exactly how many calories I’m eating.”

Well, are you aware that the FDA allows a 20% leeway on total calories identified on packages?[11] Meaning that 100 calorie drink of Orange Juice might actually be 120?

If you’re a food manufacturer, which way are you going to lean towards? Especially when you know people might scrutinize the calories of your nutrition label in an effort to lose weight.

This isn’t just paranoia: this study found that packaged snack food generally contains MORE calories in it than advertised.[12]

Yeah…and remember, this is only half of the equation. 

It’s about to get even worse.

People are also really bad at estimating “calories out.” 

When folks self assess how many calories they burned by exercising, they’re generally WAY OFF, by as much as 50%![13]

Oh, and those fitness trackers we wear? They’ve been shown to be inaccurate by about 20%.[14]

This is the main problem with CICO: we’re stuck with educated guesses for “calories in” and “calories out.”

So we underestimate the calories we eat by 40%. And then we overestimate how many calories we burn by 50%.

No WONDER we think our metabolism is broken if we can’t lose weight!

The truth is we’re unknowingly eating too much, and/or moving too little.

Ugh.

Even how many calories you need a day (your baseline or Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is an estimate, something we acknowledge in our calorie calculator, which you can play with right here:

THE NERD FITNESS CALORIE CALCULATOR

Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator
Male/Female
Use age in years.
Use pounds (lbs). If using metric system, multiple kg times 2.2 for lbs.
Use inches. If using metric system, divide cm by 2.54 for total inches.
Your BMR is an estimate of the total calories burned a day, while in a state of rest.
For "Activity Level," veer toward the side of less active. Studies consistently show that people are not as active as they self-assess.
Your TDEE is an estimate of the total calories burned during a single day, when exercise is factored in.

 

In summary: balancing “calories in against calories out” is really all quite messy when you get right down to it.

Does that make all this hopeless?

Not even remotely.

But it does give us some context if you can’t seem to lose weight.

Tips for Sustainable Weight Loss (Next Steps)

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for weight loss.

This post is not made to dissuade you from trying The CICO Diet.

I actually encourage everyone to track their food and calories for one week, because it’s often an eye opening experience on how much they’re truly eating.

If possible, take a few days and use a cheap food scale instead of just eyeballing it. You’ll be shocked at actual portion sizes of some foods!

When it comes to sustainable weight loss, here at Nerd Fitness, we encourage two paths:

  • Make small tiny changes towards “real food” (like the Nerd Fitness Healthy Plate above).
  • Make small tiny changes towards a strength training practice.

Both of these strategies can dramatically – and positively – influence “calories in” and “calories out” respectively.  

In our Guide to Healthy Eating, we explain why every website tells you to eat vegetables (which we also tell you): vegetables are full of nutrients, contain lots of fiber to keep you full, and are generally low in calories.

These image shows some real food, critical if you're trying to lose body fat.

Eating lots of vegetables, or “real food,” will help you naturally lower “calories in.”

How about another example to think about? Here are 200 calories of a blueberry muffin:

Yeah, you don't even get the whole muffin.

Compare it to 200 calories of broccoli (Thanks to wiseGEEK):

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

Which one do you think you’re likely to accidentally overeat for your calorie allotment?

Right.

For our other strategy, our Strength Training 101 series explains why growing strong is important for fat loss: 

Building muscle takes a lot of calories (and so does maintaining it).

In other words, a stronger version of yourself will require more calories, which naturally raises your “calories out.”

The trick with it all is the “make small tiny changes” bit.

We’ve seen over and over that small steps (eating one new vegetable a week, a simple bodyweight workout) create momentum. Over time, these small changes are the keys to permanently getting healthy.

The entire Nerd Fitness Coaching program is based on this premise.

So what should you do now? Pick a small change and get going!

Here are some options for a healthy new habit:

The most important thing you can do now: start!

If you wanna win a race, you need to start it!

The exact “small tiny change” doesn’t matter so much, just pick one you feel comfortable with and get going! Once that habit becomes sustainable, pick a new one! And so on and so on…

We’ve seen it time and time again here that this is the true path towards success.

Boom!

Still here? Want some more guidance? An exact plan to follow on where to go next?

Alright, you got it, but only because you’ve been nice this whole time.

#1) Our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

Your NF Coach can help you lose weight and get healthy!

#2) Exercising at home and need a plan to follow? Have questions you need answered? Join Nerd Fitness Prime!

Nerd Fitness Prime is our premium membership program that contains at-home exercise routines, live-streamed workouts with NF Coaches, a supportive online community, group challenges, and much more! 

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Alright, I think that about does it for this article.

Now, your turn:

What are your thoughts on The CICO Diet?

Do you have a strategy for balancing “calories in” and “calories out”?

Think I’ve got it all totally wrong? 

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you read the rest of our content on sustainable weight loss:

###

GIF Source: Millhouse, Barney Thumbs Up, Joker, A Beautiful Mind, Leo “duh,”

Photo Source: A Surprise Performance Appraisal, Against the Current, There is always a bigger fish, Dim Sum Trike, miam miam

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