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Scientist turned Emotional Eating and Health Coach – Rita May

I‘m Rita May, a scientist turned Emotional Eating and Health Coach. I help driven professionals and entrepreneurs who are successful in other areas in their life but struggle with their weight because of emotional and stress-eating.

Successful people, like CEOs, entrepreneurs, professionals, researchers, physicians, lawyers, coaches, and leaders, despite all they’ve accomplished, sometimes can’t figure out how to stop overeating.

They know how to solve complicated problems, lead the work of other people, win big contracts, save lives, and solve legal issues but they feel powerless around food.

They are always busy, their job is stressful, they may even travel a lot, plus they raise a family. The eat-to-soothe stress habit may become their release.

Eating is an easily available and quick way to comfort, soothe, and reward ourselves when we feel overloaded and overwhelmed. Another “advantage” of eating is that we can do it pretty mindlessly while working or doing something else so we can still meet all the demands.

When it comes to food, we all know that we should eat less when we’re overeating and that emotional eating doesn’t help. But sometimes despite knowing exactly what to do but we still don‘t do it.

Even when we actually try to do something about it we often don’t realize that the weight loss advice and strategies we follow are the exact things that are sabotaging us.

When we’re really busy, we don’t need more rules or “shoulds.” We need to find out why food is so powerful in our lives in the first place and find other ways to comfort ourselves. 

And this is where I can help.

My coaching method is based on three pillars: the science of nutrition, psychology, and a bit of brain science.

I don’t believe in the one-diet-fits-all approach. Instead of giving you a diet plan, I help you choose a way of eating that you enjoy because that’s the one you will be able to sustain in the long term.

However, nourishing your body is not enough. Our well-being is also affected by stress, relaxation, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, joy, self-awareness, our personal history and so much more.

Therefore, I also teach you how to implement simple and effective emotional management tools. Through practice, these skills can then become automatic responses to situations that would’ve led to emotional eating in the past.

My approach considers every aspect of your life and is entirely personalized to help you in the areas you need it most, allowing you to make sustainable changes and create a balanced, happy, healthy life.

Founder’s story and what motivated her to start the business

I wasn’t always a coach. I actually worked as a postdoctoral researcher and scientist for more than 15 years, and it was my personal journey that inspired me to learn about nutrition and eating psychology so that I could help others navigate their health, nutrition and wellness journeys. 

I obtained my chemistry degree and PhD in Hungary. I then worked in the UK for 5 years as a postdoctoral researcher and for 10 years in Switzerland as a scientist. Here we had our 2 sons and after very short periods of maternity leave I continued working. 

Working in research can be stressful. The constant pressure to get the desired results and publish them quicker or in a more prestigious journal than your competitors, long working hours, securing grants and financial uncertainty are some of the things that make people working in the research field overworked and stressed.

A major survey into research culture showed that on top of the overwhelming work pressure, discrimination, widespread bullying and harassment are also contributing to the stress and mental health problems that scientists are experiencing.

Overall, 70% of the scientists surveyed said they felt stressed on the average work day. 

Scientists don’t make a whole lot of money considering how much time, expense, effort, and brainpower are involved in getting a PhD. People often need to move to foreign countries and live in different cultures to be able to continue their careers.

And we haven’t even talked about the anxiety caused by imposter syndrome yet. Many high-achievers (working in science or other fields) never feel good enough.

They cannot believe that they deserve their success and feel like they were just lucky or simply in the right place at the right time. Despite their experiences and accomplishments, they constantly worry that others will find out that they are imposters and they don’t know enough. 

To compensate, they work even harder and hold themselves to even higher standards leading to even more overload and overwhelm. 

To release this stress many people turn to food to find comfort, reward, relaxation and distraction from their problems. 

I also found myself eating to relieve stress while balancing demanding work as a research scientist in a competitive field, traveling, looking after our small children, and attending to all the other responsibilities.

Sometimes it was simply feeling like I would never be good enough in every area of my life (employee, mother, wife, daughter, etc.) that drove me to eat emotionally.

I realized that eating healthy food and moving regularly isn’t always enough to live a balanced and healthy life. Because when we don’t have the tools to deal with our emotions and stress, eating can quickly become a comfort or reward after a tiring day or a distraction from our uncomfortable feelings or problems.

Then we repeat this behavior multiple times and it becomes a habit. Now our brains offer this solution every time we have these feelings. It becomes a habit like smoking, drinking, gambling or other addictive behaviors. 

As I always liked to learn I decided to find out more about our relationship with food. I chose health coaching and life coaching programs that didn´t concentrate only on food but also psychology, spirituality, and brain science. 

I also found that mindfulness can help us become aware of our habits, the foods, environment, or situations triggering emotional eating, and our bodily sensations when we really need food as opposed to when only our brains crave food for comfort or reward.  

The change started when I had to watch people who I like go through hell due to mental illnesses. It made me realise that it´s not enough to look after our bodies, it´s also vital to look after our mental health.

I mention this because I know there are so many busy, high-achieving people caught in that same cycle of struggle with stress, overwhelm and overeating.

The extra weight is often not only about what we eat but also about what drives us to eat more than our bodies need. We need to find out what we REALLY need when we overeat, and what is eating us.

I’m grateful that my journey brought me here. To share with others that there is a better way. To show them that balance is better than perfection.

I want to help other overwhelmed people break free of their emotional eating.

My food choices are not driven by my emotional state anymore. I don’t use food to release stress or make myself feel better.

Food is only needed to fuel and nourish me, and to give me pleasure. 

I want the same for other smart, busy people too.

If you want to see the main areas I work with my clients check out my free masterclass here showing my 6-step strategy to overcome emotional eating. 

The challenges the business is facing

Here is what I see. People often don’t take their relationship with food seriously. They think their overeating habit is only an inconvenience. What they don’t realise is that it affects not only their weight but their health, their confidence, and their self-worth too.

People often think that they just need to find a new diet to lose the weight they gained due to emotional or stress eating. They make plans that they will eat salad for lunch, eat a healthier snack in the afternoon and start to do some kind of exercise. 

But they don’t address the real issue that they overeat when they are stressed, overwhelmed, bored, sad, lonely, or anxious, or even when they are happy. 

Too often, successful people deny themselves the help and support that could make their lives easier because they think they can figure it out themselves (but they don’t have time to do so) or don’t feel “deserving” of it, or because they have trouble making their needs a priority.

High-achieving people often believe that they have to work harder and harder to maintain their success, but if stress and overwhelm are not addressed, this overload leads to exhaustion, food cravings, overeating, and weight gain (or even burnout and depression in the long run). 

Then they try to lose weight using the latest popular diet and always fail. Even if they lose weight they gain it back because the emotional component is not addressed. 

When the diet is over or when life becomes too hectic they turn to food again. Consequently, after many attempts, they are sceptical, discouraged, unmotivated and tired to try anything new. 

They are probably not even aware that a coach could help them find out what triggers them to overeat and teach them how to react to those situations differently so they can disconnect their mood from food.  

As smart, busy people have no time to take care of themselves, they need someone to keep them accountable until their new habits become ingrained and automatic.

The opportunities the business is facing

In addition to the usual overwhelm that a successful, busy person may experience, the current economic and political situations make everyone’s life more stressful than usual. 

People adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the increased stress, such as over- or undereating, drinking, smoking, drugs, gambling, impulsive spending, etc. Although these strategies may help relieve the stress for a while, in the long run, they make you feel worse.

As coaching becomes more recognized people realize that they need a coach to help them when they struggle with their health or weight.

As a result of the pandemic, there has been an increased focus on health and wellness, leading to a boom in the field of health coaching.

Due to the broader adoption of telehealth or virtual coaching, insurance companies are embracing and covering clients’ work with board-certified health coaches more than ever before.

According to Forbes: “Health coaching is a relatively new field, with a chief regulatory body that was just formed in 2012. But with a plethora of innovative and flexible options for practice that enable coaches not only to work around their own busy schedules but also to meet clients wherever they are, health coaching now offers the potential for a thriving and fulfilling career.”

Businesswire reports that “The global weight management market reached a value of US$ 470 Billion in 2021. Looking forward, the publisher expects the market to reach US$ 684.5 Billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 6.47% during 2021-2027.”

Advice to others about business

If you think being an entrepreneur is less stressful that being a scientist, think again. But if you’re passionate about a topic and there is a niche that you can serve, you will get great satisfaction from your efforts. And you work for yourself instead of a others.