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How to Tackle Stress Eating

How to Tackle Stress Eating

We have all been there before. The boss criticizes something at work, or our schedule suddenly becomes full of tight deadlines. The kids are having a rough day and acting up. A new potential love connection isn’t texting back. We didn’t get enough sleep last night and can’t seem to concentrate. All of these circumstances quickly snowball and eventually we seek comfort - in pizza. 

When stressed out, the body’s adrenal glands release cortisol - a hormone that also increases appetite. (This is also one of the reasons why sleep is so important for weight loss.) Eating a comforting food is a way to quickly change the feeling of discomfort and stress into something positive. Unfortunately this also means we are less likely to choose a healthy snack and opt for a higher-calorie “comfort food” like pizza, ice cream, chocolate, fried foods - take your pick! 

What is the best way to get these stress-eating urges under control? These steps will help you assess what is going on in your mind in order to combat the root of the anxiety connected to emotional eating, and help you overcome it. 

How to Overcome Emotional Eating

Wait 5 minutes
Often we give in to temptations because we don’t pause to consider whether we’re reaching for food because we are actually hungry or seeking comfort. The next time you open the fridge or cupboard for a snack, think to yourself: Am I really hungry? Waiting just 5 minutes before sticking your arm in the bag of potato chips may give you enough time to choose an apple or crunchy cucumber slices instead. It may even cause you to realize you aren’t actually hungry at all.

Focus on your feelings
There are many times that an alcoholic drink or comfort food is sought because it helps us to avoid the real issue that is bothering us. Instead of avoiding what is causing the stress, ask yourself if there’s another solution to combat those feelings. Can you go for a walk around the block, write down your feelings in your journal, have a cup of tea, or do a 5 minute meditation instead? 

Write it down
Start a diary of your food habits including each time you eat, what you ate, and how you felt. After a week or two you may notice a pattern that emerges. Is there a certain time of day that you wander into the kitchen for a snack? Is there a certain emotion connected to indulgences? Keep track of your eating habits and you will be able to find a better way to prevent overeating from happening.

Drink water

Another simple tactic that will help combat stress: hydration! When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, reach for a big glass of water with a packet of True Lemon before you start snacking. You may realize that the water satiates your appetite and actually helps calm you down. Bonus points for taking a big, deep breath after you finish.

Try mindful eating
Mindful eating
is a way to focus on your food and take your time so that you can taste and enjoy every bite, and allow your body to absorb as many nutrients as possible. The next time you feel stressed out try focused, mindful eating. It will be much easier to make healthy choices.

Shrink the portion
If you run through these steps and realize that the only thing that will make you feel better is ice cream or pizza, simply make the portion smaller. Rather than eating a whole pint of ice cream, put a couple of scoops into a bowl and eat it mindfully so that you can fully enjoy it. Put away the rest of the pizza in the fridge before you sit down to enjoy two slices. This will satisfy the craving without overindulging

Be kind to yourself
If you do give in to your cravings, don’t be too hard on yourself. Stress and anxiety are difficult to overcome, especially in the turmoil of the moment. Take a moment to reset and remind yourself that you can start fresh tomorrow. You will feel much better if you stay kind to yourself and practice compassion. 

When we eat under stress, we aren’t thinking about the long-term consequences of our choices. We are seeking an immediate relief - comfort - in the form of food. However, if trying to maintain a balanced diet or lose weight, applying some of these steps will help you disconnect food from emotions and stress and reconnect it with health, positivity, and happiness.


[Credit: Migala, Jessica. “5 Ways to Stop Stress Eating From Taking Over Your BrainHealth.” Daily Burn.]