Why We Eat To Cope With Emotions
When we experience negative emotions, we want to fill that void somehow to feel better, and food is something that can fill that void.
The problem with this is that food is only a temporary fix, and using food to cope with negative emotions can create an unhealthy relationship with food, weight issues, etc.
Hormones can also play a role in emotional eating. When were under stress, this increases cortisol levels , which may increase cravings for food .
Some of the tips below are proactive tips to help you manage stress. Youll also find some tips you can use when youre on the verge of stress eating.
What Is Emotional Eating
Emotional eating or stress eating is using food to fill emotional needs and make yourself feel good. Unfortunately, emotional eating does not correct or fix emotional issues. Truth be told, it typically makes you feel worse. After that, not exclusively does the main emotional problem remain. Yet, you also think remorseful for overeating and other bad eating habits. This cycle can put your mental health in danger.
Successfully Managing Stress May Help Control Weight
While stress is an inevitable part of life for many people, the weight gain that can accompany it isnt. Changing your response to stress and adopting strategies to reduce it can keep the numbers on your scale from moving in the wrong direction, says Dr. Stanford.
These five strategies may help:
Burn off tension. Exercise is a crucial component of stress management, because physical activity can actually reduce cortisol levels. But you will find excuses to avoid workouts if you dread them. Finding an activity you love your “soulmate workout,” as Dr. Stanford calls it can help you maintain the regular physical activity you need in order to dissolve daily stress. For some people it might be yoga, for others, high-intensity exercise or a combination of the two.
Prioritize sleep. A lack of sleep can increase the amount of stress hormones circulating in your body. So ensuring you get enough restful slumber is crucial to managing stress effectively. “Avoid screen time at least an hour prior to bedtime,” says Dr. Stanford. This includes your smartphone. The blue light emitted by smartphones can interfere with sleep.
Talk to your doctor. If youre having problems coping with stress or controlling emotional eating, talk to your primary care physician. He or she may be able to refer you to a health coach, support services, or an obesity specialist. Medications might help some people, but these must be taken long-term or you may regain lost weight.
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Comfort In The Moment Can Be Consequential In The Future
Often, what we eat for contentment increases physical and mental stress. Those sluggish, tired or foggy feelings that follow an overindulgent meal are no accident, and the side effects are far from comforting.
Judith Joseph, a psychiatrist and professor at New York University, has noticed an uptick in patients cooking more decadent foods that remind them of happier times during the pandemic. She warns, however, that typical comfort foods like fried and sugary dishes boost a chemical in our brain called dopamine, so initially it feels really good eating these things. But those good feelings are short-lived, Joseph reminds us, because these foods can cause unhealthy spikes in insulin and lead to a buildup of unhealthy cholesterol in your organs, which puts stress on the body and brain.
We reach for the usual comfort food suspects because they initially help us feel better, but they all cause stress in the bodys organs and ultimately end up making things worse, Joseph said. In order to tap into foods ability to control angst, Joseph advises choosing healthy foods as an important component of self-care that can lead to decreased anxiety.
I Cant Stop Stress Eating
Weve all done it: you get dumped, or things are piling up at work, and suddenly that freshly bought pint of Ben & Jerrys is empty. Now you feel guilty for eating something badwhich only stresses you out more!
Stress eating, also called emotional eatingor just eating your feelingsis pretty much what it sounds like: eating because youre stressed, not because youre hungry. You probably already know that overeating can be a health risk, and thats not helpingso what can you do now?
There are two main things to think about here: managing your stress level, and maintaining a good relationship with food.
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What Can We Do At The Moment
It may not be as easy as it sounds, but when youre feeling stressed and crave food as a distraction, you have better options. Reducing sources of stress is one major part of managing stress. Finding productive ways to cope with stress is the other, Dennett tells us. When feeling the urge to stress eat, it can help to ask, What do I need right now? What you need isnt a box of cookies, per se, its to feel calmer, which is a perfectly legitimate need!
This goes back to the act of mindfulness and asking yourself why youre going to eat what youre reaching for. If its not true hunger but an emotional resolve, take a step back. Then you can ask yourself what tools are at your disposal to soothe and calm yourself. You might decide that a walk, some meditation, a favorite movie, a talk with a friend, or cuddle time with a pet or partner will meet your needs. If you always reach for food when youre stressed, youve formed a habit around it and may not even be considering other options, Dennett explains.
Is This The Same As Binge Eating
Binge eating is defined as consuming an excess amount of food in a limited period of time, so overeating due to stress could be considered a form of binge eating. Binge eating disorder , however, is classified by having at least one episode of binge eating a week for three consecutive months. Patients suffering from BED show complete loss of control and breakdown of emotion and impulse regulation, which may seem similar to the feeling one gets while stress eating, but is more extreme. One major difference between the two is that individuals with BED have shown an improved mood after a binge, whereas those sporadically binging because of stress do not. The fact that the mood improves in binge-eating is responsible for the chronic nature of the binges.
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Consume A More Colorful Diet
According to new research from Edith Cowan University, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with less stress. In a study of over 8600 adults in Australia, it was found that those who ate at least 470 grams of fruit and vegetables per day which is somewhere around five average servings experienced 10 percent lower stress levels than those who consumed less than 230 grams, or just over two average servings.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that are linked to lower levels of inflammation, which can impact mood. These healthy foods also add fiber and can contribute to your daily hydration needs. Try creative ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, such as blending them into your protein shakes to add delicious flavor and texture, or mixing different fruits into a fruit salad or a mix of veggies in a stir-fry. The flavors play off one another, and the beautiful colors add appeal.
Finally, be kind to yourself and give yourself time to work on your stress eating. If you find that these tactics arent working for you, ask your health care provider if counseling or group support might be helpful for you.
Recognize Your Emotional Eating Patterns To Avoid Stress Eating
In order to understand how to stop stress eating, its helpful to recognize your personal triggers: when, where, and why youre eating.Dr. Sherry Pagoto from the University of Massachusetts Medical Schoolrecommends keeping a food journal and recording your reason for eating right alongside the list of what you ate.
You can also try the H.A.L.T. method for helping you identify what you feel when you eat. When you track these emotions alongside your food intake, youll start to see the patterns in your eating behavior. Do you always end up binging on potato chips after a difficult day at work? Do you tend to eat ice cream at night when youre feeling lonely?
The tendency to eat in stressful times is a learned response: the more often you use food to cope with stress, the stronger the habit becomes. Eating high-fat, high-sugar foods reinforce this association between food and comfort, according to a2015 study from the University of California Davis. Once you recognize this pattern, though, you can take steps to change it and better control your stress eating.
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Tips To Stop Stress Eating At Night
Many people tend to stress eat at night and this may be due to a number of factors. Daytime stress can affect your body by causing it to release hormones like cortisol which increase appetite with a preference for comfort food. Studies also conclude that afternoon and evening may be a high-risk period for overeating especially when stress is involved.
The following tips can help you focus on how to stop stress eating at night:
- Eat a healthy snack in the evening that contains protein.
- Find an activity you can do in the evening that occupies your hands like knitting, drawing, or even cleaning!
- Be sure to eat adequately during the day.
- Get a good night of sleep by creating a bedtime routine that includes creating a peaceful ambiance in your room and going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
Work On Your Coping Skills
Every time you eat in response to stress, its just a reminder that you cant cope with your emotions. When the urge to stress-eat strikes, try asking yourself, Whats the worst thing that will happen if I dont eat?
Yes, your stress level might rise a bit for a minute, but the feeling will pass, and its probably not nearly as bad as you thought it would be. Practice tolerating your emotions or finding other ways to deal with your stress.
If you feel the need to eat, try hard, crunchy foods they help relieve stress by putting tight jaw muscles to work. Try snacking on a handful of almonds, soy nuts, or baby carrots.
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Other Ways To Reduce Stress
Meditation is a great way to calm your mind, plus its free and you can do it anywhere, anytime.
Yoga may help with practicing mindfulness not only is it a great form of exercise but it incorporates meditation to slow down and calm the body and mind.
Get outside for fresh air and to connect with nature.
Good quality sleepis of utmost importance for long term health and regeneration. Few people can function properly with less than seven or eight hours of sleep per night.
Regular, gentle exercise is very beneficial for relieving stress and decreasing negative emotions such as worry or anxiety. However, for people with significantly depleted adrenal hormones, intensive cardiovascular exercise may further deplete adrenal reserves.
Regular relaxation needs to be built into daily life. Reading, having a bath, getting a massage or listening to music are great ways to promote relaxation.
Counselling or other therapies may be beneficial for those having to cope in the face of severe stressors.
If you are feeling stressed and anxious, do not disregard it. Seek advice from your GP or health professional.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist with a post-graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years, she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
Why We Eat When Were Stressed
Stress triggers our bodys fight or flight response that releases a hormone called cortisol into our blood stream. Cortisol increases hunger because the body craves energy to combat whatever stressor we may be facing. We especially turn towards junk food because our body craves energy-dense foods that are high in calories, sugar, and fat. Unfortunately, these foods actually increase stress further and contribute to weight gain.
Being overwhelmed by stress can also disrupt normal eating habits because eating diverts our attention away from the thoughts we want to avoid. This may provide temporary distraction and comfort, but it doesnt solve the underlying stress-causing problems. Studies have shown that stress levels do not decrease after overeating, and binging on junk food can actually cause more anxiety.
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How Can I Stop Stress Eating
Helping your body relax will help stop your bodys response to stress, and will ultimately curb your stress eating. Try to identify stressful situations and avoid them when possible.
Sometimes, stress cant be avoided. Job worries, financial problems, busy schedules, and other commitments can contribute to rising stress. People may also experience stress internally, when they are not living up to their own expectations related to values, goals and self-image.
Here are some tips for managing stress:
How Stress Affects The Body
Stress triggers a set of biological responses including:
- The release of stress hormones from your adrenal glands adrenaline and cortisol
- An increase in blood sugar
- Rising blood pressure
- Rapid heart beat
All these responses, known as fight or flight, are designed to help you meet physical challenges that threaten your survival when faced with stress . The trouble is, in todays high stress culture, the stress response continually remains on full alert and the body does not have a chance to recover.
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Does Stress Causes Hunger
You have both physical and psychological relationships with food. Your physical relationship with food is based on the types of foods you choose to eat, your eating behavior, or habits and how your body responds biologically to your diet. Your psychological, or emotional, relationship with food is based on how you think about food, how you use food for reasons other than to relieve hunger, and how food relates your body image, or the way you feel about how you look.
Sometimes you eat to satisfy true hunger, to fulfill a physical need to eat and survive. At other times, such as when you stress-eat, you eat to satisfy your appetite, or your desire for a particular type of food, because you believe it will provide relief. Thats a psychological, or emotional, need that generally has nothing to do with actual hunger. Emotional hunger is a driving response to overwhelming feelings and emotions.
Of course, if youre hungry and stressed at the same time, you may well be eating to satisfy true hunger, adds Allison. But, at the same time, you may choose fast food or a sweet dessert over something more nutritious because, at that moment, youre not trying to eat healthfully.
What Is Stress Eating And Why Does It Happen
Stress eating happens when we rely on food to cope with strong emotions. Typically triggered by stress, anger or sadness, we tend to overeat when stress eating because we are eating to deal with our emotions rather than in response to physical hunger.
There are both physiological and psychological reasons for stress eating. In stressful situations, our brain sends out cortisol, which is primarily responsible for our fight-or-flight response. Higher cortisol levels may also lead to increased appetite. This, coupled with the comfort that our favourite snacks give us, may explain why we stress eat.
Which Foods Help Stress
Thankfully, there are some foods which can help to reduce your stress levels and improve your wellbeing. Vitamin B-rich foods like salmon and broccoli are proven to reduce stress while dark chocolate is proven to lower levels of stress hormones in the body meaning you will be not only less stressed but overall more healthy too.
There are also lots of ways you can manage stress with exercise, as working out releases feel-good hormones called endorphins which are proven to reduce stress, not to mention the fact that a tough gym workout can be a great way to relieve stress physically by doing boxing or something similar.
Two: Notice How Youre Feeling
A great first step is to simply realize you are a spiritual being having a human experience.
You and the power breathing you are more powerful than any circumstance, situation or condition.
This disempowering behavior doesnt have control over you. You can start a shift by simply staying awake to whats going on around you and in your life when you notice the craving begin.
You can also pause and ask yourself a series of powerful questions.
Youll start to see patterns of when and how youve taken comfort in food when you felt uncomfortable emotions. Just take a moment to pause, and get curious. What are you feeling in that moment? Simply notice what youre noticing, and write it down.
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Dont Skimp On Water Or Sleep
Its not uncommon to confuse dehydration or being tired with hunger or a food craving, considering that the sensations feel pretty similar. When you dont drink enough water, your body will start relying on its stored sugar for energy, giving you a hankering for something sweetwhen all you need is H20. And when you’re tired, you’ll itch for an energy boost from food even if you’re not actually hungry .
So before turning to snacks, hit the hay if it’s your bedtime. . To see if you’re just dehydrated, “Have a few sips of water to see if that will do the trick first,” says Goldman. If you are truly hungry, water will not be enough, she points out, so definitely eat something if you don’t feel satisfied and more energized.