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.
What Is Stress Hunger
First, lets think about stress hunger. This is when you are not physically hungry but your emotions, in response to stress, are trying to tell you otherwise.
You seek out comfort foods to provide relief to what is really an emotional or mental problem: negative, unhelpful stress and anxiety.
When stress hunger strikes, which type of foods do you crave:
- SALTY foods?
Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
Does The Program Really Work
Many FA members tried other solutions to get help with food addiction, including years of diets or exercise. FA offers a long-term answer. Abstinent members find freedom from addiction and maintain healthy weights. The number of people with years of unbroken abstinence continues to grow. Read the results of FA’s most recent member survey.
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Why Do We Eat To Cope With Stress
Often, when trying to manage stress and anxiety we turn immediately to food. We feel a sudden, insatiable craving for sugary, fatty foods. Ice cream and potato chips! Eating is a way to turn off the over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system by activating the parasympathetic system.
Simply put, eating is a method to distract the mind and body away from the stress and associated symptoms. For example, blood flows towards the digestive organs, the breathing becomes slower, and the heart rate returns to normal. Unfortunately, this is only a quick fix, as food does not address route cause of your emotional reaction.
How do you tell if you are emotionally eating, or simply eating because you are hungry? Some tell-tale signs are mindlessly eating without focusing on how much or what you are consuming craving sugary, fatty foods which will give you an instant rush and afterwards there are often feelings of shame or guilt associated with eating such unhealthy food in such high quantities.
Because stress eating doesnt solve any of the underlying issues, and often causes more, its important to move away from it as a stress soothing technique. There are many other positive, healthy, and just as soothing methods to cope with stress.
Stress Eating Hormones And Hunger
Stress also seems to affect food preferences. Numerous studies granted, many of them in animals have shown that physical or emotional distress increases the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both. High cortisol levels, in combination with high insulin levels, may be responsible. Other research suggests that ghrelin, a “hunger hormone,” may have a role.
Once ingested, fat- and sugar-filled foods seem to have a feedback effect that dampens stress related responses and emotions. These foods really are “comfort” foods in that they seem to counteract stress and this may contribute to people’s stress-induced craving for those foods.
Of course, overeating isn’t the only stress-related behavior that can add pounds. Stressed people also lose sleep, exercise less, and drink more alcohol, all of which can contribute to excess weight.
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Alternatives To Emotional Eating
If youre depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or cherished memento.
If youre anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.
If youre exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
If youre bored, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy .
Why Do We Stress Eat
Psychological factors naturally play an important role in why we stress eat. Many people eat when theyre stressed to help provide temporary relief from unpleasant emotions. After all, when we eat something we love, it can spark feel-good hormones called endorphins.
For some, food can help fill an emotional void because it provides a guarantee. When we eat comfort foods, we know what flavors, textures, and feelings to expect while we eat it. This may be a pleasant contrast to the uncontrollable factors that cause daily stress.
However, when stress-eating becomes a regular occurrence, there may also be other hormones influencing our eating behavior.
During stress, the brain responds with a series of mechanisms designed to help the body return to its pre-stress state. The HPA axis is the primary operator of the brains response to stress. Specifically, the HPA axis connects the brain to the liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands which are collectively known as the endocrine system. When a stressful event occurs, the adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol.
Normally, cortisol levels fluctuate with a steady decline throughout the day. Cortisol helps boost the bodys daily supply of energy by mustering glucose and fatty acids from the liver. However, cortisol levels spike when a stressful or threatening event occurs to supply extra energy for dealing with the stressor.
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Eating Feels So Good So Whats The Big Deal
Right now you may be thinking there is no way that anything could be more comforting than a giant warm cinnamon roll oozing with icing or a heaping plate of pasta carbonara, but Albers assures us that food is only a short-term solution to stress and can even be a factor in more stress in the long term. Immediately food works to comfort and soothe yourself we wouldnt do it if it didnt give us benefits, right? But without another alternative, non-food coping mechanism, emotional eating can lead to excess weight gain. Some experts indicate that emotional eating is linked to 75 percent of overeating. So, for many women, just finding a way to cope with emotional eating will make a huge difference to their waistlines and health.
Stress Eating There Are Ways To Cope And Change The Way You Think About Food
A bright spot is that people who are serious and committed can overcome ingrained bad eating habits.
Trying to talk yourself into reaching for just five or six M& Ms instead of the entire bag the next time you feel stressed and anxious? How about aiming to reach for a cookie instead of a cupcake when you get home, frustrated and exhausted?
Any rationale for coping with and overcoming unhealthy eating habits especially over-eating high-fat, high-sugar and highly processed food as a stress reliever requires a full-scale change of mindset, desire, and behaviors, experts say.
Stress eating is poor stress management, says Sylvia Herbozo, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and surgery and director of the Body Image and Eating Behaviors Lab at the University of Illinois-Chicagos College of Medicine.
Breaking the link between stress and eating as a relief from stress is the way to go, she said.
How is that possible, especially after a lifetime of what experts call emotional eating?
The first step is to recognize that emotional eating stress eating and binge eating springs from psychological underpinnings. It often starts at a young age, especially if children turn to food for comfort and then eat poorly snarfing potato chips for breakfast or downing soda pop for lunch and dinner.
To make the dilemma even more excruciating, fast food and unhealthy, highly processed foods are everywhere.
Stress is ubiquitous, too.
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Take 5 Before You Give In To A Craving
Emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realize what youre doing, youve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when youre hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.
Can you put off eating for five minutes? Or just start with one minute. Dont tell yourself you cant give in to the craving remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait.
While youre waiting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Whats going on emotionally? Even if you end up eating, youll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.
What To Eat When Youre Stressed
The urge to stress eat makes it tough to make mindful choices, but fighting that urge can prove beneficial to keeping your emotions in check. Rheumatologist Magdalena Cadet recommends eating any foods rich in zinc , magnesium and vitamin E to help with stress reduction. Sunflower seeds and legumes like chickpeas are great starting points, she suggested.
Ostrower, who documented her personal battle with pandemic-induced stress eating on social media, attests, A diet rich in natural whole foods and absent of the packaged processed stuff, can be a strong ally in fending off stress. After one day of mindful and conscious food choices, feelings of clarity and strength slowly returned.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna and walnuts have been known to help with combating stress since, according to Cadet, they can reduce inflammation in the body and help prevent spikes in blood pressure. Based on their similar stress-busting capabilities, Cadet suggests opting for flaxseed, soybean or canola oil when cooking and is also a fan of sweet potatoes and other nutrient-rich complex carbohydrates for their ability to lower cortisol levels and provide adequate vitamin C and potassium, which are important stress fighters.
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How To Manage Stress Eating
Coronavirus-related anxiety and changes in your routine may have turned your usual eating habits upside down. Here are some tips to help.
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The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything most of us have ever experienced.
One of the many things changing: How we eat. A lot of us are either eating more than we usually do, or not at all.
With most people, the first thing to go when were stressed is self-care, said Jennifer Wegmann, lecturer in health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, and author of the audio series Resilience: The New Science of Mastering Stress and Living Well. When Dr. Wegmann says self-care, she doesnt mean things like massages and manicures, but the true basics: exercise, sleep and eating. We let go of those things first because we think we need to be better for other people.
Those affected by anxiety are the most likely to stop eating, said Debra Kissen, chief executive of Light on Anxiety CBT Treatment Center and member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. This goes back to our ancient ancestors. When youre about to be eaten by a lion, and you either need to fight or take flight, its not really efficient for your gut to be digesting food. Its a waste of energy, she said.
Change What Youre Eating
Make sure youre eating all day properly. A balanced diet will keep you satisfied and can help boost your mood. By eating healthy, youll curb cravings between meals, says Alpert. Make sure each meal is rich in protein and well-balanced. Healthy snacks between meals will also help to maintain a healthy level of metabolism and energy levels. If need be, consult a dietitian or nutritionist for advice.
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Why Dont You Publish The Fa Food Plan Online
Because recovery from food addiction is more than just a diet, the FA program is passed down individually from sponsor to sponsee. This gives those starting out in recovery a lifeline of daily support. The result is not just a food plan but real help with food addiction. Diets ultimately fail. Recovery from food addiction can be sustained for decades within the FA program.
Get Down To The Root Cause
A bad day at work or a fight with a friend are short-term issues. But emotional eating can stem from bigger issues, too. These include chronic stress, long-term anger, depression and other concerns. If these apply to you, you may benefit from counseling, stress management, exercise and other techniques.
The strategies outlined here can help. But ultimately, you need to identifyand address the true source of your emotional eating.
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How To Manage Emotional Eating
Step 1: Identify the SOURCE
Before you reach for the pantry door, pause and reflect :
you feeling physical hunger or stress hunger?
Step 2: Take ACTION!
- and filling.)
- If youre dealing with stress hunger, FEEL IT & RELEASE IT!
There is a handout I give during the workshop to make this a little easier. You can download it by clicking below!
Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress
Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Here are some healthy ways you can deal with stress:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Its good to be informed but hearing about the traumatic event constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
- Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditateexternal icon.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
- Continue with routine preventive measures as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible get a booster shot if you are age 18 or older.
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Why Dont Fa Members Eat Flour And Sugar Cant People In Fa Have Just One Piece Of Something On A Special Occasion
Sugar and flour trigger uncontrollable cravings for food addicts. Despite their best intentions, food addicts always end up losing control when it comes to flour and sugar. The FA solution is to avoid sugar and flour completely, one day at a time. The FA food plan includes everything necessary for a healthy diet.
Stress Relief: How Diet And Lifestyle Can Help
Stress is a common problem that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. There are many factors that bring stress upon the body external pressures such as work or family responsibilities, and internal influences what we eat and how our digestive, immune and nervous systems are functioning.
The good news is that there are plenty of simple lifestyle changes that we can make to help us to manage our stress levels. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed or struggling to cope, help is available visit the NHS website or speak to your GP.
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What Is Harm Reduction
Why do I call this harm reduction? And why do I think its wise to indulge a craving, in moderation, from time to time?
Because when we deprive ourselves of something, we risk setting up the urge to binge!
With harm reduction, we set ourselves up to minimize the harm!
Let me know some of the strategies you have used when your emotions and stress levels compel you to eat. Share them in the comment box below!
~ To Living Well Today! ~
Identify Your Emotional Eating Triggers
The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is identifying your personal triggers. What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food? Most emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, but it can also be triggered by positive emotions, such as rewarding yourself for achieving a goal or celebrating a holiday or happy event.
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Why Restrictive Food Rules Don’t Always Solve Emotional Eating
Kilpatrick says that the two main reasons addressing emotional eating with restrictive food rules just doesn’t work for most people are:
“If I asked you about all of the areas of your life where you successfully exhibit self-control, you’d likely have quite a list going by the time you were done,” says Kilpatrick. “The reality is that, most of the time, emotional eating has nothing to do with a lack of self-control. In fact, you probably have plenty of it! And since food rules are all about encouraging self-control, it’s not surprising that they don’t always solve emotional eating in the long run.”
And, when it comes to emotional eating, the habit of eating usually isn’t the problem, either. Remember, eating is human nature! Wanting comfort food is human nature! Instead, the real issue is the uncomfortable emotion you’re feeling that’s causing you to turn to food as a coping mechanism.
“Unless you target the underlying emotion that’s causing you to eat in a way that’s productive and that actually addresses the emotion itself you’re more likely to continue to find yourself struggling to overcome emotional eating,” says Kilpatrick.