Learn To Accept Your Feelingseven The Bad Ones
While it may seem that the core problem is that youre powerless over food, emotional eating actually stems from feeling powerless over your emotions. You dont feel capable of dealing with your feelings head on, so you avoid them with food.
Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary. You may fear that, like Pandoras box, once you open the door you wont be able to shut it. But the truth is that when we dont obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention.
To do this you need to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. This can enable you to rein in stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating. HelpGuides free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit can show you how.
How To Deal With Stress Eating
The one thing that I struggled with for years was how to deal with stress eating.
Most of the time, I wouldnt even think about it, and before I knew it, the quart of ice cream was gone, or I ate a king-sized Milky Way bar.
So I decided to do a little research on just how many people in the United States alone stress eat.
According to the American Psychological Association
[ Thirty-eight percent of adults say they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods in the past month because of stress. Half of these adults report engaging in these behaviors weekly or more.
Thirty-three percent of adults who report overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress say they do so because it helps distract them from stress.
Twenty-seven percent of adults say they eat to manage stress, and 34 percent of those who report overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress say this behavior is a habit. ]
How Does Stress Affect Your Appetite
Studies show that women with high chronic stress levels tend to engage in emotional eating. In addition to psychological responses to stress, there may also be physiological responses. During a stressful event, the body releases cortisol, a hormone that helps the body protect itself. However, if cortisol levels are elevated for a prolonged period of time, such as during repeated and constant stressors, this can lead to increased food consumption, fat storage and weight gain.
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Swap Out Your Worst Snacks
If you dont have a giant bag of greasy chips at your fingertips, you cant eat the whole bag. Thats good, because overeating processed snacks can raise your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
If you need a salty snack, stock popcorn instead. Youll get the whole grains that are one important source of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Youll also get antioxidants to boost your immune system and far fewer calories than chips. Roasted chickpeas are another great crunchy option with protein and fiber to fill you up.
If stress, anger or sadness trigger your sweet tooth, remember this: The sugar high comes with a low afterward. This low can lead to increased cravings later. And, sweets and processed foods can even make certain mental concerns, including symptoms of depression, worse.
As an alternative to your favorite candy, cake or pies, Kippen recommends keeping a bowl of sweet fruit out in the open. .
I also suggest keeping frozen berries on hand that can quickly be throwninto a blender to make a healthy sorbet, she says.
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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Choose Foods That Fight Stress
Have you ever wondered why people offer hot tea in emotional situations? It turns out theres more to it than soothing steam. Tea often contains helpful antioxidants. And green tea, matcha tea and white tea contain an amino acid called L-theanine that may help reduce stress levels.
If you tend to snack late at night, try dark cherries. Not only do they offer a sweet treat, but they also help increase natural levels of melatonin to help you sleep. Likewise, salmon and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help with sleep.
The list goes on: Dark chocolate , whole grains, nuts,legumes, and fruits and vegetables all have a part to play in maintaining ahealthy mind. The key is stocking up on foods that help with your stress oremotions, and avoiding processed junk that might make you feel worse, Kippensays.
Indulge Without Overeating By Savoring Your Food
When you eat to feed your feelings, you tend to do so quickly, mindlessly consuming food on autopilot. You eat so fast you miss out on the different tastes and textures of your foodas well as your bodys cues that youre full and no longer hungry. But by slowing down and savoring every bite, youll not only enjoy your food more but youll also be less likely to overeat.
Slowing down and savoring your food is an important aspect of mindful eating, the opposite of mindless, emotional eating. Try taking a few deep breaths before starting your food, putting your utensils down between bites, and really focusing on the experience of eating. Pay attention to the textures, shapes, colors and smells of your food. How does each mouthful taste? How does it make your body feel?
Practice mindful eating
Eating while youre also doing other thingssuch as watching TV, driving, or playing with your phonecan prevent you from fully enjoying your food. Since your mind is elsewhere, you may not feel satisfied or continue eating even though youre no longer hungry. Eating more mindfully can help focus your mind on your food and the pleasure of a meal and curb overeating. See Mindful Eating.
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Tips To Avoid Stress Eating For A Better Diet And A Healthy Heart
Chronic stress can contribute to heart disease. Compensating for stress by eating makes it worse. The good news is that we can avoid stress eating with some simple steps. This helps your diet, waistline and heart.
Eating during stressful times helps us deal with feelings. Those feelings could include:
Tips To Manage Stress Eating
Have you ever felt like eating a piece of chocolate cake or a bag of chips after a stressful day at work? If so, youre not alone. Studies show that stressful events activate systems associated with metabolism, cognition and reward.
What does this mean for your waistline? It means that the candy bar you are reaching for after a stressful event may be driven by a combination of physiological and psychological factors.
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Find Other Ways To Feed Your Feelings
If you dont know how to manage your emotions in a way that doesnt involve food, you wont be able to control your eating habits for very long. Diets so often fail because they offer logical nutritional advice which only works if you have conscious control over your eating habits. It doesnt work when emotions hijack the process, demanding an immediate payoff with food.
In order to stop emotional eating, you have to find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally. Its not enough to understand the cycle of emotional eating or even to understand your triggers, although thats a huge first step. You need alternatives to food that you can turn to for emotional fulfillment.
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The Emotional Eating Cycle
Occasionally using food as a pick-me-up, a reward, or to celebrate isnt necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanismwhen your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever youre stressed, upset, angry, lonely, exhausted, or boredyou get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.
Emotional hunger cant be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before because of the unnecessary calories youve just consumed. You beat yourself for messing up and not having more willpower.
Compounding the problem, you stop learning healthier ways to deal with your emotions, you have a harder and harder time controlling your weight, and you feel increasingly powerless over both food and your feelings. But no matter how powerless you feel over food and your feelings, it is possible to make a positive change. You can learn healthier ways to deal with your emotions, avoid triggers, conquer cravings, and finally put a stop to emotional eating.
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Reach Out For Support
If you think you might have extreme or unhealthy responses to stress, consider going to a trusted family member, friend or counselor for help. Having a strong support system is key for dealing with negative emotions and getting through difficult situations. You don’t have to face emotional eating alone speak with a healthcare professional if you think you have a more serious stress eating problem.
Support Yourself With Healthy Lifestyle Habits
When youre physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, youre better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. But when youre already exhausted and overwhelmed, any little hiccup has the potential to send you off the rails and straight toward the refrigerator. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without emotional eating.
- Make daily exercise a priority.Physical activity does wonders for your mood and energy levels, and its also a powerful stress reducer. And getting into the exercise habit is easier than you may think.
- Aim for 8 hours of sleep every night. When you dont get the sleep you need, your body craves sugary foods that will give you a quick energy boost. Getting plenty of rest will help with appetite control and reduce food cravings.
- Make time for relaxation.Give yourself permission to take at least 30 minutes every day to relax, decompress, and unwind. This is your time to take a break from your responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
- Connect with others. Dont underestimate the importance of close relationships and social activities. Spending time with positive people who enhance your life will help protect you from the negative effects of stress.
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Maintain A Healthy Meal Schedule
You shouldnt change your normal eating schedule just because youre stuck at home. If youre used to having three meals a day, try to continue that schedule while youre working from home. The same goes for if you typically consume only two meals and a snack.
Though its easy to stray from your normal dietary pattern when your day-to-day schedule gets disrupted, its important to maintain some semblance of normalcy when it comes to eating.
You may find yourself adapting your eating pattern to accommodate your new normal, and thats OK. Just try to maintain a regular eating pattern based on your individual needs and your preferred eating times.
If youre really thrown off and find yourself constantly snacking, try making a schedule that includes at least two solid meals per day and following it until you feel that you have become comfortably consistent with your eating habits.
Ways To Stop Stress Eating
The key to getting rid of emotional eating is to slow down, identify what’s causing the craving, and make gradual changes. Try to keep those “temptation foods” in the back of the pantry where you can see them, and bring the healthy items front and center. You know your body and mind better than anyone else, so maybe that “out of sight, out of mind” mentality works best for you and keeping junk food out of the house is best. Make sure to eat three balanced meals daily and avoid skipping meals, as this can lead to overeating later on in the day. When it comes to any habit, it’s hard to quit something cold turkey and not replace it with another action. Find something else to do that’s more productive and can foster the creation of new healthy habits, like:
- Going for a walk
- Having a warm cup of tea
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Are You A Stress Eater
If you’re uncertain whether you are a stress eater, look for the following warning signs:
- You eat after an unpleasant experience, such as an argument, even if you do not feel hungry.
- Stress makes you feel hungry.
- You crave specific foods when you feel upset.
- When you’re bored and there is nothing else to do, you eat.
- Eating is the main activity that makes you feel better when you’re worried or facing a problem.
It is important to be aware that if you regularly eat large quantities of food until you are uncomfortably full and at times even nauseated, you may struggle with binge eating. In this case, you may want to consider speaking with your physician. If stress eating is your main issue, however, you may be able to manage it on your own.
Difficulty Dealing With Emotions
It is common for people to also struggle with difficult or uncomfortable feelings and emotions. There is an instinct or need to quickly fix or destroy these negative feelings, which can lead to unhealthy behaviors.
And emotional eating is not only linked to negative emotions. Eating a lot of candy at a fun Halloween party, or too much on Thanksgiving are examples of eating because of the holiday occasion itself.
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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.
Why Do People Stress Eat
Some research suggests a gender difference in stress-coping behavior, with women being more likely to turn to food and men to alcohol or smoking. And a Finnish study that included over 5,000 men and women showed that obesity was associated with stress-related eating in women but not in men.
Harvard researchers have reported that stress from work and other sorts of problems correlates with weight gain, but only in those who were overweight at the beginning of the study period. One theory is that overweight people have elevated insulin levels, and stress-related weight gain is more likely to occur in the presence of high insulin.
How much cortisol people produce in response to stress may also factor into the stressweight gain equation. In 2007, British researchers designed an ingenious study that showed that people who responded to stress with high cortisol levels in an experimental setting were more likely to snack in response to daily hassles in their regular lives than low-cortisol responders.
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Ways To Handle Stress Eating
In order to get control of stress eating, you have to control your stress levels. The best way to deal with stress is to address current situations head-on and, at the same time, learn to be prepared to handle stressful situations in the future before both the problem and your eating behavior get out of hand. These 5 steps can help you manage stress and avoid stress eating:
Know your stressors. Identify the circumstances and emotions that lead you to stress-eat. These are your emotional eating triggers, and once you recognize them, you can take steps to avoid them or at least be prepared for them.
Exercise to reduce stress. If youre physically fit, youre more resistant to the effects of stress.³ but, unfortunately, stress itself can prevent some people from taking steps, like exercising, that could make a difference in their mental and physical health. If your personal circumstances make it difficult for you to get to the gym or even do formal exercises at home, try to increase the amount of walking, gardening, cleaning and other lighter forms of movement and exercise you normally do from day to day.
Reach out for help. Talk out your feelings and your unhealthy responses to stress with close friends and family who can give you the support you need to get through tough situations. If you often feel guilt, shame or regret over your eating habits, you may want to speak with a professional counselor.