Keep A Food And Mood Journal
Keeping a food and mood journal that tracks what you eat and how you feel can be an effective tool. It can help identify potential emotional and food triggers and promote healthier eating habits.
One study in 17 people showed that using an online self-help program that involved keeping a food diary was associated with fewer self-reported episodes of binge eating .
Several other studies also suggest that tracking your intake may be linked to increased weight loss and aid long-term weight management .
To get started, simply start recording what you eat and how you feel each day using either a journal or app.
Summary Food and mood journals can help identify triggers to address potential problems. Studies show that using a food diary is associated with fewer episodes of binge eating, as well as increased weight loss.
Stress And Binge Eating: Why We Do It And How To Avoid It
Whether its an upcoming deadline at work or moving to a big city, stressful life events tend to trigger cravings for comfort food. Sitting in front of the TV with a cheeseburger and chocolate ice cream may seem like the easiest solution for emotional woes, but halfway through the pint of Rocky Road is when guilt and frustration usually set in. Eating is a common coping mechanism for stress, but studies have shown it does nothing to decrease stress levels and can lead to serious weight gain.
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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Choose Filling Nutritious Foods
Stocking your kitchen with filling, nutrient-dense foods can not only help improve your overall health but also combat the tendency to stress eat highly palatable foods.
For example, filling your fridge and pantry with foods that can help fill you up in a healthful way rather than foods rich in empty calories like candy, chips, and soda is a smart way to prevent the chances of noshing on unhealthy choices.
Filling foods are ones that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, and eggs are just some examples of nutritious, satisfying choices that can help fill you up and prevent overeating (
Strengths Limitations And Future Research
To our knowledge, the current study is one of the first to examine how the interaction between anxiety and stress may predict increased levels of binge eating tendencies on a within-person level. Past cross-sectional studies have observed that concurrently high anxiety and stress increase frequency of binge eating episodes in women with binge eating disorder , as well as women and high school students in the community. However, these relationships were examined individually, whereby anxiety and stress both simultaneously but separately increased incidence of binge eating. The current study contributes to the literature by highlighting that the two constructs combine to uniquely influence binge eating tendencies in an adolescent community sample.
In a similar vein, our use of self-report questionnaires may have impacted the accuracy of data provided due to self-report bias . However, self-perceived attitudes and tendenciesalbeit biasedare arguably central to the current studys hypotheses, which are rooted in feelings of affect, attitudes, and subjective perceptions. Thus, while limited to a certain degree, the use of self-reports in this study is arguably a strength through capturing participants personal psychological experiences of anxiety and stress, and their resulting impact on binge eating tendencies.
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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:
Emotional Eating And Binge Eating Disorder
Manouchehr Saljoughian, PharmD, PhDAlta Bates Summit Medical CenterBerkeley, California
US Pharm. 2021 46:36-38.
Emotional eating refers to the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotions. Eating is used as a way to suppress or soothe emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, or boredom. Emotional eating was first reported to be significantly related to bulimia, supporting the hypothesis that emotion is a factor in overeating in bulimic patients.1 Major life events or, more commonly, the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and disrupt weight-loss efforts. Emotional eating contributes to binge eating episodes, and persons with binge eating disorder have a significantly greater tendency to eat in response to negative circumstances.1
This column will briefly distinguish between binge eating and emotional eating and will discuss signs and symptoms, causes, and current medical and psychological treatments.
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Make Your House Healthy
Start with the obvious: If there is no junk food in the house, you can’t binge on it. Instead, keep unprocessed, low-calorie, low-fat foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, hummus, and unbuttered popcorn around for munching. And remember that theyâre not just for your kids. Set a good example for them by trying and enjoying healthier options.
Take a look at your refrigerator and pantry and cut down on your go-to temptations.
Before you go grocery shopping, take a breather, go for a walk, and wait until your emotions are in check.
Why Stress Can Cause Binge Eating
The concepts of stress binge-eating and comfort foods are real. In fact, there is a biological mechanism behind both. One moment youre stressed about a big deadline at work and the next thing you realize is that youve just downed a bag of chips and a pint of ice cream while staring at a television screen for two hours.
Following that pint of Mint Chip, feelings of guilt and frustration usually set in. While this may seem extreme, it is an actual problem that is prevalent today. Yet, contrary to popular belief, a recent news post from ABC News revealed that eating comfort foods doesnt actually lead to happiness according to new research1.
The phrase stress eating is a phenomenon that coincides with stress. Constant stress causes the body to release stress hormones like cortisol. The release of cortisol ups cravings and pushes people, especially those who are psychologically susceptible, to seek out comfort foods and over-eat. Stressors such as those from life or work can trigger physiological cravings for comfort food.
The American Psychological Association reported that in 2017 Americans were more likely to report experiencing stress symptoms such as anger, anxiety or fatigue2.
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.
Bring Out Your Inner Chef
Some good things come along with being stuck at home. Not having the option to eat out at restaurants makes you cook more meals yourself, which has been shown to improve overall health.
For example, a study in 11,396 people found that eating home-cooked meals more frequently was associated with a greater intake of fruits and vegetables.
Plus, it found that people who ate home-cooked meals more than 5 times per week were 28% less likely to be overweight and 24% less likely to have excess body fat, compared with those who ate home-cooked meals less than 3 times per week .
Whats more, planning your meals a few days ahead can help you kill time and has even been shown to improve diet quality and reduce obesity risk (
To combat dehydration, add a few slices of fresh fruit to your water to boost its flavor, which may help you drink more water throughout the day without adding a significant amount of sugar or number of calories to your diet.
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This Interview Is A Must Watch For You If Youd Answer With A Yes To Two Or More Of The Following:
- You second-guess yourself around food. Did you eat too much? Were you allowed to eat that?
- You often find yourself wanting to eat something, but stopping yourself from doing it because you shouldnt
- You take diet advice too seriously. Sugar is bad? Cut it ALL out. Carbs are bad? Swear them off now.
- You feel guilty about what you ate.
- If it happens and you break your dietthen hell breaks loose and you eat EVERYTHING.
- Cravings. You constantly have them and constantly fight them.
- You eat when you feel tired, stressed, or sad, and then feel very guilty about doing that.
- You feel youve tried EVERYTHING. Every diet on the planet. Yet nothing has given consistent results.
Figure Out What’s Triggering Emotional Eating
The next time you reach for comfort food, ask yourself, “Why do I want this candy bar? Am I really hungry?” If not, try to figure out what emotions you are feeling. Are you stressed, angry, bored, scared, sad, lonely? A food diary — a written record of what, how much, and when you eat — may help you see patterns in how mood affects what you choose to eat.
Check in with how your kids are feeling, too. If youâre aware of the social and emotional issues they are facing, it will help you guide them to make better choices when dealing with their emotions without eating. Find out what’s going on in their personal lives. Ask about school, friends, and how they feel. Do they feel good or bad about the way life is going?
When times get tough, it helps to have some go-to healthy ways to handle stress. You and your kids can try deep breathing, going for a walk, or listening to music.
Sometimes, an outside perspective can give you an “aha!” moment that lights the path for change. If you’re having trouble controlling your emotional eating, don’t be afraid to seek the help of a mental health professional. Although professional counseling or psychotherapy might not be comfortable for elementary school children, it can help you or older kids figure out what’s behind emotional eating and offer help for eating disorders.
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Clean Out The Kitchen
Having lots of or trigger foods in the kitchen can make it much easier to binge eat.
Conversely, keeping healthy foods on hand can reduce your risk of emotional eating by limiting the number of unhealthy options.
Start by clearing out processed snack foods like chips, candies, and pre-packaged convenience foods and swapping them for healthier alternatives.
Stocking your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, protein-rich foods, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can improve your diet and reduce your risk of binge eating unhealthy foods.
Summary Removing unhealthy foods from your kitchen and stocking up on healthy alternatives can improve diet quality and make it harder to binge eat.
What Causes Binge Eating
I dont believe there is a just one answer as to what causes people start binge eating, but it seems that one common cause is having a restricted diet at some point in your life.
This could have happened when you were a child, if well-meaning parents attempted to limit your food intake to help prevent childhood obesity, or it might have happened later in life, when you attempted to diet to lose weight.
Not surprisingly, depression can also play a role in binge eating. My suffering hit its peak when I was working from home in Los Angeles, as I felt very isolated and didnt have a lot of human interaction each day. I also had a nutritionally poor diet, which probably contributed to those feelings of depression, and that left me feeling malnourished. This combination led to more serious bouts of binge eating like youll see below.
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Physical Impact Of Stress
There are also some physical reasons why stress and strong emotions can cause a person to overeat:
- High cortisol levels: Initially, stress causes the appetite to decrease so that the body can deal with the situation. If the stress does not let up, another hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol increases appetite and can cause someone to overeat.
- Cravings: High cortisol levels from stress can increase food cravings for sugary or fatty foods. Stress is also associated with increased hunger hormones, which may also contribute to cravings for unhealthy foods.
- Sex: Some research shows that women are more likely to use food to deal with stress than men are, while men are more likely than women to smoke or use alcohol.
It is very easy to mistake emotional hunger for physical hunger. But there are characteristics that distinguish them.
Recognizing these subtle differences is the first step towards helping to stop emotional eating patterns.
Acute And Chronic Stress Response: Role Of The Hypothalamic
The stress response, which maintains allostasis, is comprised of a cascade of adaptive responses and is manifested through two interacting stress pathways. First is the activation of the sympathetic adrenal medullary system, with release of catecholamines that is typical during periods of acute stress . The second key component is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The HPA axis is a neuroendocrine system with inhibitory feedback loops involving hormone secretion from a remote target gland. Stress stimulates the release of corticotropin-releasing factor from the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus which in turn stimulates the synthesis of adrenocorticotropic hormone from the anterior pituitary. ACTH subsequently triggers the production of glucocorticoids such as cortisol or corticosterone in the adrenal cortex. In addition to these mechanisms of HPA axis activation, cytokines produced by immune cells or adipocytes can also stimulate the HPA axis, at the levels of the hypothalamus, anterior pituitary gland, and the adrenal cortex. The first evidence that cortisol levels may be related to obesity and metabolic disease was derived from clinical observations of Cushing’s syndrome the pathological hypercortisolemia in Cushing’s syndrome is associated with upper body obesity, atherosclerosis, glucose intolerance, and hypertension. Conversely, adrenalectomy in Cushing’s syndrome patients reversed impaired glucose intolerance and obesity .
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Does Stress Really Trigger Binge Eating
Recently, researchers conducted a study to look at brain changes when people with anorexia and bulimia were subjected to stress and tempted to binge . The study did show that stress does lead to changes in the brain that make it more difficult for people to control their impulses .
But, the part of the brain that makes it possible to think logically was not impaired . This means that someone may understand why they shouldnt binge, but their ability to control their impulses is impaired.
So, yes, stress can trigger binge eating but it doesnt cause it. Understanding this can help eating disorder treatment professionals to support their clients in developing stress management and impulse control coping strategies. This can improve someones ability to manage their urges to binge and to stop the behavior.