How Do I Know If My Cravings Are From Emotional Stress
I like to look at cravings by whether they are coming from above the neck or below the neck. Above the neck cravings are emotional, often come on suddenly and aren’t satisfied even after a full meal. If you give in to above the neck cravings, they may sometimes trigger feelings of shame and guilt, and you may feel like you have absolutely no control over your food choices.
Below the neck cravings are not emotional, but rather a sign of physical hunger. It builds gradually and many food options sound appealing. Once you’re sensibly full, the cravings go away. Below the neck cravings aren’t associated with any feelings of guilt or anger, but rather you feel satisfied and maybe relieved after eating that particular food or meal.
Sometimes, these cravings may be hard to distinguish between. Has overeating sugary foods at night become a habit or does your body really crave them? Have you been training your body by giving in to those above the neck cravings every night to expect a surge of sugary foods, only to create almost a dependency and need for the food at a certain time of the day? Think back to when this habit started and try to practice mindful eating to be more in tune with your body and its true physical hunger needs.
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.
How To Stop Stress Eating
When youre in the throes of a stressful situation, just about any healthy distraction like going for a walk, getting fresh air, doing a quick guided meditation or calling a friend can help you avoid the draw of junk food, Baten says. Drinking water may also help, since people often confuse hunger and thirst.
But in the long-term, getting at the root cause of your stress is more important than stopping yourself from snacking in the moment. Healthy habits like exercise, sleep and proper nutrition are all sustainable stress relievers, Baten says. And if you consistently struggle with emotional or stress eating, Baten says, it may be worth speaking with a professional, who can help you sort out underlying issues.
Its important to pay attention to our feelings before they become so intensified that we cant think clearly, Baten says. Emotional eating is happening because theres an emotional need that isnt being fulfilled.
But its also important to acknowledge that your emotions will win out from time to time and beating yourself up for occasionally choosing comfort food will only add to your stress.
Recommended Reading: What Does Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Mean
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.
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.
Read Also: What Can You Do To Relieve Stress
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.
Identify Your Trigger Emotions
Another technique to help you overcome stress eating unhealthy foods is to identify your trigger emotions. Once youve identified your triggers, try to avoid situations and people that give you a strong sense of heightened emotion. For example, if youre feeling particularly stressed out over the fact that you weigh too much, avoid spending time in front of the mirror. Instead, spend time doing activities that will make you feel good, such as going for a run or going to your favorite park. Youll find that by removing the trigger for the emotion, it becomes easier to avoid other triggers in the future, which will help you lose weight gain!
You May Like: How To Calm Your Stress Down
Are You Stress Eating How To Spot And Prevent This Habit
If you’ve recently found yourself half way through a box of sugary cereal before realizing you weren’t even hungry, you’re not alone.
For many of us, eating based solely on hunger is a rare occurrence. Most people have been hit hard at one time or another with emotional eating, which is similar to cravings with its own complexity.
To put it simply, emotional eating is when you eat specifically due to your emotions and feelings rather than due to hunger. Both positive and negative emotions can alter eating behaviors in different ways, for different people.
And right now there are no shortage of negative emotions sending us in search of solace at the bottom of a tub of ice cream. You may find yourself nervously munching while watching the news or making one too many unnecessary trips to the fridge simply to break up the monotony of working from home during the pandemic.
Research has shown that stress can increase levels of ghrelin , which stimulates the release of of dopamine in the brain . So when youre feeling stressed, you have a stronger appetite and greater desire to seek out food. How you control your response to stress can help prevent overeating .
These are a few common triggers to be aware of and tips on how to control them:
Prepare New And Interesting Meals At Home
Explore the culinary arts and improve your relationship with food by preparing your meals at home. Find recipes that involve new ingredients or make items youve never before tried to cook yourself.
By preparing your own food, you are more conscious of what you put into your body, and studies show home-cooked meals generate multiple benefits. People who cook more meals at home consume more fruits and vegetables and are less likely to be overweight.
You May Like: How To Reduce Stress To Lose Weight
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.
How Stress Affects Your Diet
When stress occurs, a series of hormonal responses follow that result in a release of adrenaline, increased heart rate, blood pressure, and sharpened senses to ready quick action. In addition, cortisol works to release stored sugars and fats for immediate energy . This reaction is necessary in certain stressful situations, but may not be ideal if continued over long periods of time.
When poorly managed, stress can lead to a series of health concerns and has been linked to poor sleep, weight gain, heart disease, weakened immunity and chronic pain . In addition, the hormonal responses associated with stress can negatively affect your diet by contributing to:
- Increased food cravings
- Poor eating habits
- Emotional eating
If you’re finding it hard to lose weight or stick to your diet, you might want to consider taking a look at your stress levels.
You May Like: Why Is My Dog Stressed
How To Test Your Stress
There is simple test that can be carried out to accurately identify the levels of your stress hormone cortisol over different points in the day. We provide this to clients at our clinic but we can also organise this as an at home test kit for you at home. Our Adrenal Stress Test is available to purchase here.
Tactics To Help Overcome Stress Eating
In difficult times, its easy to use food to cope and find comfort. Its understandable. What we eat is within our control when the world is uncontrollable. We all know that stress/emotional eating isnt great for our health. So what do we do? Here are some vital tactics to help overcome stress eating:
You May Like: Does Stress Cause Brain Tumors
Getting Over Your Emotional Eating Habits
Learning to overcome emotional eating isn’t just possible. It’s guaranteed as long as you’re putting in the effort. Start by learning what’s causing it. Then, focus on learning new ways to deal with stress. As long as you stick with it, your emotional eating doesn’t stand a chance.
Emotional eating is a lot more common than you think. Plenty of people suffer from it. It usually becomes apparent during early adulthood. You might’ve started when you were in college.
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.
Affordable Online Therapy for Emotional Eating
Get professional help from BetterHelps network of licensed therapists.
Need urgent help? .
Recommended Reading: How To Relieve Stress Headache Fast
Think Ahead To How You May Feel
When choosing how to process your emotions and learning how to control stress eating, ask yourself if your actions will make you feel better or worse in the aftermath. For example, choosing to go for a walk or taking time to read will have a very different effect on how you feel compared to consuming a large amount of food.
This simple exercise can help you to reconsider how your choices in the moment will make you feel in the long term. The key is to understand what the true cause of your stress eating is and with this knowledge, youll find it easier to choose options that dont focus on food.
Are You Making These Nutrition Mistakes
Join WAG Founder, Adee Cazayoux, in our next webinar and learn the 4 Nutrition Mistakes we see most often and actionable steps to solve them! Youll leave this webinar knowing how to dispel your dysfunctional beliefs about nutrition, wield the tools you need for better results and transform your life. Plus, if you hang till the end, we have a surprise for you!
Don’t Miss: How To Get Rid Of Stress Induced Acne
Check If You’re Really Hungry
If you just ate a big meal and are still reaching for snacks, ask yourself: Are you hungry, or are your emotions causing the cravings? You may want to do something different until the urge passes, like take a walk or call a friend. Or you could try to drink some water. Your body may be trying to tell you its dehydrated.
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.
- Read in app
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
Give this article
- Read in app
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.
Recommended Reading: How To Relieve Stomach Stress
Drink A Glass Of Water
“Oftentimes when we stress eat, we aren’t even really hungry. So instead of going to the fridge or cabinet, head to the faucet instead,” says Luther. “Fill up a glass of water, add a squeeze of lemon or a couple of frozen berries. Enjoy the glass of water and allow the urge to stress eat diffuse.” Speaking of lemon waterâ¦ have you read about What Happens To Your Body When You Drink Lemon Water Every Day?
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.
Don’t Miss: How To Reduce Cats Stress