Try This To Stop Stress Eating
- and print out 5 copies.
- Choose a time each day to write your Crushing Anxiety List. Set an alarm on your phone or place an appointment on your calendar. You dont need long, just 5 minutes will do.
- At your scheduled time, jot down any stressors you have experienced throughout the day .
- After each of your anxieties listed, note a solution or certainty. Remember even Ill think about it in the morning is acceptable.
- As these anxieties pop up in your day, assure yourself youve already chosen a solution and theres no further need to think about it. You may want to review your list.
- If a new anxiety pops up, pull out your list, and draft a new solution. You can be proactive with this. Do not let worries steal your joy!
- Continue this practice for at least 30 days and then reevaluate. I no longer use this tool at a set time. Ive trained my brain to look for solutions on the fly. Booyah! But, I do pull it out on days that are rocky.
- Finally, if you need help with an anxious thought, feel free to comment below. Id be happy to chime in with some ideas that may spur you onto your solution.
Use The Four Ps Of Stress Eating
Hayim goes over this specific approach in her Fork the Noise program, teaching what she calls the 4P Action Plan. Here’s the gist.
- Pause. Take a second to identify the type of hunger you’re experiencing.
- Pry. Reflect, and learn what specific emotion is trying to come up. Fear? Frustration? Anger? Sadness? Rejection? Loneliness? Anxiety?
- Pick. This is about choice really deciding if eating is the best thing for you in that particular moment.
- Persevere. Whatever that choice was, move on even if you chose to eat or snack.
This simple approach might be all you need to break the cycle of stress eating. If you need more, the experts offer additional guidance.
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.
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Why Does Stress Eating Happen On A Physical Level
When the body first goes through a period of increased stress, a natural response to combat that stress is set into motion by the nervous system. Although our stress triggers can be physical, emotional, situational, etc., the autonomic nervous system, specifically the SNS portion springs into action by telling the adrenal glands that it needs to start pumping out epinephrine . Its this sudden flooding of epinephrine in the body that puts it into fight or flight response, which naturally squashes the appetite so that our bodies can save energy for more important, lifesaving functions .
With persistent stress, the body tells the adrenal glands to release another hormone into the mix: cortisol. Cortisol is a natural appetite stimulant, and it is released so that the body can be triggered into getting the fuel that it needs for the extended fight or flight response that it is going through. It also has been said to increase motivation. Unfortunately, those factors combined mean that cortisol tends to ramp up our motivation to eat as a stress response. Your body is literally telling you what to do. It has no way of distinguishing between a busy day at work versus a bear attack.
However, what our body doesnt do is tell us exactly what to eat. That part is up to psychological factors and societal influence.
One: Realize What Drives Your Behavior
We all have unconscious belief systems aka paradigms that unconsciously drive our behaviors, including unconsciously eating when we are stressed, or under emotional distress.
A paradigm is simply an unconscious belief system that creates thoughts, which create feelings, which drives actions, that create results in your life.
It looks like this:
Beliefs Thoughts Feelings Actions Results
Our paradigms are always running the show whether we realize it or not! Have you ever witnessed someone who lost a lot of weight and then struggled to keep it off, ultimately gaining it all back? Its often a result of not addressing their inner limiting beliefs, or paradigms.
More often than not, stress eating is a symptom of not getting nourished mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, in addition to physically.
Now that you are aware that there are subconscious beliefs driving your behavior, it will be easier to see how just seeking to change the behavior without addressing what is driving the behavior isnt enough.
You might now be wondering how to address your subconscious beliefs.
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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.
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.
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Managing Your Stress Level
If youre eating because of stress, then managing your stress will naturally help you manage your eating. Techniques you use to manage stress are called coping skills. Stress eating is one example of a coping skill we do it because it makes us feel better in the moment.
Coping skills can be healthy or unhealthy. Usually what makes them unhealthy is when we rely on a single coping skill too much. For example, most people can drink a beer now and then to relax, but if thats your go-to every time youre stressed, it will likely become a problem for you. Stress eating is the same wayits probably harmless every now and then, but if youre doing it every time youre stressed, its going to cause problems for you.
So dont beat yourself up over eating your feelings this time. But next time, try a deep breathing exercise, write in a journal, or do some yoga instead. The more coping skills you have in your stress management toolbox, the more balanced youll beand health is all about balance.
Stressing About Food Choices Actually Makes Things Worse
The cruelest irony is that stressing about your eating habits can then cause a slew of physical and mental health problems which, depending on your stress snack of choice, can mean that the stress is more damaging to your health than the food itself, says Soto.
“Oftentimes emotions swallow you whole, and before you know it you’ve blacked out, eaten a pint of ice cream, and suddenly are left with the original emotions you tried to run from but now you add guilt into the mix,” says Mastela.
It creates a vicious cycle, where stress can lead to stress eating, and then stress eating begets more stress. So if you’re eating because you’re stressed, and then you’re stressed about what you’re eating, you’re compounding the problem. And now, potentially, you’re more stressed because you just read this paragraph.
It’s a bit trite to say “don’t stress about it,” but that’s the gist of the recommendations of experts do your best to find a bit more freedom and peace with your food choices.
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What Are Some Of The Causes Of Emotional Eating
- Boredom: We all have different definitions of boredom, but it usually focuses around having nothing to do or the task we are doing just seems pointless. This can leave us searching for something to pass the time by, enticing us to eat and potentially leading to emotional eating.
- Old habits: Maybe your work colleagues would order fast food for the office for lunch every day, and even though you’re in a new job now, you still find yourself ordering fast food several times a day. I always say that habits are learned, which means they can be unlearned and replaced with a new, healthier habit.
- Finances, work stress, and social interactions: Too much or too little social interaction can influence our cravings. If you’re pent up with your spouse or roommates, and they tend to eat a lot of junk food, you may be tempted to do so as well. Maybe after a big blowout fight you feel the need to eat lots of sugar, or perhaps you just feel lonely and a warm cookie feels like a big hug at the end of the stressful work day. This is all fine if you truly listen to your body, honor your cravings, and feel in control. But if stress seems to be leading your emotions to get the best of you and resulting in poor food choices over and over again, it may be time to make a change. Food is food it’s not your best friend and it’s not your worst enemy. If you’re looking to food to solve your problems, you’ll quickly realize it won’t.
Take One Mindful Bite
Think back: How often have you eaten the last cookie or potato chip in the bag only to realize you didnt really taste any of them? When youre stress eating, youre often so distracted and disconnected you eat too much but dont feel all that satisfied. Next time youre in the whirl of it, challenge yourself to slow down for one mindful bite, says Rickel. Get rid of all distractions, bring the food to your mouth, and take in the smell, sight, sound and feeling of it. Chew slowly to savor the texture and taste, and feel the food move down your esophagus and into your belly before you go for the next bite. Then, repeat the process as many times as necessary. As you practice mindful eating, you might find paying attention to the experience makes you feel calmer and more satiated.
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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.
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.
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When Stress Eating Becomes Problematic
If you’re noticing that stress eating is beginning to have a negative effect on your life , there are things you can do to target the root cause the stress itself so that you’re less inclined to stress eat.
“Developing a mindfulness practice can also help you manage stress eating when it arises,” says Poon. “I recommend taking time to learn breathing exercises, grounding work, or movements that can help you ease stress when life is relatively normal. That way, when you do experience times of high stress you will then have the tools to relax and re-center, rather than allowing your body to go into a panicked response.”
She strongly recommends that you get lots of deep, restorative sleep to mitigate the body’s stress response. “Do your best to get a lot of sleep during periods of high stress,” she says. “Again, a lack of sleep can exacerbate the body’s stress response. I understand that this can be difficult, but even just an extra hour of rest can make a huge difference in how you feel, and eat, during periods of high stress.”
Remember that this won’t happen overnight. “Learning to address stress in ways that will support your health and nourish your body is a journey,” says Poon. Show yourself some patience and self-love and try several different techniques to see what works for you.
Keep The Water Flowing
Being dehydrated can make a severe impact on your food decisions. Making sure to always keep water and electrolyte-rich drinking options close by can help you handle hunger. Not only that, but hydration doesn’t just happen in pure liquid form.
For instance, watermelon and oranges are wonderful sources of water. Not to mention, rich in electrolytes and sugars that can help you stay healthy and well-nourished!
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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.
Swap Out Comfort Foods For Nourishing Snacks
When learning how to stop stress eating, its important to keep the foods you normally turn to out of the house. Thats why identifying your emotional eating patterns, including what you eat, is so important. If you dont keep potato chips in your house, its more difficult to reach for them when youre feeling down.
Because our association between eating and comfort is so strong, however, quitting suddenly doesnt work for everyone. In order to retrain your brain, you can replace comfort foods with healthier alternatives.
TheCleveland Clinicrecommends eating foods that can actually help you cope with stress, such as antioxidant-rich green or white tea, cherries, and dark chocolate. This way, your brain still enjoys the feeling of snacking and feeling satisfied without the effects of eating high-sugar, high-sodium, and high-calorie foods.
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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.