Broken-hearted? No worries! To quote Bridget Jones – there’s nothing that a tub of ice cream can’t fix. Stressful day at work? It’s alright! Eating a box of donuts is gonna make me feel good! Could you relate? If you answered yes, then you are one of the many people who turn to food for comfort. Here is how to combat stress eating with simple tricks everyone can follow.
We take a look at stress eating or emotional eating, what is it and why do we do it?
We are all stress eaters in some way. The problem starts when this becomes a vicious cycle. When we feel negative emotions such as stress, we usually crave sugary, fatty, and highly palatable foods.
Eating even if you’re full and eating too much of these foods can affect your health. Luckily, there are things you can do to help you manage your emotional eating.
In this article, I will show you what stress eating is, why you do it, and how you can stop doing it with a few simple tricks.
What is Stress Eating?
Emotional eating occurs when you consume food for reasons other than hunger. You could eat if you’re upset, depressed, anxious, or lonely. You might also use food as a reward.
If you are a stress eater, you use food to relieve your stress and distract you from what’s really troubling you. You may be ignoring your body’s normal hunger and fullness cues. As a result, you consume more calories than your body needs
Stress eating can make it difficult to make healthy meal choices. It might also prevent you from achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Why Do We Do It?
We can’t help it. Food makes us feel good. This happens because food is essential for our survival. If it didn’t feel good to eat, we probably won’t do it and we’ll cease to exist.
The hormone known as cortisol is released into your body every time you are under stress. This hormone causes an increase in your appetite and a craving for sweet, salty, or fatty foods.
This is because your brain believes it needs food to combat the threat that’s creating your stress. From an evolutionary standpoint, this would make sense if we still lived at a time where the threats are wild animals we need to run away from.
But in modern times, when the only threats are our demanding bosses, toxic boyfriends, naughty children, and bills that keep coming in, this survival mechanism is not really useful.
8 Tricks To Stop Stress Eating
Here are 8 easy to follow tricks to combat stress eating.
Another reason we eat food when we are stressed is that it increases our endorphin levels which helps reduce stress. But this is a temporary solution and it isn’t a healthy way of coping with stress.
There’s a healthier alternative to this and that is exercise. Just like we are programmed to feel good when we eat, we are also programmed to feel good when we move.
Just like food, exercise also increases endorphin levels, along with many other happy hormones. Exercise may be able to alleviate your stress by boosting your mood and distracting your mind.
Drinking enough water is vital for your overall wellbeing and may help you avoid stress-related overeating.
Studies have discovered a link between not drinking enough water and an increased risk of obesity. It can also cause changes in mood, concentration, and energy levels, which might impact your eating habits.
If you hate the taste of water, you can infuse them with fresh fruit slices to make them more flavorful. This helps you achieve optimal hydration without consuming more sugar or calories.
Journaling is one of the most effective strategies to alleviate stress. It entails keeping a journal in which you write in-depth about your feelings and ideas in response to stressful occurrences.
It helps you feel in control of your stress by letting you see your problems with more clarity. It also helps you be more aware of your negative thoughts. It’s easier to let those thoughts go after you’ve written them down.
4. Engage in activities you enjoy
One of the best ways to combat stress is engaging in activities you enjoy. Hold your horses, I don’t mean you should go to a party and drink a bunch of alcohol.
What I mean is to engage in activities that have more sustainable effects on your mood, not the ones that just give you a temporary high. As for me, I really enjoy cooking and reading a good book.
What could it be for you? Maybe watching a new tv show, knitting, baking, or drawing. Whatever it is, it will not only keep you from lingering on the thoughts that are stressing you but will also help increase the happy hormones in your brain.
5. Engage in mindfulness activities
Mindfulness has been one of the best ways that people deal with stress and other mental health issues.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is the act of being aware of what you are doing, where you are, and how you are feeling in the moment without judgment. It’s about observing your thoughts and situations instead of being reactive to them.
Yoga and meditation are not the only ways to practice mindfulness. You can also do deep breathing, walking, mindful eating, and more. Mindfulness may be incorporated into any activity. The key is to be completely present at the moment.
6. Mindful eating
Eating mindlessly isn’t good for our bodies. It takes longer for our stomachs and brains to indicate that we have had enough food so it’s easy for us to overeat when we don’t pay attention.
It also makes us more likely to eat foods that are quick and easy to grab from the pantry over the nutritious ones we could prepare.
Mindful eating is all about slowing down and paying attention to our meals. A growing amount of data suggests that it might help us make healthier food choices and even lose weight.
It allows us to identify what is causing our urge to consume so we can choose whether or not to act on the. Are we gonna eat to meet a physiological need or an emotional one? If it’s the latter, what are healthier alternatives I could do to address it?
7. Don’t stock up on junk foods
Refined sugars are damaging to the brain. They impair your body’s insulin control, induce inflammation, as well as oxidative stress. Multiple research has found a link between a high refined-sugar diet, poor brain function, and worsened symptoms of mood disorders like depression.
Our willpowers are finite. You’re more likely to binge on junk foods if they’re easily accessible to you. Of course, when our cortisol causes us to crave sugary foods and there happens to be a jar of cookies sitting on your countertop, how could you not eat it?
If these foods aren’t there in the first place, you’re more likely to just chew on whatever’s available in your fridge than drive all the way to the store just to get those cravings.
8. Eat mood-boosting foods
That bar of chocolate may make you feel good while eating it but you know it will only result in a sugar crash that will make you even more irritable later on.
Recently, there has been an increase in studies linking diet and mental health. Certain meals have been shown to boost overall brain health as well as different forms of mood disorders.
Some foods that are proven to help you boost your mood are probiotics, whole grains, foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iron, and folate. Salmon, oysters, blueberries, spinach, yogurt, brown rice, and sauerkraut are good additions to your diet when you’re dealing with a lot of stress.
Stress eating is very common in today’s world. We tend to turn to food for comfort when we are stressed because eating makes us feel good by increasing endorphins in our brains. However, when this becomes a habit, it can pose serious health issues and may even lead to obesity.
To stop stress eating, you must go back to the root cause and learn to manage your stress better. There are healthier ways to alleviate your stress such as practicing mindfulness, exercise, and hydration.
Choose the ones that work for you and will make you feel your best. Whatever it is, it’s definitely better than stuffing yourself. Keep practicing these habits and you will make stress your friend.
- Frayn, M., Livshits, S., & Knäuper, B. (2018). Emotional eating and weight regulation: a qualitative study of compensatory behaviors and concerns. Journal of eating disorders, 6, 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-018-0210-6
- Yau, Y. H., & Potenza, M. N. (2013). Stress and eating behaviors. Minerva endocrinologica, 38(3), 255–267.
- Selhub, E., MD. (2020, March 26). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
- Davidson, K. M. (2020, February 5). 9 Healthy Foods That Lift Your Mood. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mood-food
Article By Breech Mae Valencia