When was the last time you felt stressed and ate an apple to sooth you?
Reaching for food (unhealthy food) as a way to suppress emotion is a very common act. Especially if you live a busy and stressful lifestyle, stress eating can be a distraction and a way for you to cope with reducing stress.
The thing is, stress eating leads to unhealthy eating, which leads to weight gain. Food, especially healthy food, is a way to comfort you. When you’re stressed, cortisol levels increase (stress hormone) which can increase your appetite and cravings for fatty and sugary foods. Of course, fatty and sugar foods will comfort your brain by releasing chemicals that will make you feel ‘happy’. This stress response will lead to continued cravings and a continued response of eating these types of food.
Unfortunately, stress will continue to come. So the better you cope with it in the beginning, the better you’ll be able to manage stress eating and ultimately feel better about your health, weight and food decisions.
With that, here are 5 tips to help you reduce stress eating:
1. Take 5
When you feel stressed, rather than reaching out for food right away, take a step back and try to be in the moment. Understand your emotions and what triggered the stress to begin with. Take 5 can mean taking 5 breaths, counting up/down to 5, or taking 5 minutes off to understand how you’re feeling. Taking 5 (no matter which form works best for you) will take your mind off of food.
2. Find another way to de-stress
Once you identify the stress trigger, the next step is to find something else to do (other than food) to reduce the stress. Listen to music, call a friend/family, exercise, take a walk, walk the dog – do whatever works for you to reduce the stress. This will help you avoid the unnecessary eating.
3. Manage your environment
There is a lot to talk about when it comes to managing your environment, but in this case, managing the types of food available in front of you is really important. Even if you feel like you need to reach out to food for comfort, having healthy options available in front of you will at least make you eat healthy food – allowing you to feel better on a physical, mental and emotional level. Sliced fruit, vegetables and nuts are good options to have in front of you.
4. Understand your hunger levels
Before you stress eat, be mindful of your hunger levels. Are you actually hungry, or are you emotionally hungry? More often than not, you’ll find yourself being emotionally hungry. Distract yourself with another activity and you’ll realize the hunger and craving will pass!
5. Connect with your future self
Stress eating can lead to instant gratification. When you stress eat, it’s very easy to let go of your long-term goals and the person you want to be. Think of your future self, and connect with that person. If you want to be a healthier person and achieve your long-term goals, connecting with your future self when you feel stressed will allow you to make better decisions in the moment. Try not to treat your future self as a stranger.