If you have uncontrolled stress in your life you may find yourself turning to food in order to try to stuff down those uncontrolled emotions. But anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame can only be temporarily silenced by food. Because what happens when you are done eating? Those emotions return. You may be trying to figure out how to stop stress eating by changing the food around you but the truth is, the changes start with you.
What is stress eating
Stress eating is thought to be caused by multiple different things rather than just one. Research has shown that women and girls have a higher tendency to develop eating disorders and therefore are more likely to be emotional eaters. Although, some populations have men who eat as a result of depression and women who eat more as a result of a bad diet.
Stress eating, better known as emotional eating, is when you try to use food to satisfy your emotional needs, like to cope with stress or to relieve boredom, instead of satisfying your physical hunger. You can probably relate.
You may have sat in front of the TV eating a whole pint of ice cream after a serious breakup or even ordered a pizza just because you were bored.
But the reality of it is that once our binge eating is over with we are left with guilt. And unfortunately, this habit can have long-term consequences on your waistline. In fact, Biological Psychiatry published a journal stating that researchers found that stress-induced changes in women can cause them to burn 10o fewer calories per day and this difference can cause you to pack on 11 pounds a year.
You may feel powerless to the food after several attempts to beat these food cravings but the truth is there is a way to make a change. You can work on improving your self emotionally and learn to make mindful choices which will help you get your weight and your life under control.
What are warning signs of stress eating
Some of the warning signs of emotional eating may include:
- The sudden intense feeling of hunger
- Craving junk food
- The urge to eat that is preceded by stress or uncomfortable emotions(ie. boredom, sadness, anger, guilt, or frustration)
- Feeling a lack of control
- Eating when you’re not hungry
How to stop stress eating
Most emotional eating is linked to some kind of emotion either unpleasant or pleasant. In order to control your stress eating, you need to take steps to stop what is causing it. Here are a few tips to help you get your emotional eating under control.
Identify your triggers
What emotion, situation, person, or place is causing your stress eating? When emotional eating is linked to something pleasant or unpleasant identifying the cause is one way to help you control your urges. Some common triggers include;
One of the biggest causes for emotional eating is of course stress. There is a reason for this. Chronic stress causes your stress hormone, cortisol, levels to be high and in return, you crave foods high in salt and sugar and fried foods because these foods give you a sense of pleasure and energy. So if you have lots of uncontrolled stress in your life you will find yourself eating more often.
Many of us can relate to being bored but have you ever found yourself eating because of that boredom. Grabbing a bowl of chips or ice cream just to get rid of that empty feeling is only temporary and is another way you may be emotionally eating.
Our parents play a big role in some of the habits we hold as adults. Did your parents ever reward you with sweets or pizza to try to make you feel better or because you got a good grade on a report card? I am sure we can all relate and we may not have seen any harm in it but do you find yourself rewarding yourself with junk food now to make yourself feel better or because you think you deserve it?
Going out with others is a great way to talk about the things you need to get off your chest but have you ever noticed how it turns into a food frenzy? With all that food in front of you, it is easy to overeat simply because it is there or because you don’t want to look bad. Or maybe you have family members like mine who encourage you to eat up.
Eating has often been used as a way of comfort, a way to temporarily silence all of the uncomfortable emotions we have to deal with like anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, loneliness, or shame. The food is a way to avoid these feelings. But truth be told it is only temporary. This trigger is one of the most common reasons people use for stress eating.
Find Food Alternatives
Using food to deal with your emotions is not beneficial to your waistline or your health so you need to find other ways to deal with your emotions.
If you are stressed
You need to find the best way to help you by managing your stress. Try changing your diet by adding foods that help reduce stress or supplements that can help lower your stress hormones. Add exercise to your daily routine which can also help keep your stress hormones in check. Yoga is a great way to help you bring peace to your body and mind through the different poses, meditation, and breathing exercises you will learn.
If you are bored
Pick up one of your favorites books and read. Reading is a great way to relieve stress and they provide many cognitive benefits as well. Or try turning on something funny you can laugh at with your family. Try doing one of your favorite crafts, or some artwork, or pick up some markers and color in an adult coloring book.
If you are exhausted
Try lighting some aromatherapy candles and pour a cup of your favorite tea and treat yourself to a nice warm bath.
If you are depressed or lonely
Don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with your kids or partner. Call a family member you can confide in that makes you laugh. Don’t forget about Man’s BFF – your pet. Animals are great for relieving your stress and have been known for tapping into their owner’s needs.
If you are anxious
If you are anxious you need to learn to focus on positive things. Try writing a journal, talking a brisk walk, or squeezing a stress ball.
Try Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a technique to help your body gain control over your bad eating habits. Through mindful eating, you pay attention to the things you will be eating and drinking, which will include the smells, the textures, the temperature, and the taste.
When you eat you need to give your brain time to respond to what you are eating. So slow down and be mindful of every bite or sip you take. This way your brain will know when it has had enough and you will not overeat.
You need to be aware of your body’s hunger signals. Do you listen when your body is telling you, you are hungry? Or do you only eat when you are in an emotional need? Listen hard for your body’s signals and know the difference.
When you go food shopping think about every item on your list and consider how healthy each item is. Doctors recommend that we shop on the end isles, like the produce isles and avoid the center isles and candy isles because they contain the higher processed foods.
As you eat remember to take small bites and chew your food thoroughly. A trick is to put your utensils down between each bite, this will allow you to chew your food 20-40 times per bite.
These small changes of slowing down and becoming mindful of what you are putting into your body will make it easier to change your emotional eating habits.
Check out these 6 tips to help make mindful eating easier
Emotional eating can be difficult to deal with if you don’t get your emotions under control. Emotional eating may not affect all of us the same. I may find myself stress eating after a hard day of work and you may be an emotional eater out of pure habit.
However, the solution is the same for all, we must find our triggers and get our emotions in check.
If you find yourself eating because of stress, then getting your stress under control is the first step. I have found that since I got my stress under control I have been able to live a much more productive life.
Being mindful of how and what you eat will help you make better choices with your diet and help you lose weight if necessary by staying connected which each moment.
If you are an emotional eater it doesn’t have to control your life.
Do you find yourself eating as a result of stress or emotions? Are there any tips you would like to share?
I would love to hear about it below!