You’ve had a downright crummy day at work. Everyone and everything seems to be against you, and you just can’t wait for the day to end. You console yourself with the small stash of jelly beans in your desk drawer. You finally get to head home, only to be met with a pile of laundry, bills that have to be paid yesterday, and nothing to eat for supper.
“That’s okay,” you think, “I just want to grab some potato chips and a slice of leftover cake and veg out on the sofa.”
Sound familiar? Sure, we all have days like this. However, if you’re finding more occasions to calm yourself with the saltiness of bagged goodies or the sweetness of the “occasional” candy bar, you may be falling into the trap of emotional, or stress, eating.
What is Stress Eating and Why do I do it?
Stress eating, or emotional eating, is when you reach for food, often unknowingly, to fill a void or an emotional need.
Short-term stress, such as when you narrowly avoid an accident or when you have a public speaking engagement, causes your body to release adrenaline and other appetite-suppressing hormones so that you can focus on the emergency at hand.
Unfortunately, many of us are stuck in a pattern of long-term stress. This kind of stress causes your body to release cortisol. This hormone increases your motivation to get through whatever stress you are experiencing. It also increases your motivation to eat.
Hence, long-term stress leads to weight gain. How do you get out of this downward spiral?
5 Tips to Stop Stress Eating
Let’s take a look at just five tips that may very well change your eating habits. Why not try one of them today?
1. Breathe Deeply
When you are in stress mode, your breathing patterns change. Fortunately, you can signal to your body that you are not in stress mode by changing your breathing.
Deep, slow breaths send out the signal that you are in a parasympathetic state, that is to say, that everything is calm. Your body then releases less cortisol, decreasing that urge to munch.
Try deep breathing exercises at least three times per day for five minutes each.
2. Find Your Triggers
Are you a social eater? Do you get nervous at social events and find solace at the snack bar? Or maybe you get flustered in traffic and find comfort in the potato chips stashed in your center console.
Whatever the case, find your trigger and mindfully work to avoid your go-to snack. Instead, try deep breathing exercises or distracting yourself with something else you find relaxing. Do you see your best friend across the room at a party? Hang tight with her until you can relax and enjoy the evening without bingeing.
3. Rate Your Hunger
The next time you reach for a snack, ask yourself if you’re really hungry. Give your hunger a rating on a scale of one to ten. If you can honestly give yourself at least a six, go ahead and fill your belly.
However, if you’re hanging around three or four, it’s time to go find something else to do besides eating.
4. Drink Water
Sometimes signals can get crossed, and what you perceive as hunger is actually thirst.
If you’ve eaten within the past couple of hours and you still feel a strong hunger sensation, try drinking a large glass of water. If you still feel hungry after 30 minutes, go ahead and reach for a healthy snack (in moderation, of course!).
5. Catch Up on Your Sleep
Sleep deprivation is a huge source of stress for your body. Even if the rest of your life is in order, if you aren’t getting a sound night’s sleep, your body will release cortisol, increasing hunger.
Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed, avoid alcohol, and have lights out before 10 p.m. every night. If you are still waking up tired, it may be time to investigate whether or not you have a sleeping disorder.
How to Get Into Better Eating Habits
Besides avoiding stress eating, it’s also important to consider what you eat. If you find this a bit challenging, check out our Simple Guide to Clean Eating. You’ll learn all about the dos and don’ts of clean eating, and we’ve even included a printable shopping list! Enjoy it in good health!
- 6 Things This Certified Nutritionist Eats Every Week (atlasdrugandnutrition.com)
- Are Stress Hormones Making You Fat? (atlasdrugandnutrition.com)
- 10 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight (atlasdrugandnutrition.com)