Do you turn to food when you are distressed? Do you eat, not because you are hungry, but to drown your feelings? Do you crave certain foods when you are upset? Do you eat because there's nothing else to do? Then chances are you are stress eating.
When you are stressed, your body produces high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. You then crave comfort foods - sweet, salty, and fat-laden foods. You may feel better after gobbling these foods, but the feeling does not last. Even worse, the stressful situation that triggers stress eating will not go away.
So, how do you deal with the situation and conquer stress eating?
to the root of your stress
Identify the source of your stress. You probably know it. You've broken up with your significant other, you've lost your job, the boss from hell is breathing down your neck, and so on.
Sometimes, the stress trigger may not be obvious. Try keeping a record of daily happenings. Note what you eat, how you feel, where you are, and who is with you. You may identify a pattern that triggers your stress eating.
Once you identify the source of your stress, find alternative ways of dealing with stressful situations. Enlist the support of family and friends or join a support group. You might want to go for counseling or try meditation and other stress management techniques.
To conquer stress eating, do the following:
If the food craving strikes, distract your mind by reading a book, or call a friend. Do something different. Knit, do a jigsaw puzzle, watch a funny video. Just change the scene.
Don't indulge your food craving the minute it strikes. Are you truly hungry? Is your hunger physical or emotional? Drink a cup of water and wait 20 minutes. The hankering for something sweet or fatty may just go away on its own.
Don't keep irresistible comfort foods at home, and if you become upset and feel tempted to indulge, don't rush to the store. Wait until you have your emotions in control.
When you don't get enough sleep, you crave fat-laden and sugary foods. A 2019 study by neurologist Thorsten Kahnt shows that you snack more when you have not slept enough.
When trying to lose weight, you might under-eat, and consequently always feel hungry. You might also eat the same foods day in and day out. Your body will long for treats and variety and you might just gorge on comfort food. To avoid this, eat enough healthy food to keep you satisfied, allow yourself the occasional treat, and add variety to your diet.
If you backslide and have an incidence of stress eating, don't let guilt overwhelm you. Forgive yourself and re-start the following day. Learn from the episode and move on.
Take positive measures to deal with your stress eating. Do your best to develop a healthy relationship with food. If you feel the situation is getting out of hand, seek professional help.