Your boyfriend cheated on you, so you wallowed in a pint of ice cream. You shrunk your favorite sweater, so you ripped through a bag of chips. Your boss passed you over for a promotion, so you downed a large pizza and a bottle of wine. If this sounds familiar, you might be an emotional eater. Scientists have shown that stress has been proven to play a role in food selections, with comforts foods edging out healthier fruit, veggie, lean protein, and nut alternatives.
At the most basic level, emotional eating stems from your body experiencing hunger due to a mood instead of just your stomach running on empty. Unlike physical hunger, stress hunger can come on suddenly, be very specific in its craving (think fatty, sugary foods), and can be followed by feelings of guilt. The quantity of food that is consumed during an emotional eating episode is typically higher since feeling mentally soothed is the goal versus feeling full, which can be a tough task for food to meet. If emotional eating is something with which you’re struggling, try these tips to ditch the viscous cycle of stress and food.
Keep Triggers in Check: Think about what has been setting you off lately. Is the house a constant mess? Are your at odds with a co-worker? Is your mother driving you mad? Try to tackle the problem head on so that it doesn’t become a recurring stressor in your life. If you can’t make the stress go away, employ other coping mechanisms that don’t involve food. Vent to a friend. Count to a hundred. Stretch your muscles. Meditate for a moment. There are plenty of calorie-free ways to calm down.
Journal What You Eat: Keep a detailed record of everything you consume, making notes when feelings played into the food you fed on. After about a four-week period, review your food journal to identify times when stress eating started to sneak in. Put a plan into place that will help you deal with these triggers when they come up in the future.
Redefine Comfort Food: If you feel that food is the only way to soothe the soul, go for food options that won’t pack on the fat. Instead of ice cream, choose yogurt. Instead of large pizza, try pepperoni topped zucchini slices. Instead of a candy bar, choose a piece of dark chocolate.
Shrink the Serving: If a chocolate milkshake is absolutely the only way to get over your car getting dinged, change the portion size. Instead of supersizing it, order a mini-version from the kids’ menu. You’ll satisfy the sweet craving without the risk of going overboard on the fat and calories.
Chill Out: The time when you’re in an emotional eating frenzy might not be perfect timing for finding zen. However, if you focus on living a stress-free life all the time, you’ll be better prepared to handle whatever life throws your way.
Emotional eating doesn’t have to take control of your life. Put your mind at ease knowing that your size doesn’t have to grow just because stress seeps in. How do you combat stress. Tell us in the comments!