If you are a stress eater, you’ll recognize this familiar pattern: after a hard day at work/argument with a partner/unexpected financial demands, you find yourself raiding the candy jar or sinking an entire tub of ice cream in one sitting – before dinner. Stress eating becomes an automatic reaction to life’s challenges and before you know it, you have added guilt and self-loathing to the stresses that caused it in the first place. So, how to stop stress eating? Let’s find out.
What is stress eating?
Stress eating is overeating as a response to feeling stressed. It has physical and mental origins: your body’s reaction to stress is to produce cortisol – a hormone which stimulates your appetite. Stress can also interfere with the quality of your sleep, which in turn disrupts your body’s ability to register feelings of fullness and hunger, causing you to eat in a disordered way. Stress eating is usually accompanied by feelings of urgency: unlike natural hunger which gradually increases and becomes more intense over time, with stress eating you want to eat NOW! If you are a stress eater the foods you turn to are often associated with comfort – you want to ease or even block out the feeling and that enormous mayo-laden sub/plate-sized wedge of cheesecake/other carbohydrate and fat or sugar-rich dish of your choice is just the thing to do it with.
How can you stop stress eating?
Of course, stress eating plays havoc with your waistline and your self-esteem. While it’s natural to want to treat yourself to your favorite food from time to time, if you become aware that it’s become a go-to behavior then it’s time to learn how to stop stress eating by following these simple tips.
- When you notice feelings of stress begin to rear their ugly head, make sure you have a substitute comfort plan in place. This could be asking a partner for a hug, phoning a friend or taking a bath for example – a soothing activity to calm your nerves.
- Ensure you have a ready source of healthy snacks available wherever you are to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel and decrease the likelihood of an emergency dash for junk food when the stress levels peak. Nuts and dried fruit are good options, as are flavored yoghurts and carrot sticks with hummus.
- Tackle stress at the source: take steps to get more organized, planning your agenda to head off stress attacks before they hit.
Read also: Useful mental stress relaxation techniques to relieve your mind
- If you don’t already have one, consider starting an exercise routine to stimulate appetite naturally and tone your body – giving you an additional incentive to avoid overindulging as a response to stress.
- Regulate your sleep habits. Turn off screens at least an hour before bed and give yourself time to wind down with a relaxing bath, soothing shoulder rub or a good book before you close your eyes for the night.