Stress and Eating? Yes, it does happen to many of us, which is why it is important to learn how to stop stress eating. No matter how disciplined you think you are, stress has a way of getting to you.
When people are stressed out, they look for comfort in food, both for psychological and physiological reasons. This leads to overconsumption of unhealthy foods such as candy, starchy foods, cakes, and any kind of junk food.
While this might provide a temporary fix, it can’t satiate the emotional hunger. So, here are a few tips that can help you deal with these triggers and conquer those cravings in order to say goodbye to stress eating for good.
Tips on How To Control Stress Eating
1. Why Do We Stress And How do We Stop Doing It?
For some folks, food is nothing but a numbing strategy when something in their lives goes south. It acts as a distraction as it has the power to activate their brain’s pleasure centers, releasing dopamine, a chemical that is naturally found in the human body.
Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter that creates feelings of pleasure and reward. But here’s the thing! Sugar can also release dopamine.
In essence, stress eating is nothing but a crutch for stress, but it’s not a cure. The only way to control the urge to eat when you’re stressed out is to look within yourself and figure out what’s causing you stress, anxiety or negative emotions. Once the issue is identified, you’ll find ways to cope in a healthy way.
2. How Do You Cope in a Healthy Way?
There are different ways to cope with unbearable emotions like fear, anxiety, frustration, anger and grief besides eating. Here are three healthier alternatives:
- Exercise: Physical activity produces endorphins in the brain that act like natural painkillers and reduce stress, promote better sleep, and alleviates depression.
- Journal: Reach for a pen whenever those cravings hit, and write down what you’re feeling at that moment in a journal. This can help pinpoint what’s causing the stress eating so you can nip it in the bud. Try practicing breathing exercises to calm your mind.
- Social Network: Friends can help you process the feelings that trigger your stress eating. Having a support system improves self-confidence, increases happiness, reduces stress, and can help you cope with anxiety.
3. Maintain a Healthy Meal Schedule
Healthy eating shouldn’t feel like a hassle. Having a healthy and balanced relationship with food is very important. The most important thing is to remember that diets don’t work in the long run. Eating every 4 hours will keep your metabolism active. So don’t restrict yourself. Your body needs food, but it doesn’t need large quantities of it.
Practice portion control to avoid eating more than your body needs. If you’re going to snack on almonds, for example, don’t eat them straight from the bag. Instead, take 8 to 10 almonds to avoid overeating.
Have a meal schedule and eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between at specific times. This will help resist the urge to order a pizza or spend money at a restaurant. Add a cheat day once or twice a week!
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4. Go For Healthy Alternatives
The goal isn’t to starve or condition the brain to hate food. It’s about making better food choices. Craving the fizz from a soft drink? Make yourself a fruit smoothie. Want some chips? Eat a celery stick or a carrot with unflavored peanut butter on top.
Here are some other healthy snacks to consider:
- Make some chia seed pudding with almond milk, stevia, and a scoop of blueberry jam as a topping.
- Eat a handful of almonds (about 7 to 10 is enough)
- Create a snack with pears, honey and some Greek yogurt (the size of your fist would be the perfect portion for your body)
- Have yogurt that’s filled with healthy fat and protein, but isn’t loaded with sugar
- Make fruit juice popsicles out of sliced fruits, stevia, and water
- Have mandarin oranges with cottage cheese
5. Use Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness exercises can help you with those cravings. They’ll allow you to stay in the moment, control your stress, and curb bad eating habits. You can also try some of these exercises that provide a sensory distraction:
- Yawn and stretch for 10 seconds every hour
- Massage your hands
- Clench a fist, turn the hand over with the fingers facing up and breathe into the fist
6. Stay busy and prevent boredom
When you’re bored and have some extra free time, you might find yourself eating more. So, take on some home improvement projects, reorganize the house, or find a new hobby. This reduces stress and helps you feel more fulfilled.
Goodbye Stress Eating
In the end, it is crucial to figure out how to stop stress eating, so we can live an improved healthy lifestyle. Determination and consistency are the keys to success.
Have you tried to control your stress eating? Anything which has worked for you that is not mentioned on this list? Let us know in the comments.