Stress triggers are real — and everywhere. People handle stress in many ways, but it can become challenging when the stresses don’t seem to let up. For so many, emotional eating, binge eating, misreading boredom for hunger, and poor eating habits can feel like stress eating solutions. But they’re not.
If you’re no stranger to emotional eating, junk food may help you get through a perceived stressful moment of emotional hunger, but when relied on often it can also lead to weight gain, eating disorders, trouble with weight loss, and even more stress.1
Food cravings can put a damper on your health and weight loss goals. Know your stress triggers to employ stress eating solutions and habits that work for you.
Emotional Eating Habits Can Wreak Havoc On Your Health And Weight Loss Goals
Whether you hide your emotional eating habits or make light of your hunger by deflecting attention from them, you’re not alone.
What is emotional eating, exactly? The National Institutes of Health define it as overeating “in response to negative emotions such as anxiety or irritability”.2 Emotional eating and binge eating has been linked to general weight concerns like being overweight or suffering from an eating disorder.3
Some of the challenges linked to emotional eating are as follows:
- Struggles with weight loss
- More instances of binge eating
- Inability to self-monitor
- Misinterpreting stress for hunger
- Lack of social support
- Reduced mindfulness4
But as hard as it may seem at times — especially during moments of extreme stress — you can overcome the challenges of emotional eating or stress-induced hunger. There are some great tools you can employ to help you beat this issue and they don’t all revolve around simply giving up all junk food.
Try These Stress Eating Solutions: Mindfulness Is Your Biggest Tool Against Food Cravings
When it comes to trying to reduce your bouts of overeating, mindfulness is a great way to enact new eating habits. When you feel stress building and you know an episode of overeating is around the corner, take a time out for mindfulness.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to appear in the form of yoga or meditation. It can just be about recognizing a pattern or habit, stopping, and redirecting how you deal with that pattern. So, for instance… stop. Take a 5-minute walk. Even if that means pacing your apartment or doing laps in your backyard, you’re catching your mind before it causes you to do something you’ll regret.
Then, you’re making the decision to distract yourself. As you’re walking, try to think about mindful eating. What foods make better choices in a moment like this? Make a list. And the next time you go to the grocery store, shop for mindful foods, not junk. That’s called mindful shopping.
Mindfulness can mean you write 3 things you’re grateful for instead of opening the pantry. Mindfulness can mean you light a candle and count to 100. Or pick up the phone and call your best friend or a sibling. They’ll help talk you through. The options are endless. And you can choose what works for you.
Think About Nutrition: Find Healthy Meals And Snacks To Replace Junk Food
Whether you’re experiencing a stress trigger or actual physical hunger, you can help yourself by logging what you choose to eat. You know the feeling of looking at the empty container of cookies. It does feel good, right? Well, logging your food can have a similar effect.
When you see a repetitive pattern, it may make you want to correct it. Also, you can see what your go-to binge items are and simply not shop for those foods anymore. If licorice is your weakness, just don’t bring it home. Instead, grab some ripe strawberries or raspberries — they’re sweet and maybe the color of the fruit will help you trick your brain.
And here’s a nutritional hack for when it is time to indulge: make any sweet treat at home. That way, you can tailor your recipe to meet your needs and tastes. If you make dessert in your kitchen, you can see exactly what goes into it. And when does a home chef load up a goody with preservatives or chemicals? Never.
So, you can use less sugar, less cream… but you’ll still get to indulge in something decadent — just a little bit of a healthier decadence. Plus, taking the time to make something puts off the possibility of bingeing. And putting your mind to a task might give you time to let go of your stress. So by the time you’re ready to eat what you made, you may not be as stressed out. Which means, you can eat less than you would’ve and share your dessert or save the rest for the next stressful moment.
Water Down Your Indulgence
Before you reach for that snack, drink a full 8 oz. glass of water. Drinking water can go a long way to help you feel more satiated, sooner. And drinking more water may even help fight junk food cravings. Here’s why: in a recent study, pre-indulgence water consumption was linked to a pretty serious reduction in food intake.5
Also, sometimes you actually eat when all your body wants is water — you may think you’re hungry, but you’re just thirsty. So, filling up on water should be a daily practice.
Know Your Emotional Eating Triggers And Have A Plan In Place To Avoid The Binge
Triggers are real. The body tells you to avoid potential stresses because they make you feel unsafe. That’s one reason why you may not want to confront a trigger — it usually means you were ‘hurt’ before. Your body just wants to protect you.
But, sometimes you have to face your stresses head on. So, if you know you’re heading into a situation that may trigger you, be prepared. For the sake of argument, if your mother stresses you out and you know you’re going to see her, bring a healthy snack.
That way when you’re ready to go home, instead of driving through a fast food joint and purchasing everything on the menu, you can just reach into your glove compartment (or handbag) and pull out some trail mix or a bag of grapes.
You won’t do the damage you normally do by ordering a burger, fries, and two shakes. Instead, you’ll have something on-hand to tide you over until the stress dies down.
Destressing Is Important, And You Can Find New Ways To Do It
In the end, overeating can be a real struggle for some. Changing your habits takes time, commitment, patience, and a whole lot of self respect. But you can tackle this.
You don’t have to give in to emotional eating for the rest of your life. You can take steps — just put one proverbial foot in front of the other… you’ll get to a better place. And if you’re deeply struggling, it’s okay to seek out the help of a professional healthcare provider.
For emotional eaters, stress and hunger don’t have to get the best of you. You can tackle your hunger issues if you stop, take a moment for mindfulness, and redirect your brain. Distraction is one of the great keys to success here. Don’t forget — the next time you’re stressing, take that walk, wash that car… give yourself the time to calm down. Then go whip up something healthy in the kitchen.
Can A Messed Up Metabolism Be Related To Eating Less Than You Should?
11 Best Foods To Help Reduce Belly Fat
Signs You Need To Relax: Do These Things Happen To You When Stress And Tension Is High?