People eat for many reasons besides hunger. Many emotions can trigger cravings, and stress is one of the most common. Stress eating is not a healthy practice, as it often leads to overeating, as well as snacking on unhealthy foods.
Since this can lead to both weight gain and health problems, it can cause even more stress, feeding the vicious cycle. The best way to break this cycle is to become aware of your triggers, and deal with them as they arise.
The following are seven signs you are a stress eater, and some ways to stop.
1. You eat when you are not hungry. Do you find yourself reaching for snack foods when your belly is already at capacity? Maybe you had a big breakfast, but an intense morning meeting has you running to the office vending machine before 10 am. If this is you, make a mental note of how you are feeling when you get these cravings – are you anxious?
STOP IT! Next time your stress sends you searching for a snack on a full stomach, try chewing on some peppermint leaves or cardamom seeds instead. It may also help to drink a glass of water, and get up for a few minutes and take a walk, until your stress passes.
2. When you are facing a deadline, or a stressful event, you immediately think of having a snack. If the anticipation of something important or frightening coming up sends you straight to the fridge, it is likely you are eating from a source of anxiety.
STOP IT! The best way to tackle this is to think thoroughly about the event at hand. If it’s something you have to do, breaking it down into manageable steps on paper can relieve some of the worry.
If it’s an inevitable circumstance looming in the near future, making a list of positives about the situation, as well as possible solutions for any negatives, can help a lot.
3. If you experience a setback, you soothe yourself with food. Maybe you’ve been passed over for a promotion, arrived late for an important meeting, or had an argument with a loved one. If you find yourself constantly munching as you ruminate what happened, you need to find a better way to soothe yourself.
STOP IT! Before reaching straight for the nibbles, try taking a hot bath, going for a run, doing some yoga, going to the spa or getting a massage. These are wonderful ways to get you feeling better without the calories.
4. When you are feeling anxious, food seems like a decent substitute for a friend. Some people call up a friend when they are feeling jittery or stressed, and others have a meal or snack. In extreme cases, you may even talk to your food and tell it what’s wrong, or ask it for advice.
STOP IT! Call up a real friend! If you’ve neglected your social life lately, maybe it’s time to sign up for a class or activity to meet some new people. Also, being your own best friend is critical. Talking to yourself sure beats talking to a bag of chips.
5. When you’re eating your favorite food, you find it difficult to stop. Every bite seems to soothe your emotions and make you feel better – although your stomach may not feel so great. When you finally stop eating, you feel like you can barely move, or like you’ve been hit by a semi truck.
STOP IT! If you’re constantly going to unhealthy snacks, it can help to keep these out of the house. In the case of a healthy food that you are just going overboard on, it may help to make your meals and snacks in advance, and then portion them out in containers in your fridge or pantry. That way, you’ll be more mindful of how much you are eating.
6. You get cravings at strange times during the day. Morning, noon, night, whether you are full or not – whenever the stress hits, you get a craving. Sometimes you may not even know you are stressed, until you realize you’re getting a craving for something that usually soothes you.
STOP IT! Get on a regular eating schedule. Healthy snacks are perfectly ok, so plan for these too. If you get the urge to eat outside of your schedule, first make sure that you are eating enough, and that your schedule is enough to satisfy your actual hunger.
If it is, try and stick to it and eat only what you’ve planned out.
7. Your stress temporarily dissolves after a snack. Your mind is spinning, your heart is racing… until you have that first bite. Then, everything is zen… for a little while.
STOP IT! Recognize that the food you are indulging on does not actually do anything to help the cause of your stress. Instead, decide to start tackling the real problems. Write down what is making you feel stressed and anxious, as well as a list of possible solutions to each problem. Assess each solution for practicality, then if they pass the test, give them a try.
If you find that you have a problem with stress eating, and cannot seem to shake it no matter how many of the above tips and tricks you try, it may be time to talk to a counselor. Emotional eating can be a sign of a deeper issue, and talking to a professional may help you get in touch with what’s at the root of your stress, so you can start working on managing it in a healthy way.
-The Alternative Daily