On The Table

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How to Avoid Stress Eating

You might have been there… Coming home after a trying day and succumbing to stress eating. While the cycle is intricate, it can be escapable when applying tips to stop stress eating.

How to Avoid Stress Eating

You might have been there…

Coming home after a trying day and tempted to eat those feelings away. The bag of chips, box of cookies, and other "comfort" and "junk" foods add extra temptation and withdraws any willpower.

But eating for reasons other than physical hunger and succumbing to those negative emotions can cause unwanted side effects. These include weight gain, feelings of guilt, and other concerns tied to physical and mental health.

The cycle is intricate, yet escapable, especially when inheriting the solution regarding how to stop emotional eating.

Stress Eating

Humans are emotional in nature and eating is often a byproduct of these emotions during assorted occasions.

Think about it: We eat cake to celebrate another year of precious life. We gather around the dinner table with loved ones during the holidays. We cheer with champagne to applaud a work promotion.

On the contrary, though, emotional eating is oftentimes fueled by negative reactions. Also known as stress eating, emotional eating is exactly what it sounds like: 

Eating habits based on stress and emotions rather than physical hunger.

What Is Stress Eating?

When stress, anger, worry, and other negative feelings emerge, food is sought out as a comfort measure for immediate pain relief. 

Emotional eating can be triggered by a number of factors, including:

• Major life events
• Work stress
• Relationship conflicts
• Financial worries

Emotional eating can be further fueled by dopamine, also known as the "feel good" hormone. Especially in strong emotional bouts, taking to food can release dopamine and activate the reward and pleasure centers. This can diminish the efficiency of satiety cues, which likely causes excessive food intake.

Nonetheless, the cycle can be complicated, tiring, and lead to weight gain. 

How to Stop Eating When Stressed

While there is no single "stress eating cure" per se, there are proven methods to lessen and stop stress eating bouts. 

Ask Yourself If Truly Hungry

Too often food is turned to based on anger, sadness, boredom, and monotony. Therefore, take a step back and ask yourself if you are truly eating based on physical hunger or "emotional" hunger.

Unlike cravings, which are more of a mental desire, true hunger is a physical need for food. True hunger can result in a growling stomach, headache, and loss of energy. 

It is often not exclusive to one food, and individuals are more apt to feel satisfied after eating. Likewise eat balanced meals and healthy snacks to regulate hunger instead of going for that quick, sugary fix.

Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating encourages its followers to eat based on intuition. Eating intuitively involves paying attention to the senses and identifying hunger and satiety cues.

Mindful eating shows success in the treatment of disordered eating and weight management. Such success makes it a valuable approach to hinder emotional eating and consequences of weight gain.

Practice mindful eating with the following tips:

• Sit at a designated eating area
• Be free of distractions, including the television and cell phone
• Acknowledge the way food smells, tastes, feels, etc.
• Eat slowly, or at least 15 to 20 minutes
• Pay attention to hunger and satiety cues

Restructure the Environment

The environment can stimulate and persuade food choices. So, restructure the environment so it is conducive to healthier eating practices. 

To illustrate, avoid stocking the pantry with processed, comfort foods and having a candy dish at your desk. Instead, keep freshly cut veggies in the fridge and swap out the candy dish for a fruit basket.

Interrupt Triggers in their Tracks

Being able to identify and interrupt trigger foods and responses is imperative to deter an emotional eating bout.

Consistently disrupting such thoughts and actions can start diminishing such negative habits and cultivate new, healthier ones.

Find Other Ways to Relieve Stress

So if eating to relieve stress or fill a void, confront it and fill it with a positive action, including:

• Going for a walk
• Calling a friend
• Stepping outside for fresh air
• Journaling
• Reading a book
• Meditating
• Practicing yoga

Ultimately, make life more fulfilling by paying attention to what might be lacking. This may include focusing on your career, family or significant other or reconnecting with an old friend.

Appreciate Life's Indulgences

Following a restrictive diet can be tantalizing to food cravings, often heightening temptations and the risks of eating binges.

So rather than constantly settling to deprivation, appreciate life's indulgences and special occasions. Eating based on true hunger and during positive emotions fosters healthy, balanced living!

Besides, food literally is life - it keeps the body functioning, sustaining, and living. So, instead of looking to food as the "bad guy," start to appreciate what each food is capable of. 

Yes, a bowl of ice cream is filled with sugar and fat. But the dairy it contains supplies calcium, which supports bone health. 

How to Reset After Overeating

If you did turn to food amidst a stressful situation, it is important to forgive yourself and own the days ahead. This includes conquering those uncomfortable overeating symptoms and consider

Forgive Yourself

During stressful times, it is more important than ever to go easy on yourself. And, let's face it, we are all human! 

Realize and accept binges can, do, and will occur. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to move forward.

Conquer Those Uncomfortable Overeating Symptoms

Take care of the uncomfortable symptoms following a binge. All of the food more than likely causes sleepiness and the digestive tract to go haywire. 

Instead of grabbing a pillow and a blanket, partake in light activity such as a walk or slow jog. Light activity along with drinking water can help the digestive tract move things right along.

Get Back On Track

Food may be the last thing on your mind after a binge, but try getting back on track. Useful tips include starting the day with a balanced breakfast and practicing meal prep.

Starting the day on the right food can help pave the way to healthier choices. When it comes to breakfast, skip out on the sugary cereals and reach for protein and fiber. A high-protein breakfast will keep the stomach full, satisfied, and prevent overeating. 

Although meal prepping requires some effort, putting in the time to do so can be key in getting back on track. Plan and prepare meals on the least busy day, oftentimes dedicated to a Sunday. 

A meal delivery program can take one task off your list by providing meals directly to your doorstep. This means enjoying proportioned, nutritionally-adequate meals without the need for regular grocery shopping and meal prepping!

Seek Professional Help As Needed

Disordered eating, especially binge eating disorder, displays similar characteristics of emotional eating. These eating patterns warrant specialized treatment to help nurture a healthy relationship with food and oneself. 

So if struggling to get a handle on eating behaviors, consider seeking professional help. They can help program a personalized approach for you.