Stress eating entails turning to food as a means of coping with stressful stimuli, finding comfort or relief, or rewarding ourselves, and it is actually a very common behaviour that many people struggle to get control of.
Reaching for another slice of pizza or topping up that last glass of red when you are strung out may be more common than you realise, but unfortunately, this eating habit does not pay off and is often accompanied by feelings of shame and/or guilt.
That said, here is your guide to the 7 most important things you can do to help ease the temptation of stress eating.
- Remove Temptations
The number one thing you can do to help curve your stress eating habits is to remove temptations.
This can mean keeping snack foods stored out of sight, or swapping them out for mostly healthy choices. Keeping junk food within your line of sight makes it that much easier for the idea to get planted in your mind, so simply shifting some things around may make a difference.
On the other hand, keeping healthy foods within arms’ reach or within eyesight might work in your favor.
When you first start learning to combat stress eating, you may still find yourself searching for a snack sometimes, and that’s okay. That being said, if the first snack you see is a healthy one, the associated feelings of shame and guilt may be lessened when you give in.
- Do Not Restrict Yourself
One of the absolute most important things you can do for your body and mind is to make sure that you are not restricting yourself and depriving your body of food when you are hungry. Taking on an extremely restrictive diet in order to compensate for periods of stress eating usually just results in a binge when the restriction ends, and this cycle continues such that no real changes are made.
Instead, you should focus on balance. Aim to eat healthy, balanced meals 70% of the time, and then have some snacks or treat-foods 30% of the time.
- Maintain a Regular Meal Schedule
Maintaining a regular, balanced meal schedule, whatever that looks like for you, can be a big help when it comes to overeating.
Sticking to your normal eating schedule can help you maintain control and a sense of normalcy even when other aspects of your life become overwhelming.
- Move Your Body
Making time each day for physical activity can distract you from the temptations of stress eating. Not only that, but physical activity itself also reduces stress, which may in turn help reduce the feeling that you need to eat to cope with any stress you are experiencing. Even if you do not make it all the way to the gym, doing a 30-minute workout in the comfort of your own home is sufficient.
Supporting your body after working out is also an important part of self-care. So, if you regularly engage in strenuous workouts, or plan on doing so, it is a good idea to plan for muscle recovery, too. A good hit of protein (whey, hydrolysed collagen peptides, pea or whatever the source. Check out these protein myths over at Livestrong
- Drink Enough Water
Staying hydrated throughout the day may also help keep you from stress eating. Proper hydration supports your overall health and wellbeing, and it may, at times, help you feel fuller and differentiate between physical and emotional hunger.
- Choose Filling Foods
Opting foods that are more filling and have higher nutritional value can help with stress eating. The best kinds of foods to reach for are those that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, as these will help keep you full which may reduce the appeal of stress eating.
It may be helpful to keep a food diary while you make use of this tip so that you can track which foods seem to be most beneficial in your specific case, and which foods do not seem to help you at all. Finding some new favorite foods that are filling and nutritious can make it easier to stop automatically reaching for junk.
- Check in With Yourself
Checking in with yourself is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing, and can be a huge part of moving away from stress eating, too.
When cravings are hitting, or just as you see fit, take a moment to pause and look inwards. How are you feeling? What is going on in your life right now that is making you feel stressed or overwhelmed? What are some easy steps you can take towards completing stressful projects, or what are a few small things that you can do to become more organised? What are your emotions looking like?
Checking in with yourself can look different for you than it does for someone else, because the truth is that self-care comes in different shapes and sizes. When you need to take a step back, do so in a way that brings you comfort.
Supporting your body in these different ways can contribute to less stress overall.
The Bottom Line:
Stress eating is when a person turns to food as a way of coping or managing stressful, overwhelming experiences. It is a habit that plenty of people face, and you are certainly not alone in trying to find other ways to cope.
It is possible to get a handle on this eating habit, and it mostly comes down to turning to other strategies of coping with stress, and finding ways to avoid automatically reaching for snacks during high pressure times.
Following tips like removing temptations from your line of sight, making sure you stay hydrated, and getting regular exercise can help prevent stress eating by offering distractions and working to reduce the likelihood and ease of you grabbing a snack each time you are stressed out.
By starting to incorporate some of these seven tips into your life, you may be able to change your eating habits for the better and find healthier, more productive ways of managing your stress.