- Mental Health
Stress Eating: What Is It and How Can You Stop It?
I have a confession to make: sometimes I eat, not because I'm hungry, but because I'm stressed. The worst part is that stress-eat I end up eating more than if I were actually hungry. Also, I must confess that when I'm stressed I end up eating so mindlessly that it takes a while for my brain to realize that I'm putting food in my mouth, and when it finally comes to that realization I've already inhaled a whole bag of chips. The sad part is that even though my brain may not notice the excess food, my waist certainly notices it.
If you have problems akin to the one mentioned above, follow me
to the road to redemption.
Why do we overeat when we feel stressed?
When we feel tense or stressed we automatically look for the quick
path to happiness. And what's the quickest way to get there? A
quick rush of serotonin! Serotonin is one of the "happiness
hormones" our brain releases, and it feels great! Serotonin makes
us feel at ease and relaxed.
And the quickest way to get a serotonin rush is by eating a load of
simple carbohydrates. In other words, we start looking for a whole
bunch of bad food, such as chocolate, candy, chips, ice cream, etc...
This load of simple carbohydrates triggers a quick release of
serotonin, and we may feel better momentarily. Emphasis on
MOMENTARILY...Yes, that quick happiness doesn't last long, and
anyone who is a stress eater can attest to that.
How many times have you felt super guilty after you inhaled that
box of cookies, or that family-size potato chip bag? I know I feel
bad immediately after I have done the bad deed, and then I start
feeling stressed and tense all over again.
It's all a vicious, downward spiral...
How can you stop stress eating?
Let's go through some simple tips that will keep you away from
eating when you're not hungry.
Break the cycle of stress eating
The more you stress eat, the more your body will get used to eating that way, which makes it all the more important to break this vicious cycle as soon as possible.
Your body can quickly become conditioned to wanting those quick serotonin boosters. When you become "addicted" your body becomes very vulnerable when you're in the vicinity of cookies, ice cream, or whatever your favorite junk food may be.
To break the cycle, follow the tips listed in this hub. And when you feel like you just can't stop yourself, breathe deeply at least 10 times to reduce your cortisol/stress levels, and cut down your junk food portions gradually.
Wait it out
This may seem like an overly simplistic piece of advice, but it
works! Here's what you do:
- As soon as you feel the urge to stress-eat, Wait!
- Think: Do I really need this? How will I feel right after I have eaten it?
- If you must have something, go get something that will not go straight to your thighs, like tea or lemon water.
- Go for a walk, knit, paint your toenails or do anything else that will keep your mind away from food.
Mint is great for getting those cravings out of your mouth. It makes
your mouth feel clean, therefore signaling your brain that eating
time is over. So, as soon as you feel the urge to eat, you can
- Brush your teeth
- Chew super minty gum
- Rinse your mouth with mouthwash
Sometimes, when you're stressed out, your brain may trick you into
thinking that you really are hungry, even though you just ate.
And you really may be feeling hungry, but it's not for lack of food,
it's for lack of water.
Satisfy your appetite with complex carbohydrates
If you definitely must eat when you're stressed, then instead of reaching for that ice
cream or those chips, grab something that will give your body
complex carbs. Complex carbohydrates are slowly digested and
maintain your sugar levels stable without blowing up your thighs or
hips. You can find complex carbs in most fruits and vegetables as
well as grains such as quinoa and oatmeal.
Yummy complex carbohydrates
When I feel like I need to eat something that at least feels junky, I toast a piece of Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain bread by Food for Life Baking company, add a little peanut butter and top it off with a few pieces of apple.
You can take all these ingredients to work and make yourself a delicious batch of complex carbohydrates when your boss or co-workers start stressing you out.
*The Ezekiel 4:9 break can be bought at most health food stores and some Ralph's stores.
Eat something crunchy
No, I don't mean chips or even veggie chips. I mean healthy
crunchy. Sometimes our anxieties or our urge to eat can be calmed
down simply by eating something crunchy. Our jaws will get the
work they need to release all tension, and your brain will get the
sensation of eating something yummy. So reach out for those celery
sticks, apples, baby carrots or cucumber slices.
*My favorite crunch healthy food is snap peas! Have you tried them?
They're super yummy!
When we stress eat, we eat mindlessly, without really noticing what we are putting in our mouths. We chew and swallow rapidly, desperate to get to the next bite. Stop! Be mindful about what you put in your mouth. If you will indulge and decide to have a piece of that delicious donut, take a bite and savor it. Close your eyes and enjoy the explosion of flavors in your mouth. By doing this you will reduce the amount of calories you consume and you will actually enjoy the eating experience.
When we are stressed, we want what we can't have. For that same reason, don't think about junk food as food you can't have. Think of junk food as food you choose not to have. You may choose to eat a little bit of junk food here and there, but please, measure your portions. Never have more than your guilt can handle, and definitely never have more than your daily activity will allow.
Always remember, your body is not a trash can. Don't dump all your negative feelings in it. Treat it with care and feed it right.