Are you really hungry or just stress-eating? Know the signs and break the cycle with these tips.
Summer is here! Along with the fun of vacations and family celebrations can come stress, and, even worse, stress-eating. Stress-eating happens when we numb overwhelming feelings with food, eating when we’re not hungry and eating more than necessary to be full. Often, we’re not stress-eating green veggies, either, we’re piling on the junk food. It’s a vicious cycle of not feeling satisfied and eating to compensate. Gaining weight, increasing physical and mental illnesses and low self-esteem can all result from stress eating.
Fortunately, there are ways to steer yourself away from this stressful eating cycle. Here are 6 tips to stop stress-eating right now.
1) Plan Your Meals
Get your body on a healthy eating schedule. Prepare your meals in advance so you can be sure to have a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner, with small snacks in between, such as apples, grapes, bananas, blueberries, low-fat popcorn or vegetables. Meal prep not only cuts down on your stress by taking “What am I going to eat next?” off your plate, it also ensures that you won’t be grabbing unhealthy food on the go for convenience and stressing about what you’ve eaten later. Take some time on Sunday and plan out what you’re going to eat for the week. Pack everything up in containers and store it in your fridge at home or at work, until you’re ready for it.
2) Listen to your body.
How can you tell if you’re really hungry or just stress-eating? Listen to your body. If it’s the middle of the day and you’re reaching for food, you’re probably not ready to eat again. Is your stomach growling? Does your stomach feel empty? If you’re not sure, drink 8 ounces of water and wait. If you’re still not feeling satisfied, it’s time to eat. If you are feeling satisfied, it’s time to stop.
When you feel like reaching for a snack when you know you’re not hungry, try to divert that energy into exercising. Get up from your desk and take a stroll outside. Not only will the sunshine and exercise release endorphins in your body that make you feel good and lessen feelings of pain and stress, you’ll also have some time to think about what’s behind your urge to eat. Did someone say something rude to you at work? Are you overwhelmed with responsibilities? Exercise can help you get clear and find a solution to your problem instead of the temporary diversion that stress-eating causes.
4) Savor your food
Ideally, we would eat 100% healthy, every day, all day, right? Well, there is going to be a day or two when you deserve a cheeseburger, an ice cream cone, french fries, and a couple slices of pizza (but not all at once or on the same day!). Go for it, but in moderation and with enjoyment, not over-eating to mask your stress. Make sure when you eat your “fun” choices of food you enjoy every bite and take your time digesting your food so you can recognize when you are full.
5) Write Down Your Feelings
When stress is kicking in and you’re reaching for junk food, stop and reach for a journal, your phone or computer instead. Open up a writing space and begin to examine what is causing you stress. Drink a glass of water to curb your cravings while you write down what’s happening in your head and heart. Think of ways you can address your problem head on. Do you need to have a tough conversation with someone? Write out what it is you want to say. By the time you finish, your unhealthy craving should be gone. If not, drink some more water and a handful of blueberries and keep writing!
6) Discover New Hobbies
Think about what you love to do and do it more often! Starting a fun and enjoyable hobby can help you manage stress and hardships in other areas of life, giving you more energy and a renewed sense of hope when it’s time to tackle those problems. Before you know it, you’ll be having more fun, enjoying life more and better equipped to handle stress in a healthy way. Give it a shot and try something new!