Fitness & Nutrition Tips

6 Tactics to Help Overcome Stress Eating

In difficult times, it’s easy to use food to cope and find comfort. It’s understandable. What we eat is within our control when the world is uncontrollable. We all know that stress/emotional eating isn’t great for our health. So what do we do? Here are some vital tactics to help overcome stress eating:

  1. Be gentle with yourself when it happens. Beating yourself up and making yourself feel guiltier only perpetuates the cycle. Recognize what happened and use the information you have to move forward.
  2. Feel what you need to feel. Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, boredom, anger and sadness create a void that can’t be filled with food- at least for long term. Food is only a distraction, it satisfies physical hunger and not much else. Resolve to deal with the root issues.
  3. Learn to recognize physical hunger vs emotional hunger. Try to eat when you’re physically hungry. Some indications that you’re physically hungry include: hunger comes on gradually- there is no event that triggers it, willingness to eat any food, sensation of fullness and satisfaction when finished, it is guilt/shame free. Contrary to physical hunger, emotional hunger is characterized by: hunger comes on suddenly or is triggered by a specific event, associated emotions (anger, anxiety, boredom, loneliness), desire for specific types of food, tastes or textures, difficult to sense fullness and hard to stop eating, feelings of guilt/ shame/remorse about eating.
  4. Slow down. If you want food, but you’re not hungry, take a 5 minute pause. Tune into what’s on your mind, what you’re feeling or what you need. Maybe you need a hug instead of a brownie- something you’d only realize if you took your time to figure out what’s really going on.
  5. There’s a chain of events that leads up to emotional eating. If we can disrupt that chain, we’re able to pump the brakes on it. For example, you could:
    – minimize skipping meals so you’re satisfied throughout the day
    – keep better food options close by
    – portion out servings onto a plate instead of eating from the container
    – eat at the table instead of in front of the tv
    – do something to help cope (go for a walk, practice yoga, meditate or breathe deeply, play games, call friends, play with pets, etc)
    – change the habits or events that lead up to emotionally eating
  6. If you’re still struggling, seek out support:
    – join a support group
    – work with a counselor or hire an experienced nutritionist

Managing emotional eating is tough but you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process. Progress is made with practice. Just take it day by day and you’ll be okay.


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