Stress and Emotional Eating: How To Stop

| Food

As much as we'd like to think that we only eat when we are hungry, and that the food we put in our bodies is nothing but nutritious, that's not always the case when it comes to coping with stress. Eating is one of the most popular — and harmful — ways to deal with our emotions. We eat when we celebrate, we eat when we mourn, and we definitely eat when we feel overwhelmed. Luckily, emotional eating can be controlled! We've established a couple helpful tips to aid you in suppressing those hunger pangs the next time you're feeling stressed!

In order to discourage emotional eating, you need to be able to determine when you are actually hungry versus when you are just emotionally hungry. Some of those most common signs of emotional eating are: (via HelpGuide.org)

  • Sudden cravings
  • Craving comfort foods
  • Mindless eating
  • Not feeling satisfied, even once you're full
  • Feeling regretful, shameful, or guilty after eating

woman on a diet tempted by sweets

>> Read more: 10 Foods to Suppress Your Appetite

We succumb to emotional eating as a way to make ourselves feel better. In this case, eating becomes a coping mechanism to dealing with overwhelming emotions like stress, anxiety, anger and depression. Learning how to channel those emotions into other, more productive and beneficial activities is absolutely crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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If you are suffering from emotional eating, the most important step in getting yourself back on track is to identify what your specific triggers are. These can be anything from a certain emotion experienced during, say, an argument with the kids, or even something as simple as a certain location that reminds you of a stressful event in your past. Popular triggers often include:

  • Stress. When we experience stress, our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol can trigger intense feelings of hunger.
  • Uncomfortable emotions. Emotions that cause discomfort (like anger, depression, anxiety and loneliness) can often serve as risk factors for emotional eating.
  • Boredom. Well, who hasn't started chowing down on a bag of potato chips out of sheer boredom? Eating just because we have nothing better to do often prevents us from thinking about those things in our lives that disappoint us.
  • Childhood habits. Believe it or not, how and when we received food as children can often impact our relationship with food as adults. Many of us would consume candy or ice cream when we were upset as kids. Perhaps that habit hasn't changed, even now.
  • Peer pressure. There's no harm in getting together with friends to vent, but often those dates are accompanied by rich food, multiple glasses of wine, and a healthy slab of pie.

Senior couple walking and laughing together

Once you know what your triggers are, dealing with your stress eating becomes pretty straightforward. It's all about replacing those habits with healthier hobbies that satisfy your cravings in a different way. These these suggestions:

  • Exercise. The best way to get those stress levels under control is through physical exertion. The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, try going on a walk around the neighborhood or hitting up the nearest yoga studio.
  • Call a friend. Talking it out can help get your mind off food in no time! Just make sure that your friendly hangout isn't over a three-course meal!
  • Dance it out. If you don't have time to hit the gym, then crank up your favorite tunes and focus on some upbeat music to cheer you up instead.
  • Take a bath. Nothing helps you clear your head more than a luxurious bubble bath. Just be sure to lock the door so you can get some uninterrupted mommy-time!
  • Pamper yourself. If you just need to get out of the house and away from your pantry, head out for a mani/pedi or a relaxing massage. A little pampering will take your mind off that pint of ice cream in the freezer right away!

For more ways to relax and de-stress, check out our favorite recommendations here!

massage flowers

It's essential that you remember emotional eating is just a state of mind. Replacing it with an activity that will get your thoughts off of food will work wonders for your waistline! For more information, take a look at our sources: HelpGuide.org, Medicine Net, and WebMD.