Do You Stress Eat?
Under chronic stress certain individuals are more inclined to stress eat. Here are a few helpful strategies to break the stress eating cycle and enjoy a healthful diet even in difficult times.
- Build a good Foundation: Prepare your brain and body in advance by eating regular meals and snacks every 3-4 hours and you will handle stress better
- Enjoy complex carbohydrates and limit sugar. Complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains help produce serotonin which counteracts stress.
- Recognize what is happening. HALTS. Rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10. When did you last eat? Negative emotions trigger feelings of hunger and the habitual response to feel better is to eat.
- Mindfulness. Use your senses and be mindful of the foods you choose to eat, the taste, smell and amount of food. Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer, eat from a plate, sit down.
- Have a plan B- when the stress eating urge hits, have healthy snacks with you wherever you go. Trail mix pre-portioned into small packages, fruit, energy bars like Larabar, Elevate Me or Kind bars.
- Fool yourself/substitute. If you crave a crunch, substitute with lower calories options such as crispy rice crackers, carrot sticks or All Bran Buds. For sweet, replace it with fruit like frozen blueberries
- Out of sight out of mind: keep tempting foods in opaque containers in the freezer or back of the cupboard (or keep them at the grocery store if you can’t keep them at home)
- Choose healthy stress busting alternatives like going for a walk/run, listening to music, brushing your dog, meditation or yoga. Try taking a deep breath and then make the outbreath as long and slow as you can, repeat.
- Press pause. Try to wait it out. By saying you can have it later gives you time for the impulse to pass.
- Keep it real. It’s normal to eat according to emotion (celebrations/feeling blue) just don’t do it all the time.
Your life will always be faced with stressful situations, but what matters to your brain and entire body is how you respond to that stress. If you can view those situations as challenges that you can control and master rather than as threats that are insurmountable you will perform better in the short run and stay healthy in the long run.