6 Strategies to Help You Kick the Stress Eating Habit
Do you use food to cope with the chaos in your life? Whether it’s overwhelming family responsibilities, a demanding work schedule, or just trying to navigate the current situation with world events, many of us turn to food when the going gets tough. In fact, research shows that 38 percent of adults admit to using food as a way to deal with stress, with almost half of those people admitting they do so on a weekly basis.
Here’s the good news, though. With the help of some simple strategies, you can pull yourself out of that stress-fueled eating spiral and help to create routines to manage stress in a way that doesn’t involve eating everything in sight. Let’s take a look.
Identify what’s stressing you out.
Stress often feels like a huge weight hanging over your head, but next time you feel that pressure leading you towards a mindless binge, take a moment to really stop and ask yourself, “what is causing this feeling right now?” Breaking a pattern of stress eating requires you to lessen or eliminate the feelings that are causing it, and you might be surprised how powerful the simple act of putting a name to an issue can be. Not only can this issue help you to deal with the root problem, but it’s also a good way to take your mind off the food itself.
Get your kitchen in order.
For many of us, stress eating is a subconscious process. It becomes so habitual that we often don’t notice that we’re doing it and we’re just grabbing whatever is in sight. That makes it all the more important to get your kitchen in order with healthy grab-and-go options and other nutritious foods to munch on.
If you know you have trouble stopping when it comes to certain trigger foods, consider eliminating them, or making them much harder to access. Push the candy to the highest shelf at the back of the pantry. Store the ice cream behind bags of frozen veggies to keep it out of sight.
Or take things a step farther and eliminate those foods from your kitchen all together. This can help you establish new, healthier habits around snack food and set you up for less mindless snacking on junk food.
Create a routine to help you manage your stress.
Does your end of the day “de-stress routine” always include grabbing a snack and planting yourself in front of the tv on the couch? If so, there’s a good chance you’re actually reinforcing those stress eating behaviors by making them a habit. Plus, it’s twice as hard to resist the urge to devour that leftover cake when you’re sitting on the couch dreaming about it.
Instead of keeping that snack-and-relax habit going, why not replace it with behaviors that keep you busy without revolving around food? Instead of heading to the couch, take a post-dinner walk. Take a scenic drive home after a stressful day at work and blast your favorite tunes. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but by taking simple actions to create a de-stressing room that doesn’t leave room for snacks, you’ll be able to form habits that help to eliminate that need.
Consistently manage your hunger.
Stress eating isn’t just confined to mindless snacking— you can be truly hungry while dealing with it, as well. And if there’s one combination that is tough to handle, it’s being stressed and starving at the same time. You know that feeling, right? You’ve been so buried under responsibilities all day that you forget to eat, and by the time you get to dinner you’re ready to devour anything in sight. It doesn’t matter what it is or whether you’re feeling full— suddenly you’re a mindless eating machine that can’t be satisfied.
It can be tough to find the time to stop and eat when you’re busy or your mind is constantly racing, but these are the times you really need to manage those feelings of hunger and eat consistently throughout the day. If you know that mealtimes are going to be challenging, try keeping a selection of healthy snacks on hand to much on, as needed. If it’s been several hours or it’s going to be a long time until your next meal, make the choice to eat something simple with a quality protein source — like a small salad with grilled chicken — even if you don’t really feel like eating. By taking the time to eat consistently during high-stress periods, you can help reduce that urge to eat everything in sight later on.
Improve your sleep habits.
Like stress, sleep deprivation can actually cause more intense food cravings, making the combination of the two a particularly potent combo. That means if you’re stressed out and you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re much more likely to reach for junk food.
Sleep can feel elusive during particularly stressful periods — your mind is racing, you’re restless, and it feels like you’re lying awake forever at night — which is why a healthy sleep routine can be super helpful. Shut down electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Limit (or eliminate) caffeine after 2 pm. Get in the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Creating this type of healthy sleep routine will help to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, meaning you’ll be more likely to get truly restful sleep, even during those high-stress periods in your life.
Workout your restless energy.
Exercise releases endorphins, even after a short period of time, so a quick workout can be a great way to help your mind feel happier and relaxed if you’re fighting the urge to stress eat. When you’re really fighting the need to munch, go for a brisk 10-15 minute walk or jog. Try a google search for a quick, online yoga video. Do that core work you keep putting off after you lift. Even just performing some easy stretching and mindful breathing exercises can do the trick.
Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for direct, individual medical treatment or advice. It is the responsibility of you and your healthcare providers to make all decisions regarding your health. Consult with your healthcare providers regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any disease or condition. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.