Stress eating is a form of emotional eating triggered by trying events or situations. According to Psychology Today, “emotional eating is a powerful and effective way to find temporary relief from many of life’s challenges.” People eat to deal with strong emotions because food often provides a distraction or a feeling of pleasure.
The problem? Overeating can lead to weight gain and health issues and can lock you into an endless cycle of overeating that won’t really solve anything – including your stress.
So next time you feel the need to snack for the wrong reasons, here are five proven methods to help you fight the urge and conquer stress.
Have a Plan in Place
Don’t wait until stress hits. Instead, make a list of things you can do to help you feel better when things get overwhelming. Look for activities that you naturally enjoy that have nothing to do with food. This could be anything from watching a movie to taking a bubble bath to going for a run. Make the list as long and detailed as you can, so you have options to choose from.
Do you have a hobby? If not, it might be time to get one – whether that means woodworking, painting, pottery or gardening.
Keep a Diary
Not even sure when you’re overeating or what’s triggering it? Keep track of your mood and how it affects the way you eat. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who kept a food diary lost more weight and ate smaller meals than those who didn’t.
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Clean Up the Cupboards
It’s a lot harder to eat junk food if you don’t have any junk food in the house – which means cleaning up your pantry and getting rid of unhealthy snack choices is a good place to start.
As a first step, get rid of anything full of sugar or fat, including potato chips, candy bars and cookies, sodas, highly processed snacks and anything with little nutritional value and a high calorie content. One tip to keep in mind: when checking calorie intake, look at how many servings a package contains. For example, a tiny bag of potato chips might only read 120 calories under Serving Size – which doesn’t seem like much until you realize the tiny bag is supposed to contain three servings. Since you’re likely to eat the entire thing at once, the real calorie count of the snack is close to 400.
Now, restock the pantry with healthier options. Be merciless when you go shopping. For example, nuts are healthy and a good snack, but they’re also high in fat, so if you’re going to be tempted to eat a whole bag, then you’re probably better off skipping them. Good choices: any 100-calorie snack pack, low-fat cereal, pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, jerky, tortilla chips and salsa, and fruits like raisins or dates.
This might sound simple, but self-sabotaging and negative thoughts (“I’m so stupid,” “You can’t even stop overeating”) can actually worsen the problem. Tell yourself you don’t have the willpower to stop stress eating and chances are you’ll be right. Instead, be gentle, use motivational words (or post them around the house if that works better), and remind yourself that “you can do it.”
Exercise increases the production of endorphins, which in turn help reduce stress, fight depression and ward off anxiety. Exercise also improves the quality of your sleep. According to experts, not getting enough sleep (or getting only poor quality sleep) can worsen stress and cause a dip in your blood sugar, leading to cravings for sugary foods.
High-intensity cardio exercise is great to fight stress, but you might want to incorporate other workouts into the mix as well. For example, yoga and Pilates are great for helping you stretch and learn controlled breathing, which you can use in times of stress.
For more tips and action plans on how to get started in your health journey, join ZONIA today. Our short videos from world renowned experts will lead you through the transformation by showing you specific actions you need to take to break the addiction to food, eliminate irrational cravings and behaviors, get moving again, and (most importantly) achieve a happy existence–for you and your entire family! This is not the next new diet or new workout program, but it’s a new way of life to help you reap the benefits of good health.
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