Can't stop yourself for reaching for food when you're feeling stressed or anxious?
It's a very real problem for a lot of people and it can be a tough habit to break. We feel stressed, we eat, we feel badly about eating which causes more stress and we eat more.
But there are ways to break this cycle and free yourself from stress eating. Keep reading to find out how.
1. Recognize and Reflect
The first step to breaking the stress eating habit is to notice when it starts happening and why.
Is there a particular event or time of day where you feel more stress and reach for food you aren't hungry for?
Try to narrow down the circumstances when your stress is the worst so that you can better equip yourself to fight back the urge to eat.
2. Hydrate, Breathe, Distract
Once you have a mental list of your stress triggering times or events you're ready to start the next step.
When you feel stressed and you find yourself in the kitchen, stop and do the following three things:
- Fill up a glass of water (add lemon if you like) and drink it slowly outside of the kitchen.
- Take 5 to 10 deep breaths and imagine that you are breathing out your stress with every exhale.
- Pick a distraction activity that draws your attention away from food. Some good examples are calling a friend, taking a walk, doing an art project, or writing in a journal.
3. Say It Out Loud
Another technique you can use to stop stress eating is to call yourself out when it's happening. Say out loud "I am not eating this because I am hungry. I am eating this because I'm stressed."
It seems silly, but it really does work. Speaking your inner voice out loud is a powerful technique that works wonders for some stress eaters.
4. Be Grateful
Many stress eating behaviors come from feeling anxious about the present or future. We worry about so many things that we cannot change. But what if you spent the same amount of time being grateful as you did feeling stressed?
It could change your life!
So when you find yourself stressed out with your hand in a bag of chips, it's time for a few minutes of gratitude.
We all have things to be grateful for. Our friends, our health, our partner, a beautiful day with sunshine - it could be anything! And when we take time to think about all the awesome things we have to be thankful for, the happy chemicals in our brain are activated. Those chemicals can reduce cravings to eat when stressed.
And like anything else, when you practice over and over you get better. And your gratitude muscles get stronger every time you flex them. Similarly, when you practice stopping yourself from stress eating, you get better at it!
5. Make Not Eating More Satisfying
We stress eat because it makes us feel better - but only for a short time. If you can replace eating with another behavior that makes you happy you can get the same effect without the guilt.
Taking a bath, shopping for a new pair of shoes, or planning a vacation are things that can give you the same comfort that eating can.
The Last Resort
If you have tried all of these non-eating techniques and are still having a hard time you can try changing the food options you have in your house.
Stress eating fruit, veggies, or sunflower seeds is a much better choice than chips, cookies, or crackers.
Keep an emergency stash of low-calorie stress-eating foods just in case.
Say Goodbye to Stress Eating
You have the ability to stop stress eating. But you can't rely on willpower alone to make it happen. Instead, form a plan with the solutions above.
Try some of these strategies and notice how they make you feel. Each time you say no to stress eating you're building confidence that you can give it up once and for all.
And while we may not be able to control the stressors in our lives, we can control how we react to it.