Ten Ways to Stop Stress Eating for Good
By Abbe Breiter, MS RD LDN
Stress (n.), as defined by Webster is ‘a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.’
Stress usually has a negative connotation, but it can have a positive one as well. A new job, buying a home, having a baby, or losing a lot of weight are all happy events but can be just as stressful as a death in the family.
When a person feels stressed, certain hormones are released in the body to prepare for a “fight or flight” reaction. Most of us do not get into a physical fight nor do we tend to physically run away so the body is left to deal with these increased levels of hormones. Stress increases the brain’s need for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that induces a feeling of calm. To increase your body’s production of serotonin, your body requires carbohydrates, thus causing cravings for foods such as pasta, potatoes, cookies and cakes.
Wouldn’t it be better on your waistline to steer your body towards healthier choices to satisfy those cravings? Stress can also lead to erratic eating habits. It can set the stage for a feeding frenzy. Too often we neglect to schedule time to sit down and eat real meals or eat more than a handful of this or that throughout the day. Blood sugars plummet and we become so ravenous that we eat everything and anything in sight. We may also have been conditioned during childhood to see food as a reward for something well done or a remedy for sadness or injury.
The following are some helpful tips to avoid “stress eating:”
1. Modify your diet to eliminate or significantly reduce comfort foods that are high in fat and sugar.
2. Don’t skip meals. Research shows passing on breakfast and/or lunch will mean more food at night.
3. Change the way you deal with food in relation to stress.
4. Find ways other than eating to relieve stress and anxiety.
5. Try to be aware of your personal overeating triggers.
6. Rid your home and office of finger foods as well as foods you can't resist.
7. Do not allow yourself to eat while standing.
8. Do a u-turn when you find yourself heading to the kitchen or vending machine. Instead, phone a friend or take a walk up and down the stairs.
9. Turn to non-food soothers: exercise, bubble bath, calming music, a novel or a magazine.
10. Look for ways to include physical activity in your daily life.
Overtime by practicing new stress reducing strategies, you will learn to stop stress eating for good!