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Understanding Stress eating

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Do you have lot of cravings? What do those cravings feel like? Do you try to control it, but the more you try, the more you binge eat? Do they actually feel like hunger? Does a chocolate or chocolate cake make you feel better after a really bad day? We all have such phase.

“I remember when I was emotional, stressed, tired I had a ritual of sitting in my bed and watching an emotional movie and all I use to do is binge eat even if I wasn’t hungry. And all of these seemed like a reward to myself after all the roller-coaster emotions and tiring day. And the motivation of eating wasn’t to satisfy my hunger but it was for comfort and stress relief”

Stress eating or emotional eating is a way of consuming food to ease negative emotions or pain. Emotions here can be of different types like sadness, boredom, stress, fear, worry, shame and guilt, especially when these emotions are triggered by a major life event in one’s life. It’s very common to use food as a way to make oneself feel better. Stress eating can occur occasionally for some people, but for others it might be regular too. Everyone might have a different trigger reasons. According to the research the most common reason is stress (hence the name) as when our body is stressed it releases cortisol, which in return triggers cravings for salt, fat, carbs and sugar.

Here are some of the helpful tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid stress eating:

Recognition of the trigger: The first step to learn how to stop stress eating is to know about one’s personal triggers. Keeping a food diary and writing your reasons for eating, alongside what you eat, and what do you feel while eating might help to find the trigger.

Find other ways to overcome the stress: If you find the solution to the stress, you probably won’t end of stress eating. If the reason is loneliness, you can probably go for a walk in a park. If the reason is work-stress, you can probably take a break and meditate.

Practice mindful eating: Mindful eating is an important tool to help us become more aware of what we’re eating, how much we’re eating, and why we’re eating it. Mindfulness is basically praying attention to one single thing. Mindful eating helps you distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. It also increases your awareness of food-related triggers and gives you the freedom to choose your response to them.

Swap the comfort foods with the nutritious ones: You can swap your refrigerator or pantry with healthy foods rather than comforting ones. This might help because our association between eating and comfort is so strong that you will eventually eat healthier foods rather than quitting.

Maintaining healthy habits: When you are following a healthy lifestyle and are physically strong you’re better able to handle the problems life throws in. But when you are exhausted, tired and not active you eventually will end up stress eating. Some of the tips to maintain healthy lifestyle are:

  • Exercise for minimum of 45 minutes

  • Meditate

  • Sleep for at least 8 hours

  • Make time to relax and connect with people.

  • Engage in sustainable eating and lifestyle choices.

Food may help you ease emotions initially, but that’s not what the solution is. Addressing the feelings behind the hunger and tackling it with the help of experts is important for the long term benefits. You cannot control you stress eating just by waiting and hoping that it will change. Take action by taking active and small steps starting from today.

Divya Mittal

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