Stress Related Emotional Eating
It is easy to use food as an instant pick-me-up to get relief from the emotional effects of stress. It doesn’t remove the cause of your stress, but it can make you feel better… for a while.
And that’s the problem really. When stress starts it usually triggers cravings for particular types of food – usually those loaded with calories and that are high in sugar, salt and fats.
When the relief from emotional eating has passed we are still left with the stressful issue to contend with.
We’ve also put food into our body that doesn’t combat the impact of the stress hormone cortisol on the digestive system, and we haven’t given our body the nutrients it needs to fight the physical effects of our stressor.
We might also experience some gastrointestinal discomfort later such as indigestion, acid reflux, or with elimination, due to the hormonal disruption of the digestive system.
We could also have created an additional cause of stress, because these types of food are more likely to cause weight gain, and that could stress us out even more. So…..
Are You an Emotional Eater?
If you answer yes to any of these questions chances are that you are an emotional eater:
- Do you eat to improve your mood?
- Do you eat other than when you are hungry?
- Do you eat when you are feeling angry, stressed, bored or anxious?
- Does eating give you some relief from these feelings?
- Do you continue eating when you are feeling full?
- Does stress make you eat more?
When you substitute food for whatever ails you in life, you need to make lifestyle changes to get yourself back on track.
Controlling Emotional Eating
It might not be possible to rid your life of stressful episodes altogether, but you can take easy steps to minimize their impact on your physical well-being, and to help resist the urge to eat unnecessarily.
First, you need to determine what is stressful to you. Identify what triggers a stressful episode and be prepared to react to it in a different way than grabbing a snack. The main way you can control food cravings is to understand the root cause of your stress.
Then, recognize when stress is actually taking hold and influencing your actions, and take positive steps to hold back the need to eat. These steps can be as simple and straightforward as:
- Taking some deep breaths – this helps to calm you and can lower blood pressure.
- Moving around – exercise is known to improve mood and focus the mind.
- Listening to some calming music – this helps you to relax.
- Drinking a large glass of water can make you feel full up, and less inclined to eat.
- If you do eat, make it something healthy if you can, like some fruit, nuts or seeds, or exercise portion control if you succumb to your cravings.
These are easy steps that can be taken anywhere. They don’t remove the cause of the stress but can keep you from making an inappropriate response to the situation, and making a difficult matter worse.
Get away from the stressful situation as best you can and manage your emotions another way.
Recognize what makes you stressed, identify what triggers an episode, manage the situation by some way other than eating and you are beginning to put yourself in control.
Emotional eating for stress relief rather than for physical hunger puts your body under more strain than you need. Manage your stress and eat only when you are really hungry for your ongoing well-being.