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Do you find yourself reaching for sugary, salty, or fatty foods during stressful times at work? If junk food helps you cope when you feel stressed, you’re not alone. Most people turn to their favorite snack or meal to reduce anxiety, fill their emotional needs, and banish stress. This is called stress eating or emotional eating.
Stress eating may help reduce your negative feelings for a moment but when you stress-eat too frequently, it can affect a lot of factors in your life. Your health, happiness, and weight may be compromised.
If you find yourself using junk food as a way to manage stress, you may want to pause and re-evaluate. Here are some tips to help you overcome emotional eating.
Why Do I Always Want to Eat When Stressed?
Stress often brings about significant changes to our eating behaviors. Often, stress eating is doing the exact opposite of eating healthy. There are psychological and biological reasons behind why we eat when we are feeling stressed, anxious, or worried.
Psychologically, it is because we turn to food as our coping mechanism in order to alleviate negative emotions. It has nothing to do with being physically hungry; instead, it has more to do with soothing or suppressing uncomfortable feelings and situations.
For biological reasons, stress is associated with changes in levels of the hormone cortisol which plays a major role in regulating our energy levels.
How Do I Stop Stress-Induced Eating or Emotional Eating?
Boredom eating or comfort eating is an urge to eat that’s triggered by emotions or desires or needs and not a physical need for fuel. This unhealthy habit is the direct opposite of doing what is necessary to maintain a healthy weight.
Instead, it causes weight gain and weight loss difficulties. Individuals who have a high stress level typically go through overeating unhealthy food.
It may seem like it’s easier to give in to your craving and reach for chocolates, chips, or other junk foods when you’re distressed or when you’re experiencing anxiety. However, it’s not good when overeating during challenging times happens too frequently. Here are some things that you can do to avoid emotional eating.
Identify Your Triggers
When you feel emotionally hungry, pause, wait for a few minutes, and ask yourself what triggered the urge. Identifying your trigger and saying it out loud without judgment is a simple yet necessary step as it allows you to take a different course of action to relieve your negative state without feeling guilty or frustrated.
You can talk to yourself or write it down on a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be the exact cause. You can just say “I’m not really hungry but I want to eat,” and that already is a great first step to avoid reaching for junk.
You can also do other activities instead. Take a break, practice belly breathing, do desk exercises, drink a glass of water, call your friends, and the like. These activities can aid you in forgetting your stress hunger and directing your energy elsewhere.
Make matters easier for yourself by not keeping hard-to-resist comfort foods within reach. Surround and treat yourself with healthier options and keep them in places where you see them so that you’re more likely to choose them.
Prepare Your Meals
Setting up a routine for your meals and snacks can help you maintain your blood sugar levels and keep your energy levels up, which can then help you prevent boredom eating. Plus, making your own meals ensures that you avoid unnecessary calories and that your body is getting the proper nutrition it deserves.
Get into the idea of making meals with filling fruits, grains, vegetables, and protein-rich meats. By taking your own food with you, you’ll surely avoid grazing from the fridge or office pantry all day long.
Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Aside from preparing your own dishes, one thing you can do is develop good eating habits. Eat your meals on time and if you feel the urge to eat between meals, snack healthy instead. This means you should select nutrient-rich snacks and eat them mindfully.
Items rich in fiber and protein can help you curb your hunger. Some things that you can keep in hand are vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, and broccoli. It’s also good to have nuts, apples, or any citrus fruit in your pack.
Stress-eating can bring you comfort for a couple of moments, but if done too frequently, it can have numerous negative effects on the body. This habit can be easily changed and avoided by identifying stressors and taking necessary steps such as snacking healthily or doing other activities to take the edge off.