Reviewed by: Erica An,APD, BNutr&Diet
Do you reach for food as comfort when you’re overtired, anxious or down right stressed? Stress eating affects all of us at one stage or another.
For some, it only lasts a short while and see’s you finishing off a block of chocolate mindlessly whilst watching TV. But for others, stress eating can be quite aggressive and last for days on end, sometimes spiralling out of control.
So if you’re someone who turns to eating to cope with stress, here are 4 simple steps to help you avoid stress eating next time you’re feeling under the pump.
Learn to recognise your emotions
Stress eating is brought upon because of your emotions, so becoming aware of your mindset and emotions is really important. A simple but effective exercise is to start assessing how your feeling at the same time every day. It can be just before you start work, or as you get into bed each night. Make a note of it and if you find yourself feeling a little down, anxious or stressed for more than 2-3 days, acknowledge that stress eating may become apparent.
Recognising these emotions and periods of heightened stress will help in all areas in your life and will allow you to put an action plan in place to prevent out of control binges from occurring. Call a friend for a debrief, book yourself in for a massage, or simply schedule in 15 minutes for meditation or deep breathing to refocus your mind from a state of negativity into positivity and optimism.
Pinpoint your trigger foods
The last time you had an outburst of stress eating, what food did you grab? Was it a block of your favourite chocolate, a pizza, a tub of ice-cream, or perhaps a box of fried chicken nuggets?
Pinpoint these foods and recognise that they are your trigger foods. Try to remove these foods from your house and surroundings, especially during those stressful periods. This will help to disassociate your emotions with those go-to comfort foods.
Avoid running on empty
One of the top reasons people stress eat is because they are genuinely hungry, but this quickly turns into a binge. A simple way to prevent this from happening is to ensure you’re always feeling satisfied.
Eat at regular times throughout the day – we suggest breakfast, lunch and dinner with a snack in between each meal. And be sure to include a moderate portion of protein each time you eat. This can be anything from a serve of plain Greek yoghurt or a boiled egg, to a palm-sized piece of grilled chicken or red meat.
Also read: What to Do Immediately After a Binge
Exercise is the ultimate (and free!) treatment for those times when you’re feeling totally overwhelmed, or down right flat. Exercise produces those miracle hormones called endorphins that will make you feel 100% better and significantly reduce the likelihood of you reaching for calorie-dense comfort foods unnecessarily.
Incorporate 30mins of exercise into your day (everyday!) – especially during those periods of heightened emotion. You’ll feel much more equipped to tackle whatever stressful situation you’re going through (we promise!).