17 December 2018 Posted by Carrie Company In Articles , , , , No Comments

Avoid Stress Eating This Holiday Season!

(Ever notice that “Stressed” is “Desserts” spelled backwards?)

What is stress eating?  Stress eating is a distraction strategy we use when we consume food in response to our feelings and not to hunger.  Stress triggers cortisol hormones that can cause hunger.  Research shows that sugar, can cause the feel-good hormone dopamine to then be released in the brain leading to feelings of pleasure or reward.  So, stress eating can temporarily sooth negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, boredom, sadness or loneliness.  But stress eating is a bandage for negative emotion that sabotages our health goals, and oftentimes leaves us feeling worse.

Occasionally, using food as a reward or to celebrate an event isn’t abad thing.  We celebrate birthdays with cake, and break-ups with ice-cream.  But, when eating is your primary coping mechanism, it is important to re-gain control over your emotions without eating them. Consider that loneliness, stress, and even boredom can NOT be cured with food. After you are done eating, the feelings remain. 

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, is specific to “comfort” foods, often leads to mindless eating, regret, shame, or guilt, and isn’t satisfied when you are full.  Triggers for emotional eating include; feelings of emptiness, stress, dealing with uncomfortable emotions, boredom, or even childhood habits driven by cherished memories.

Take back control!  To avoid mindless eating, first pause and rate your hunger. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 (not hungry) to 10 (super hungry); How hungry are you?  If you answer 8-10, seek out a healthy snack or meal that will properly fuel your body.  If you answered 1 -7, try to identify what you are feeling at that moment.  Are you lonely?  Feeling depressed or sad?  Anxious?  Exhausted?  Bored? Overwhelmed? 

What are some alternatives to keep you in control of your emotions without eating mindlessly? 

  • Loneliness – call someone, reach out to a family member or friend, attend a class or group workout or spend a moment writing a letter to a loved one.     
  • Anxiety – exercise, go for a walk, get fresh air, journal, or walk the dog.    
  • Exhaustion – take a hot bath, sip warm tea, take a nap, or drink water.
  • Boredom – finish household chores, read a new book, listen to a podcast or watch a show.
  • Overwhelmed – write, set goals, start a task to help feel in control of your situation or consider a gratitude journal to re-focus your energies. 

If your own attempts to control stress eating are not working, do not be afraid to reach out for help!  Remember, stress eating does not mean you lack control or discipline. However, if you continually practice, learn and experiment with different strategies to deal with uncomfortable emotions, you may just conquer stress eating and find healthier ways to cope!   

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