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Health and Fitness News

Stop Stress Eating!

Tips to stop your habit of emotional eating in response to stress.

With the spread of a worldwide pandemic, your stress level may be higher than normal. On top of fears surrounding the virus, you may have lost income, feel lonely, and be filled with uncertainty for the future.

Unfortunately, stress often goes hand in hand with weight gain. This is because one way people manage stress is by eating. Food is used by many people as a way to comfort or distraction themselves from the bad things going on in their life. After all, the headlines may be grim, but man that pizza and ice cream taste good.

If you know emotional eating is a problem you struggle with, then this article is for you. Keep reading to learn tips for overcoming this pitfall.

Recognize Emotional Hunger

There’s a difference between physical hunger that encourages you to eat to fill an empty belly and emotional hunger that tempts you to eat in an attempt to fill an emotional void. Breaking the cycle of emotional hunger starts with recognizing the difference. Here are a few clues.

• When you’re truly hungry, you’ll eat anything that’s put before you. Emotional hunger craves certain foods.
• Hunger in your stomach comes on slowly, while the urge to satisfy your emotions comes on suddenly.
• Eating in response to stress often leads to mindless eating, while you’re more focused when you eat to satisfy true hunger.
• You may temporarily feel relieved of your stress after eating, but it doesn’t last so you keep eating until you’re overly full. Then you feel ashamed and guilty.
• An obvious difference between the two hungers is where they’re felt. You know you’re physically hungry by the growl in your stomach. Emotional hunger is in your head.

Identify the Triggers

There are likely situations, environments, or people that stress you out and trigger your desire to eat. Recognizing these triggers is the second step in stopping emotional eating. You may not be able to avoid the trigger, but you can stop eating in response to the stress. Common triggers include financial problems, relationship tensions, quarantine, illness, or work stress.

Not sure what your triggers are? Keep a food diary. For a week or two, write down what you eat, when you eat, and what you’re feeling when you eat. Then look for unhealthy patterns of eating.

Make New Habits

The best way to stop bad habits is to replace them with good habits. Food may be your way of dealing with stress, but it’s not a long-term solution. Recognize your stress for what it is, and instead of turning to food to help manage it, adopt new, healthy coping mechanisms. Go for a walk, drink a big glass of water, chew some gum, call a friend, play with your dog, or listen to music.

A healthy lifestyle goes a long way in helping to manage stress and avoiding the pitfalls of emotional eating. Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, set aside time to relax, and foster healthy relationships.

Think Twice

Before eating, pause and ask yourself why you’re eating. Are you eating to satisfy true physical hunger or are you seeking to fill an emotional need? If the cravings are strong, try to distract yourself for one minute. The more minutes you wait, the more likely the craving will go away.

Stay mindful while you eat. Savor each bite, eat slowly, and don’t eat in front of the television or computer. By slowing down, you can learn to recognize your body’s hunger and fullness cues and avoid overeating.