It’s not uncommon to seek the comfort of a brownie or ice cream when you’re stressed out. In fact, it’s a normal reaction.
What’s more, there’s scientific evidence backing why you reach for a cookie when you’re stressed. At such times, your adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol, which triggers your appetite — it’s an involuntary activity that occurs when you are under stress.
The problem with stress eating is that its consequences can last for a long time. As you take in the extra calories, your weight increases. This fact alone can further stress you out. Additional stress causes additional eating, and it becomes a vicious cycle.
Studies also show that you burn fewer calories when under stress than you would otherwise, making it that much harder to lose the extra weight.
To control your stress-eating habits, you must first acknowledge you have a problem. Think back to past times of stress and how you reacted. If you sat with a package of doughnuts or a pint of ice cream and a big spoon, it may be time to consider your other options to ensure good health in the future.
Here are five tips to help you stop stress eating and stay in control of your weight:
First and foremost, it is vital that you get in control of your stress before attempting to break bad habits. The long-term consequences of too much stress can cause more problems than just weight gain.
You can suffer from a number of health consequences, including:
There are many stress-reduction techniques you can incorporate into your daily life. A simple walk, yoga classes, and learning how to meditate for just 20 minutes a day can go a long way to reducing your stress levels and boosting your overall body functionality.
Dr. Jordan Pastorek at Pure Medicine can also offer you resources to help you better manage stress, including referrals for counseling.
While it can take some practice, learning to turn your attention to something fun to distract you from eating can be healthy. Rather than reaching for a bag of chips, work on something you love. Tend to your garden, shoot some basketball, or engage in another favorite activity for a little while.
Not only can this shift of focus feel good when you’re stressed, it can also reduce your urge to eat. Make a list of go-to items you can do instead of eating and post it on your refrigerator or snack cabinet to remind you to do something else with your hands rather than grab for unhealthy comfort food.
To fight off food craving in general, stay focused on following a well-balanced diet that keeps you full and satisfied. Skipping out on good meals leaves you with a body that lacks nutrients and almost ensures you feel tired, run down, and stressed out.
When you’re overstressed and hungry, you may have a tendency to stop at the drive-thru on your way home. Instead, work on a plan for healthy meals that you prepare in advance so you always have something healthy to dine on, no matter how bad your day was.
Eating three healthy meals a day and snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables can help curb your cravings for sugar and other unhealthy items. Avoid buying processed, sugary foods at the grocery store to keep you safe when cravings strike.
One of the primary sources of stress in your life likely comes from you. Learn the importance of being kind to yourself and knowing how to read your own body.
When you need a break, you have to be willing to take the time you need to recharge your batteries. Whether that means taking a nap or planning a well-deserved getaway trip, you need to do what’s necessary to stay on track instead of being rundown and wrung out.
Being gentle with yourself also means not beating yourself up if you do make the wrong food choices from time to time.
Rather than reach for the junk food, grab a pen. By keeping a journal in which you share your thoughts, you not only keep your hands busy, but you also release built-up tension that leads to stress eating.
Regularly journaling can also help you clarify your thoughts and make you less prone to overindulging.