Don’t you hate it when you are working so hard to keep your focus on healthy eating and then something happens in your life that throws you off course?
Actually, for most of us, that’s the norm. The truth is, life is full of bumps, potholes, and unexpected turns—and for many of us, this can be a recipe for stress and emotional eating.
Stress eating is one of the most common causes of overeating and weight gain. Unfortunately, being aware that you are using food to cope with an emotional hunger isn’t enough. The trick to creating peace with food is knowing what to do instead of overeating when you are overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed.
Here are some simple tips to help curb stress eating and other kinds of emotional eating. These don’t just rely on willpower. Applying these strategies will help you grow your tools for what to do instead of eating when life gets stressful.
1. Don’t be an ostrich. Hoping for the best is great, but coping by “not thinking about things,” or sticking your head in the sand isn’t helpful. We all know this, and yet, it can be so tempting to tell ourselves that “this time things will go smoothly.” Taking control of stress and stress eating is easiest when you look life in the eye and get proactive. You are best able to strategize and plan for stressful times when you think them through in advance. Get in the habit of considering (ahead of time) what parts of your day or your week are likely to be stressful. Be honest with yourself about what has caused binges, overeating, or a complete loss of motivation in the past. Knowledge really is power.
2. Brainstorm. You won’t be able to eliminate all the stress in your life, but you can put energy into considering how you can minimize stress and stress eating. How can you take care of yourself in ways that are not overeating or reaching for food?
How might you minimize temptation or have better control of the portions or choices you select? Try this brainstorming before the stress comes on strong. Your brain will be working better when it’s not in overdrive. Start collecting ideas and view this as a work in progress. Add to it as new ideas or possibilities for better stress management occur to you.
3. Show up ready for battle. Tough times require preparedness. To the best of your ability, put yourself in a position to be successful with stress and stress eating. Make every effort to get good sleep, stay hydrated, and not let yourself get too hungry (which can set you up for a binge).
Create reminders so you’ll remember the new strategies you are trying. Most of all, be gentle with yourself.
4. Create other outlets for your emotions. Take time for a walk or a run (even if you think you are too busy). Phone a friend, play loud music or yell in your car. Take a long hot bath or a nap. Notice what works and tweak what doesn’t.
5. Did I mention to be gentle with yourself? Hard times are a part of life. You deserve compassion and respect when you are experiencing stress or overwhelm. When things get difficult, be doubly sure to treat yourself kindly.