Do you turn to overeating, binge eating, or constant nibbling as a way to calm yourself or cope with stress? This is one of the most common forms of emotional eating, and it’s a situation where many busy women living high-stress lives feel at a loss. I often hear from women who know that eating to calm themselves is contributing to struggles with weight, but they aren’t sure what else to do in situations where they feel anxious, overwhelmed, and usually time-crunched. Sound familiar? If so, here are three changes you can start making today to start taking control of your eating—and to actually start creating more of a sense of peace and calm in your life.
- Don’t use food as a stress reliever. It doesn’t work—at least in the big picture. Many women may feel calmer and more relaxed immediately after indulging. Food may also temporarily distract you from the situation at hand. Unfortunately, the satisfaction is usually short-lived. Guilt and self-blame for overeating, or for food choices made in stressed-out moments, can result in a vicious cycle of more emotional eating and stress. However, the deeper issue is that using food to cope with emotions of any kind is only a temporary fix. It’s a band-aid that doesn’t address or resolve the real issue. Without better strategies, life stays the way it is, and you keep needing band-aids—usually on a more and more frequent basis.
- Don’t multitask while eating. This is so tempting to do—especially when you are busy—but multitasking, while we eat, prevents us from being fully aware. This means that it’s easy to eat for reasons that aren’t really physical hunger—without even fully registering that this is the choice you are making. People who eat mindfully (meaning they are fully present and not distracted by other tasks) eat less. They taste their food and are more likely to be aware of how much they are eating. If you give your meals and snacks your full attention, you are also more likely to catch those instances when you are eating to try to calm yourself rather than eating for fuel.
- Don’t eat on the run. Practice slowing down. If you can’t make the time to feed yourself, something is seriously out of balance. Sure, from time to time, life happens, but if you are feeling that it’s too hard to stop and eat on a regular basis then this problem is one that needs to be addressed. The act of stopping, focusing, and putting your food on a plate, may actually be the first step you need to take in reversing the cycle of stress and overwhelm.