Stress eating is a common struggle, especially during times when you’re bored, overwhelmed and stressed out. The problem with stress eating is that our bodies automatically go for the foods that are best consumed in moderation, so when you down a whole packet of cookies or a few bags of chips, you’re not doing yourself any favours.
Training yourself to overcome stress eating can be hard, but we’re here to help. Read on for our top 3 tricks to avoid stress eating.
1/ LEARN YOUR TRIGGERS
Do you find yourself reaching for the chocolate at the same time each day? While you might think that cravings are random, there’s almost always a reason why you overindulge. Learning why you crave certain foods is the first step in avoiding stress eating. A good way to go about this is to keep a journal of every time you stress eat. Note down how you were feeling, what you ate and in what quantities, and what led you to that moment. This will help you become more aware of your emotions, and what scenarios make you more stressed out, all before you step foot in the kitchen.
It’s also important to make note of how you feel after you’ve stress eaten. Do you feel better? Lethargic? Guilty? Often stress eating feels good in the moment, but doesn’t actually make us feel better. Worse, if you’re feeling guilty about your eating habits this is a mindset that needs changing. A healthy relationship with food means you don’t beat yourself up when you have a treat – but it’s all about learning how to eat in moderation, and not overindulging during times of stress.
2/ GIVE YOURSELF OPTIONS
One of the best ways to avoid stress eating unhealthy foods is to swap those foods out for healthy alternatives. Do you reach for the chips when salty cravings kick in? Swap these out for some lightly salted nuts. Is it chocolate or ice cream you enjoy? Opt instead for your favourite fruit or some low-sugar dark chocolate. Are carbs life? It’s time to learn how to make a low-carb banana bread. Make yourself a snack menu of foods that you enjoy, but are nourishing, and then make the conscious decision to eat these foods instead of the others.
The other thing to be aware of is to figure out the best portions of all your foods. There’s no point swapping to healthier options if you’re eating so many of them that they’re no longer healthy. Section out your snacks into the right portions, and it will also make things easier for you when the cravings kick in – if your trail mix is already made up in small amounts, it’s much easier to stick to one serve than go crazy eating the whole bag or opting for another option entirely because it’s too hard to put together.
3/ BREAK THE HABIT
Once you’re more aware of your triggers to stress eating, and have some other options at the ready, it’s time to break the habit. One thing we know for certain is that our brains cling to patterns. So, if you devour a tub of ice-cream after a bad day at work or munch on takeout after speaking with your frenemy, you’ve likely created a habit – your brain now craves certain foods after those triggers, and you’ll give in to them without ever making a conscious decision to do so. So, how do you overcome the desire to binge eat unhealthy foods when your brain has been wired to do so?
One of the best ways to break a habit is by starting a new one. When you find you’re craving food due to stress or boredom, try doing something else instead of eating. Some ideas include:
• Talking to a friend
• Doing a mindfulness or self-care exercise
• Engaging in something creative
By doing something other than eating when you’re stressed, you’ll create new neural pathways in your brain – i.e., a new habit. Soon enough, you’ll be managing your stress in a whole new way, and avoiding stress eating altogether!
Are you looking to start new, healthy habits this year? Contact us to be paired with an expert personal trainer and begin your health and fitness journey today.