What is Stress Eating?
Almost everyone has been facing high levels of stress lately. Whether its work, a break up, piles of homework, or maybe just living through a global pandemic, it’s only natural to seek comfort at the bottom of a bowl of ice cream or bag of chips. Stress eating is “the act of eating when feeling stressed and seeking comfort,” according to Danila Soto, R.D.N.
Identify Types of Hunger
There are so many different “types” of hunger that we all experience throughout the day. There is actual ‘physical hunger’, but you may also experience food cravings, eating out of boredom, and stress eating. The hardest part about the different types of hunger is differentiating one from another, and learning how to manage them.
The most important “type” of hunger to recognize is stress eating. When the body is under stress, it releases cortisol, a hormone that activates stored glucose in the body to combat the stress. When this happens, your body triggers intense cravings for sugary or carb-filled foods to replenish your glucose stores. Stress eating can wreak havoc on the body, causing you to over-indulge in calories and gain weight.
“The stress and guilt surrounding your eating habits can cause more physical and mental health problems than the actual food itself”, says Soto. “It creates a vicious cycle where stress can cause stress eating, which then induces more stress, which is compounding the problem.” That is why it is important to be able to recognize when it is happening, and have tools in place that will help you conquer it.
How to Stop Stress Eating
It’s important to remember that everyone’s health journey is different, and certain ideas/tools might work for you, whereas some may not. Test different tips and techniques and see if any can help promote positive changes to your health. If you feel you need more personalized help you can always connect with a nutritionist or dietician, and Ascend Experience is always available to help with a concrete plan.
Consider these tools next time you are reaching for food when stressed:
Pause: Take a deep breath. Ask yourself if you’re actually hungry or if it’s the cortisol talking. Drink a glass of water, and then revisit if you actually need food in that moment.
Distract: Overt your attention to something else. Maybe put on your favorite podcast or TV show, go for a walk, take a shower, light a candle, or put on a face mask. Look toward other soothing activities to calm down and de-stress so you don’t always rely on food.
Forgive: Try your best to make better food choices like lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, and avoid having junk food easily accessible in the house. But when stress eating happens, move on. The worst thing you can do is dwell on your choice causing more stress. We are all human, we go through stressful events in our life, all we can do is try our best.
These changes take time. Create small positive habits like drinking an extra glass of water a day or going for two 30-minute walks a week. These small changes over time can compound into better overall health and less anxiety and stress eating. You’ve got this!
Quoted Material: Dalina Soto, R.D.N. founder of Nutritiously Yours
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