When you are spending more time at home, it is easier to turn to food when you feel stressed or anxious. This is a normal stress response, and not inherently bad, though you might not want to only use food as a way to cope. Here are some tips for reducing how much you stress or emotionally eat.
Know Your Stress Triggers
To avoid stress eating, it helps a lot to first be aware of what causes you stress in the first place. For many people, it isn’t just a general feeling of stress, but specific things that can trigger it. This might be reading the same sad reports on the news, going on social media, talking to certain people, or even something like not getting enough sunshine or having a different routine. Start making note of how you feel, what worsens your stress or anxiety, and when you tend to emotionally eat.
Get Into a Mindful State
Being more mindful is a wonderful way to start reducing how often you turn to food because of stress, and not physical hunger. When you start to feel stressed, take a moment to just take some deep breaths, relax, and sit with your feelings for a few minutes. This doesn’t mean you are going to deprive yourself and not eat, but first understand if you are hungry, or your brain is just reacting to the stress.
People tend to stress eat because it feels like a temporary fix, a way to have some control over how you feel. But if you can just sit with those feelings and slow down a bit, you might find you don’t need the food until you are actually physically hungry.
Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hungry
If you are going without meals or snacks for several hours at a time, you are naturally going to turn to food first to deal with stress, anxiety, or other uncomfortable emotions. You have gotten yourself so hungry that you are now ravenous. Not only will you be more likely to turn to food to deal with stress, but likely not the healthiest option. At this point, your body wants the quickest and most convenient option, so maybe you choose a bag of chips and a cookie instead of cooking something more nutritious.
Emotional VS Physical Hunger
Lastly, learn the difference between emotional and physical hunger. This will help tremendously to figure out if you’re actually hungry, or your brain just wants food. Here are a few ways to tell the difference:
Is your hunger coming on slowly or suddenly? Physical hunger tends to come on gradually, while emotional hunger will be urgent and sudden. One minute you’re fine, the next you feel like you’re starving.
Do you feel satisfied? If after a meal or snack, you feel full or satisfied, it was physical hunger. If you still feel “starving”, it was probably emotional hunger.
Can you eat anything? If you feel fine eating anything, it is more like physical hunger. But if you only want specific things, it might just be emotional hunger.
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