We’ve all heard the funny saying “desserts is stressed spelled backwards” right? Unfortunately when we start feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to head straight to the fridge for some temporary relief. Food can actually have drug like effects on our minds – studies have shown that food can cause similar responses as addictive drugs. People that are addicted to cigarettes often smoke more when they are stressed; the same can be said for people that really enjoy food. When we’re chronically stressed , our body creates more of the stress hormone cortisol. Increased cortisol can lead to more cravings, particularly for salty and sweet foods. How can you curb stress eating?
• Get to the root of the cause – why are you feeling stressed? Work on communicating better with those around you to try to keep situations under control.
• Be aware of situations that trigger you to feel stressed or overly emotional. For example, if it makes you stressed to spend holidays with your extended family then limit to a few holidays each year and have a game plan for how long you will stay.
• Pay attention to your preferred foods for stress eating. Many people turn to ice cream, salty snacks, chocolate, or alcohol. If it is a stressful time of year for you, keep those items out of the house entirely. Buy them in single serving containers rather than in bulk – a pint of ice cream is much better to have on hand than a gallon.
• Slow down while you are eating. Time always seems to be lacking but inhaling our food doesn’t help us feel any more relaxed. Take the time to eat slowly, savor each bite, and enjoy the meal.
• Try to employ a concept called Mindful Eating. This includes deliberately paying attention to our food choices, the amount of food, how we eat the food, the environment that we eat it in, the company that we eat with, and the cues from our body relating to fullness.
• Focus on awareness of your eating by limiting all other distractions – watching TV, reading, checking email, or driving. Look at your food and notice the texture, smell, taste, and color.
• You may have to force yourself to slow down by purposefully chewing your food, using your non-dominant hand to eat, taking a drink of water between bites, or placing your utensil down between bites. These may seem basic but we often don’t even chew our food!
• Exercise can reduce stress so even if you only have 15 minutes, it’s worth it!