In times of stress, we often seek comfort in food. Usually, we do this to either relieve stress, avoid boredom or reward ourselves. It is completely normal to do this once in a while, but when we use food to make ourselves feel better or to fill an emotional void, it will only leave us feeling worse. When we turn to eating more food to solve these problems, it can produce even more stress, and then get us into the vicious cycle of what I like to call “stress eating.” You will be left with the original trigger as well as shame for over-indulging.
To help you overcome this problem, here are my top tips for how to STOP the overeating once and for all.
Willpower & Building Habits
Willpower is like a muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it gets. However, your willpower muscle will get weaker every time you give in. Remember that a craving is not hunger. By saying NO, you are becoming stronger and denying yourself an unhealthy habit. Like everything else this becomes a habit, it takes time. Remember, practice makes perfect.
It is perfectly normal to crave a childhood meal or your favorite dessert that brings you comfort. Give yourself a break and enjoy these meals. In times of stress it is ok to do so, just make sure you do it in moderation and do not make it a daily thing. There are many other things you can do to comfort yourself as well. Ask yourself what it is you like to do, maybe take this as an opportunity to get to know yourself better. You can then channel these feelings into healthier habits like going for a walk, meditating, reading a book, calling a friend or watching a movie. Surprisingly, for me, it was cleaning and organizing because it left me feeling accomplished and fulfilled.
Listen to Your Body
By paying attention to yourself and listening to your needs, you will recognize the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Emotional hunger can come out of nowhere, but if you have eaten your meals throughout the day, there is no need to eat mindlessly. Physical hunger does not mean you need to be full, just satisfied. If you eat emotionally then there is no reaching that point of fullness or satisfaction. Instead, you can start binging uncontrollably, like going through an entire bag of cookies. So, listen to what your body is telling you and eat consciously.
Slow Down & Indulge
When you eat due to stress or in response to another emotion, you typically do it quickly, like you are on autopilot. If you slow down and really savor each bite of your food, you will realize that after a few bites it is not as fulfilling. Your inner dialogue may tell you it is, but you need to really listen to yourself, stop and breath. Being mindful can help keep you from overeating.
While these tips are a great starting point to break the habit of stress eating, in order for them to work, you need to do your part and apply them to your life.
By Angelica Gavaldon
Angelica Gavaldon is an internationally recognized tennis player and the Health and Beauty Contributor for Giving Back Magazine. She currently runs a tennis training program and clinics in Coronado. For more information, call (619) 424-4000.