When you are stressed, it’s natural to crave sugary, fatty foods. Raiding your pantry when you are stressed might make you feel better in the short-term, but it won’t be long until your stress has returned (along with some guilt over eating all those unhealthy foods). If you are trying to lose weight, it’s important to get control of emotional eating and find ways to reduce your stress.
When you are about to raid your pantry or refrigerator, the first thing you need to determine is whether you are TRULY hungry or not. Has it been 3 hours since your last meal? If the answer is YES, then you are probably due for a healthy snack or meal. Make sure to choose a snack/meal that contains a lean protein and a healthy carbohydrate. This combination will keep your blood sugar steady and give you an energy boost that will sustain you until your next meal.
If the answer is NO, and you are wanting to eat due to stress, then try doing one (or more) of the following things to avoid those unnecessary calories:
1. Chew some gum or brush your teeth. chewing gum will keep your mouth busy and off-limits for snacking. As for brushing your teeth, who wants to eat when your mouth is minty-fresh? Peppermint is also known to be a relaxing scent.
2. Practice deep breathing. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Do this 10 times and you may be surprised how much more relaxed you feel (and better able to make good decisions in regards to your eating).
3. Step outside for some sunshine. Sunlight raises your levels of serotonin, which can help alleviate some of your stress. Florescent lights can increase cortisol and make you more irritable/stressed.
4. Take a long, hot bath and read a book. The bath will help relax you and give you a chance to get over your craving.
5. Take a nap if possible. A 30 minute nap can do wonders for your stress level. You also want to make sure that you are getting enough sleep each night because sleep deprivation has been linked to increased appetite and overeating.
6. Exercise! This may not be the thing you want to do when you are stressed, but it is the one of the most effective things you can do to improve your mood and eliminate your cravings. Not only will you avoid stress eating, you will also burn calories in the process. Go for a walk, or better yet call up a friend to walk with you and you’ll have a sympathetic ear while you burn calories.
7. Keep your hands busy with something else. Work on a project or hobby that you enjoy, or take care of a chore around the house. Here are some ideas: quilt, clean your garage, knit, do a puzzle, surf the internet, do the laundry, etc… anything that will keep you out of the kitchen and immersed in something else.
8. Take away temptation. In a moment of strength, get rid of any snacks that you are likely to overeat in a moment of weakness. Also, be sure not to grocery shop when you are feeling stressed. Postpone your trip for a time when you feel good and committed to eating healthy (i.e. after an exercise session).
9. Get support. You are more likely to give in to stress eating if you lack a good support network. Before you raid the pantry, call a friend and have her talk you down from the ledge. Just be sure to call in a room other than the kitchen!
10. Munch on sometime healthy and crunchy like carrots, cucumbers, celery, grapes, apples, etc. Fruits and vegetables may not be what you were craving, but they can sometimes help satisfy your need to snack.
11. Have a motivational picture taped to the inside of your pantry door.
12. Write a bucket list. Instead of dwelling on whatever is making you unhappy, create a list of all the fun things you want to do in the future (i.e. vacations, adventures, etc). Thinking of these things can help improve your mood and help you avoid stress eating.
13. Try stress management techniques such as a yoga or meditation.
14. Keep a food diary. In addition to writing down what you eat, write down how you feel. Over time you may begin to see a pattern between your mood and food consumption. This in turn can help you develop specific strategies to deal with your cravings.
15. Play with your pet. Pets are proven to help reduce stress, and daily walks with your dog is a great way to get in more exercise.
16. If you’ve tried all the above options and are still having trouble with stress eating, you may want to make an appointment with a therapist to better understand what is behind your emotional eating.
Have ideas of your own? Please feel free to share them with Happy Dieter!