Do you make a beeline for the fridge when you're stressed? As a recognised emotional eater myself for many years, I must live a daily routine to control filling the void. I try to be mindful rather than mindless with food including exercise, meditation and eating 3 small meals and 2 snacks a day, breakfast being the most important to set my day up. If you also tend to respond to stress by eating, here’s some more advice and tips on how to overcome emotional eating.
What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is the tendency to respond to stress by eating. Even when not hungry. Emotional eaters gravitate towards often high-calorie or high-carbohydrate foods that have minimal nutritional value. The foods they crave are often referred to as comfort foods, like ice cream, cookies, chocolate, chips and pizza. About 40% of people tend to eat more when stressed, while about 40% eat less and 20% experience no change in the amount of food they eat when exposed to stress.
How to Overcome Emotional Eating
It can be challenging to overcome emotional eating but there are some strategies that can help. Overcoming emotional eating tends to involve teaching the sufferer healthier ways to view food. This can be achieved by developing better eating habits and recognising their triggers for engaging in this behavior. It's also important to develop appropriate ways to prevent and alleviate stress. Read all about how to manage stress with a healthy diet.
Managing Stress & Exercise
An important step in managing stress is exercise since regular physical activity tends to dampen the production of stress chemicals. It can even lead to a decrease in depression, anxiety, and insomnia in addition to decreasing the tendency to engage in emotional eating.
Meditation & Relaxation Techniques
Another powerful way to manage stress and therefore decrease emotional eating is through meditation and other relaxation techniques. Engaging in one or two meditation sessions a day can have lasting beneficial effects on health. It can even decrease high blood pressure and heart rate.
Alcohol & Stress
Another important way to respond to stress is to refrain from drug use and consume no more than moderate amounts of alcohol. Many of these substances heighten the body's response to stress. They can often prevent the person from facing their problems directly too, so they're not able to develop effective ways to cope with or eliminate the stress.
Other lifestyle changes that can decrease stress include taking breaks at home and at work. Refrain from over-scheduling yourself. Learn to recognise and respond to your stress triggers. Take regular days off at intervals that are right for you. Structure your life to achieve a comfortable way to respond to the unexpected.
For those who may need help dealing with stress, stress-management counselling in the form of individual or group therapy can be very useful. Stress counselling and group therapy have proven to reduce stress symptoms which in turn can help with your emotional eating and improve overall health.
Please note, this blog is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice.
It’s always best to consult your doctor before taking any new supplements, treatments or remedies if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on medication.
Checked and updated: 11 August 2021