Stress eating is something almost all of us have done at one time or another. Even if we don’t realize we’re doing it, most of us will trip up or even break our diet during high times of stress? Why? It’s biological.
Stress activates your adrenal glands to release cortisol, increasing your appetite, Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC, psychologist and the emotional eating expert explains. She also says that when you feel overwhelmed due to stress, that can leak into your eating habits. It takes self control to stick to a diet, and when you feel like the rest of your life is hard to get a handle on, your self control weakens.
Stress can also mess with hormones that regulate your appetite, which causes you to actually feel hungrier than normal. There have even been studies that show you burn less calories when your cortisol levels are at their highest.
Now that you know how dangerous stress can be, and how it tries to actually make your body work against you, how can you fight back?
Stress eating can be offset by mindfulness and mindful eating.
Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and analyzing your emotions are all ways to combat stress-induced eating. When you consciously work to calm yourself down, and deliberately ask yourself what exactly you’re feeling in the moment and why, you’re less likely to fly off the handle and eat 10 cookies. You’re also more likely to see the bigger picture, which will help you make food choices that won’t derail all your previous hard work.
It sounds easy, and in a way it is, but it can also feel challenging if you’re trying to do it in the moment. That’s why practice during calmer times is essential. If you already have the tools, employing them when you feel stressed is much, much easier.
Stress eating happens so plan for a few slips.
Forgiving yourself for a slip up or two will also help you in the long run, because you’re less likely to completely give up when you acknowledge that everyone messes up from time to time. When you love yourself and see yourself as essentially a strong person, you’ll be able to jump back on the wagon as soon as the moment of weakness has passed.
Stress eating happens, but it doesn’t have to undo all of your good work. Once you understand why you’re suddenly craving chocolate or chips, analyze those feelings, and focus on the healthy options you’ve already prepared for yourself. You can keep yourself on track no matter what!