If you’re in the United States, you may be feeling a little stressed at the moment!
Stress and anxiety used to be huge triggers that would cause me to stress eat and completely lose control around food. Whether a big test was coming up or I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities at work, I couldn’t stop stress eating no matter how hard I tried.
Even now, several years later, I can’t visit the snack aisle at Trader Joe’s without my stomach doing a little churn – the shelves are stacked with foods I used to recruit to numb the stress.
I know I’m not the only one who’s gone through this, and I also know how difficult it can be to change.
So, I’m sharing my experience with stress eating and the tools that helped me finally kick the habit for good. Use these tips to return to a place of steadiness and mindfulness around food during stressful times!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission on purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support! Also, I’m not a doctor or mental health professional, and this article is for informational purposes only.
How to Stop Stress Eating
Unfortunately, stress is a part of life, my friend! But that doesn’t mean our only option is to grin and bear it. The best way to deal with stress is to be proactive about it.
Stress is like a giant wave – you can usually feel the tide pulling you in before it completely overwhelms you.
We’re going to take a two-part approach to tackle stress-eating:
1. We’re going to get really good at listening to and caring for our bodies.
2. We’re going to make stress-management a regular part of our routine.
Let’s break it down!
Make sure you eat enough throughout the day.
One of the biggest game-changers in my relationship with food was learning to feed myself enough during the day.
When I used to follow restrictive diets (or “lifestyles” disguised as diets), I was always hungry. And that hunger accumulated as the day went on.
There was another thing accumulating throughout the day, too – stress. And by 7:00PM, it was the perfect storm. I was defenseless against my body’s biological urge to eat.
While it might not be as easy to eliminate factors that cause you stress, you can eliminate one biological hurdle by making sure you’re eating enough food. Do your best to eat when you’re hungry, not when some internet blog or diet program tells you you can.
Are you hungry or are you thirsty? Who knows?
Studies have shown it’s easy for us to confuse the two. Just like keeping yourself nourished, staying well-hydrated can help you have a clear head about your motivations to eat.
What I’m most definitely not suggesting is that you should drink water instead of eating food when you’re hungry. That’s some diet culture BS, and it has no place here!
But sometimes, we think we’re hungry when our body’s just asking us for some good old H2O. A full water bottle can be a powerful weapon against binge eating when stress strikes.
Get some sleep.
Stress and lack of sleep tend to go hand-in-hand. Late nights spent studying for exams or agonizing over that tough conversation at work can take a toll on your body and your mind.
If you’re not careful, stress and insomnia can become a vicious cycle which is why it’s so important to be proactive. Start treating your bedtime like an important meeting for which you can’t be late.
This is yet another factor that can help radically improve the clarity of your mind around food. People who are sleep-deprived tend to eat more per day than those who are well-rested. We’ve all experienced that post-late-night-out tendency to grab whatever edible item is within reach and shove it in our mouths before we have time to give it a second thought.
The combination of consistently eating enough food, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep stacks the biological deck in your favor against stress eating temptations.
It’s not enough to just take care of our bodies – it’s just as important to make sure we’re taking care of our minds!
Practice good emotional hygiene.
For whatever reason, I think we tend to focus much more on caring for our bodies than on caring for our minds. When it comes to stress eating, biology is only half the battle.
The emotional effects of life stress shouldn’t be understated or ignored.
If your stomach was hurting for a week, you wouldn’t ignore it – you would try to understand what was causing your stomach ache, and if it got bad enough, you’d go see a doctor.
Yet many of us experience deep, continuous emotional pain for weeks on end without addressing the problem. Instead of working to understand what’s causing our distress, we numb it – with TV, with social media – and food.
In many ways, stress eating is a symptom of a deeper problem. It’s an avoidance tactic, a coping mechanism we employ to distract us from some discomfort.
This is where good stress-management habits come in. Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a whole list of stress-relief ideas into this short video:
A problem arises when we’re unable to fill an infinite void with finite things – in this case, food. Our minds push us to consume more and more until we literally make ourselves sick.
Might I propose turning our eyes toward the infinite and inviting Him to fill that immeasurable emptiness in our hearts? Allow Him to bring peace and security to the places where you haven’t been able to find it on your own.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, or if you could benefit from some guidance in spending time with God, I highly recommend checking out the guided meditations and prayers on the Hallow app. It’s a must-have tool for calming my anxiety and inviting God to meet you wherever you’re at!
Building a habit of prayerful meditation helps turn us into people of peace, and Hallow has helped me become consistent in spending time with God every day.
Be compassionate with yourself.
Hey friend, you’re human. There are going to be times when stress gets the better of you and causes you to make decisions you later wish you could undo.
But in those moments, you have another decision to make – whether you’ll continue to pile on the shame and put yourself down, or you’ll learn from the experience and try again from that moment forward.
Learning to eat intuitively is a process, and for many, it’s a long process. Stress eating may feel like a major setback, but it gives you valuable information about what your body, mind, and spirit need. It’s up to you to provide yourself with whatever’s lacking!
Deep breaths! We’re all in this together, and now, you’re more equipped than ever to put an end to stress eating for good.
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