Stress eating. We’re all guilty of it. No matter how much we might think we’re disciplined, mindless eating when we’re feeling a little frazzled is very easy to succumb to.
Let’s be honest, whether we’re snacking at the desk, helping ourselves to that extra helping of toast at breakfast or grabbing that handful of nuts for a quick bite before running out the door, if we don’t keep track of what we’re consuming, it’s likely that at some point during the day you’re going to stress eat.
So how do we avoid this? The best way is to start to record your food movements with a diary and also note how you are feeling at each meal or snack.
Are you angry, sad, depressed or irritable when reaching for a snack? If you find that you are then it’s time to retrain the brain.
Rather than reach for the nuts when you feel stressed, going for a walk, taking a few deep breaths or just performing your favourite yoga asanas will help with stress eating and the vicious cycle of turning to food when feeling out of sorts.
When you start to do this, you create awareness and you can eat mindfully rather than mindlessly.
It’s also important to practice mindful eating at all meals. Sitting down and eating at a table with no other distractions such as your phone or iPad will help you get in touch with your stomach and recognise when you are full.
Chewing each mouthful slowly will help your brain talk to your stomach and will signal to you when you are full.
Sometimes we tend to overeat as we’re busy texting at the same time or watching TV so we’re shoving food in our mouth without actually being aware of how much we’re eating.
When we’re stressed our cortisol levels rise which can lead to craving sugary or fatty foods.
“Harvard researchers have reported that stress from work and other sorts of problems correlates with weight gain, but only in those who were overweight at the beginning of the study period. One theory is that overweight people have elevated insulin levels, and stress-related weight gain is more likely to occur in the presence of high insulin,” an article published in Harvard Health reported.
“How much cortisol people produce in response to stress may also factor into the stress–weight gain equation. In 2007, British researchers designed an ingenious study that showed that people who responded to stress with high cortisol levels in an experimental setting were more likely to snack in response to daily hassles in their regular lives than low-cortisol responders.”
One way to combat this is to take up meditation to help deal with a rise in cortisol levels. If you prefer something more active swimming, running or Yoga can also help with keeping cortisol levels low.
When our cortisol levels aren’t elevated we tend to make better food choices and ultimately eat when actually hungry.