When you are stuck at home and there is a world wide pandemic, turning to food for stress relief is completely normal. But it's not healthy. Stress eating and mindless eating are self-sabotaging behaviors.
Here are some tips to help you control stress eating.
What is Emotional vs Physical Hunger?
First, you have to know the difference between emotional eating and actual hunger.
How do you know if you're actually hungry, or your brain just wants to food to control your emotions and stress?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your hunger coming on slowly or suddenly? Physical hunger tends to come on gradually, while emotional hunger will be urgent and sudden. One minute you’re fine, the next you feel like you’re starving.
- Do you feel satisfied? If after a meal or snack, you feel full or satisfied, it was physical hunger. If you still feel “starving”, it was probably emotional hunger.
- Do you have a specific craving? If you're truly hungry, any food will do. If you're craving certain foods, especially comfort foods, it's likely emotional hunger.
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Know Your Stress Eating Triggers
If you want to avoid stress eating, you need to know what causes you stress in the first place. Stress is often triggered by something specific, but you might not realize what it is. It can be the news, social media, certain people in your life, a change in your routine, something you ate, or not getting enough fresh air, exercise or movement.
Start making note of how you feel, what worsens your stress or anxiety, and when you tend to emotionally eat. One really helpful way to keep track is with journaling. In your journal, write about your stress eating experience. Write about what emotions you felt before eating, while eating and after eating. Think and write about what triggered you to open the cupboard in the first place.
Treat yourself to a new, beautiful and inspiring journal.
Get Into a Mindful State to Avoid Stress Eating
Being mindful will help you know when you are stress eating versus eating to satisfy hunger. When the urge strikes, take a few minutes to check in with yourself before you start eating. Take some deep breaths, and tune into your feelings for a few minutes. Decipher if you are truly hungry or responding to stress.
Stress eating is a form of control. It's a way for you to control your uncomfortable feelings. Learn how to accept the feelings and you won't need to control them any longer. When you don't need to control them, you won't go looking in your refrigerator for the solution.
Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hungry
When you go too long before meals, your blood sugar drops and you can get "hangry". You will no doubt turn to food to relieve stress because you're starving and you'll likely not make the best food choices. When your body feels starved, you will automatically turn to the easiest, most convenient food sources. These are typically filled with preservatives and toxins that will only make you feel worse later on.
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EFT Tapping for Stress Eating
EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique, is a way to energetically move stress out of your body. When you can identify that you are eating to relieve stress and not to satisfy hunger, you can physically move that stress out of your body with Tapping.
Tapping engages acupressure points and it helps the body release endorphins that reinforce positive feelings, physical and emotional well-being. It does this by accessing meridian channels. Meridian channels are a fiber-optic network in the body that carries a vast amount of information. When you access these channels while processing emotions, tapping gets to the root cause of stress quickly and effectively.
For more information on EFT Tapping, check out The Tapping Solution for Manifesting Your Greatest Self by Nick Ortner.
Essential Oils for Stress Eating
Essential oils can help you when you are reaching for food to relieve stressful and anxious feelings. They can be used to control your cravings and they can support your emotional health.
Essential oils that help with uncontrolled eating habits are:
Essential oils that help relieve stress and anxious feelings are:
- Green mandarin
- Wild orange
- Roman chamomile
Download this free guide. Emotional Benefits of Aromatherapy for more information on emotions and essential oils.
Emotional Benefits of Aromatherapy
Affirmations for Stress Eating
Transform your thoughts about your emotional eating. You can reshape your self destructive thoughts around food with affirmations.
Try some of these affirmations the next time you are struggling with emotional eating:
- I am lucky to have everything I need to make delicious, healthy meals.
- I’m making compassionate choices toward myself.
- This food is a foundation for my healthy lifestyle.
- My body gets stronger, healthier and more powerful with each new bite I take.
- I eat only when I am actually hungry.
- Today I eat for nourishment.
- I appreciate and give thanks for this food.
- I joyfully observe the tastes and textures of this food.
- I choose to love, respect and honor my body.
- With each bite, I feel more energized.
- I dedicate this time to nurturing myself.
- We are all worth the energy, time and effort we spend on caring for our bodies.
- I no longer need or crave foods that don’t improve my health.
- I’m savoring each bite.
- I’m listening to my body.
- I’m allowing my body to guide my food awareness.
- I make powerful choices about food.
- I stop eating when I’m comfortably full.
- I eat well so that I can live well.
- I’m free from old patterns and habits that involved food.
- I release past guilt and negative feelings about eating.
Find Humor to Combat Stress Eating
When you're dealing with stressful and anxious feelings, sometimes the best thing you can do is laugh. Laughing will help dissipate the stress, which will help you make better food choices. And laughing burns extra calories!
Find ways to laugh:
- YouTube vidoes
- Tik Tok videos
- Memes and quotes
- Funny stories
- Funny books or audio books
Here are some funny quotes I found on Pinterest:
- I'm starting to have anxiety about my stress eating.
- Don't tell me hungry isn't an emotion because I feel that shit in my soul.
- Stressed spelled backward is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!
- How to handle stress like a dog: If you can't eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away.
Final Thoughts and Further Resources
The next time you are in a situation where you know you are eating out of control because of stress, try a few of these tips.
For more support with stress and anxiety, I invite you to take the next step either with my free email course, Tending to the Anxious Mind. Or attend my live webinar, Stress Management Tips to Cope with Covid-19.