Monday, September 29, 2014

Stress & Eating... How to Stay on Track

Think back to a time when your life felt out of control...When the phone was ringing, the dog was barking, the kids were crying, your house looked like a tornado ripped through it, and your lunch was burning on the stove...ALL-AT-THE-SAME-TIME.

We have all been there, maybe not the exact scenario I just described, but similar to that in which you feel like you can not catch your breath with just how chaotic things happen to be.  Do you A). Turn to food when you are feeling stressed in hopes to feel better or B). Turn away from food because you do not have the time to eat. Do you A). Tend to eat foods that are higher in fat, sugar, calories when stressed or B). Down a shake because it is quick and convenient?
Whether you chose A or B, both are stress related and from my experience, A is more common. Maybe you are feeling sad, anxious, depressed, lonely, stressed to the max, or angry and your go-to antidote is something of edible form. You come home after a long, grueling day and you eat a bowl (or two or the whole dang container) of your favorite Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Eating when you are emotional happens from time to time however, when it happens more often than not, when eating is the first thing you turn to when negative feelings set in, you might have to have a heart-to-heart with yourself.

What is this stress eating that I am talking about? It is just as it sounds...It is when you reach for food to find comfort when facing the situation or emotions at hand. For instance, maybe you are fuming about the jerk that cut you off on the freeway and you are sure that a pizza will calm you down or you are feeling sad and you cant quite figure out way you are so blue but you think that comfort food will do just that, comfort you. This is the type of eating that I hope you become more aware of after reading this article.
Are you hungry or is it emotional hunger? When emotions are the driving force behind your hunger, it is hard to feel full and satisfied. There is a deep hole that needs to be filled yet nothing quite does the job unlike physical hunger, which after eating a meal, our stomach feels full and we usually stop eating. If it is emotional hunger, we tend to want something full of fat and sugar (think the monster slice of chocolate cake at Claim Jumper). When physical hunger is the driving force, we tend to look at several options and pick the one that sounds good and is typically a healthier choice. If it is emotional hunger, you might feel satisfied right after but soon after might feel guilt where as a physical hunger does not typically result in these type of feelings.

What do you do if you are a stressful or emotional eater? First, it is important to realize that this happens to all of us. You are not the only one. Here are a few tips to help you combat the need to eat when your emotions are going crazy.

Keeping track of your food in a journal or in an app like My Fitness Pal, is an excellent way to determine emotional triggers. Keeping notes on your feelings, your hunger level, what type of foods you are craving are all ways to learn more about what is causing those feelings and what type of foods you are reaching for.

Find an alternative. When stress triggers you to reach for the box of cookies, get your walking shoes on and head outside. Get some fresh air and clear your head. If you can't take a walk, call a friend or listen to your favorite CD. Find something that gets your mind off of those cookies and on to an alternative task.

Wait out the urge. This can be tough but when the desire to eat strikes, try and wait it out. Drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes. Is the urge still there? If it is, try and eat a small portion of your favorite food and walk away. If it is no longer there, great! You successfully waited out the craving.

Be honest. Be honest with yourself and own up to the emotion. It is absolutely normal to feel down, sad, angry, lonely, or any other feeling sometimes. This is what makes us humans and although it may feel like you are dealing with the same emotions forever, it will get better with time.

If you find that it happens quite frequently, there are health coaches (like myself) that can help you with your emotions, your eating and the combination of the two! Be kind to yourself and please know that it will take time to work on this.

Take care of you!


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