It’s no doubt these are stressful times for the majority of the world right now. With unemployment rates in America at the highest since the Great Depression, for lack of better words, times are tough. As humans a lot of us, when times are tough we turn to food. We become depressed and stressed leading to emotional and stress eating. Why do we do this? Is it the fullness of our bellies that give us comfort, is it the amazing smells and flavors that temporally hypnotize us and bring us joy? Whatever the reason may be, a lot of us also usually feel guilty after the fact.
Eating food is a known primary coping mechanism to deal with emotions, and stress increases cortisol levels in our body. Cortisol is a hormone and when the body releases it in response to stress, this can increase appetite and the motivation to eat.
Usually we people with stress turn to foods high in sugar and fat. Eating these kinds of foods activates dopamine, the “reward” neurotransmitter. Foods high in sugar and fat make you feel better in the moment and they are referred to as “comfort foods” because they appear to counteract stress.
Here are some tips to help manage emotional and stress eating during these difficult times:
- Be Aware
Pay attention to your eating habits and what kind of foods you tend to go for when stressed. There’s no need to judge yourself, just think about it so your aware of your habits. Consider keeping a food journal so you don’t lose track of your habits, it easy to forget something when you want to.
- Be Present
A good way to better track your hunger and satiety cues is to practice a technique called mindful eating. Remove distractions (TVs, cell phones and laptops etc.), avoid eating directly from the package and focus on the sensorial properties (smell, taste, texture) of the foods.
- Get Enough Sleep
Studies have found that getting too little sleep is directly related to over-eating. Although not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily. Consider establishing a regular sleep schedule to help you get on track with your sleep habits. It’s healthy to have routines in both sleep and exercise.
- Have Self-Compassion
Putting yourself down for anything especially over eating can only make your emotional state worse and lead to continued over eating. Learn to love and accept yourself. Practicing self-affirmations in the mirror daily can help with this, and if you think you need help don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional.