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Stress Eating

Last night’s session of our weight loss support group was an animated discussion on Emotional eating or Stress eating. We discussed how this vicious cycle can sabotage our best intentions when trying to follow a healthy diet. Emotional eating or Stress eating, is using food to make yourself feel better. That is, eating to satisfy emotional needs rather than physical hunger. This action can be at times ingrand in our minds from childhood. We got an A on a report card and mom and dad take us out for pizza. We recently had a breakup so let’s reach for the pint of ice cream. Whatever the reason it is important to set boundaries when dealing with food to not wind up trying to satisfy an emotional hunger rather than a physical hunger.
When thinking about emotional hunger it is important to know that this type of hunger cannot be satisfied with food. Eating feels good in the moment but the reason that triggered the eating is still there and not dealt with appropriately.
Now that we consumed the unwanted calories how do we stop this cycle from continuing? What are tools that we can use to prevent us form sabotaging ourselves from reaching our goals?
This is a time when mindful eating can be an important tool. Learning to listen to our bodies ques of hunger rather than our emotions.
First step is realizing the difference between emotional and physical hunger;
Emotional hunger come son suddenly
Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods
Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating
Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you are full
Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach
Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt or shame
The next step is learning our triggers.
Are we “stuffing down our emotions? This is an action that occurs when we try to “quiet” our emotions including anger, fear, loneliness, resentment and shame. Is boredom playing a role? Are we eating mindlessly in front of the TV? Childhood habits can impact our eating behavior as adults as well as social influences to eat more foods in a crowd during a social gathering. Whatever the trigger it is important that we stop to think of why we are “Stress Eating”.
After we have identified our action and triggers we need to learn ways to cope. Here are a few tips.
If you are depressed or lonely call a friend or loved one
If you are feeling anxious dance yo your favorite song, squeeze a stress ball or go exercise
If your bored read a book, watch a show or go for a walk
Learning mindful eating habits can help us through our stress eating binge. If you feel the need to grab the cookies wait 5 minutes. At this point check in with yourself to see if this is really the action we want to make.
Learning to accept our emotions, our stressors and ourselves is the best way to handle life’s stressors. Try not to let them overcome you and sabotage you from your goals. A participant said something great tonight “Always remember, I am worth it”.


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