How to Stop Stress Eating
By Sam Stieler
Admit Your Problem
The first step to stop stress eating is to be aware that you have a problem. Before you go to open the refrigerator door, ask yourself if you are actually hungry, or if you are just upset about something. If you’re actually hungry and it’s a set meal time, then go for it. If you’re just eating because you are bored or stressed, then walk away from the kitchen. While it can be hard to just walk away, kicking the habit is easier if you replace it with other, healthier, stress busting activities.
Instead of Eating, Try Exercise
One of the best relaxing activities that will keep you from stress eating is going for a walk. Walking is a great activity that often takes your mind off of whatever stressed you out in the first place, and is a relaxing activity in its own right. Getting some fresh air and being physically active are great ways to work away some of your pent up frustration. Often we feel stressed out when we feel cornered, and the act of wandering about without restriction often relieves those entrapped feelings. Furthermore, by going for a walk you physically separate yourself from the food you would have eaten, which has significant psychological and practical benefits when trying to stop eating. Just make sure you don’t end up walking to a corner store to pick up some chips!
If just going for a walk won’t do it for you, consider going for a run, or going to the gym. Once again these activities have the benefit of physically removing yourself from both the stressor and your food, while also being powerful stress busters themselves. Exercise is one of the top ways to relieve stress in both the short and long term. In the short term, vigorous exercise is a great way to physically work out frustrations and distress, while also providing an intense stimulus to redirect your focus to. In the long term, a healthy body is less likely to hold and create tension, reducing the chances of your frustrations getting out of control. Finally, regular exercise tends to produce the feeling that you are a healthy person, decreasing the chances that you will continue to let yourself binge on junk food whenever you feel stressed out.
Distracting yourself with a good book, movie or TV show is another good method. While a lot of people absentmindedly eat when they watch TV or a movie, a good piece of media will be engrossing enough to take you away from the urge to consume.
In general, any activity you find relaxing that doesn’t involve eating should be able to help you stop stress eating. Ultimately, we emotionally eat for the feeling it produces and not for the food itself. By creating that positive feeling in a healthier way, you stop the stress eating habit. Some relaxation ideas include performing some deep breathing exercises, meditation, taking a long bath or shower, spending time with friends or taking a quick nap. By being aware of your negative behavior and by substituting it with a healthy habit, you’ll be much more likely to make the changes you want.