Gain Control Over Stress Eating

The cycle of stress eating

Nutrition and food can be complicated!

I find this is especially so when individuals are trying to lose weight because not all foods are nutritious. Foods can be linked to various emotional times throughout our day or week. We don’t always eat only to satisfy our hunger or to sustain our bodies and energy levels. Often during times of heightened emotions as well as increased stress levels, it can be easy to turn to food as a comforter or a stress reliever. This can lead to weight loss efforts being sabotaged as the foods that are chosen when stress eating are often high in fat, high in sugar and high in energy.

Another issue with this is that stress eating does not actually relieve stress or improve emotions and these will eventually return along with the added guilt that comes with having ‘cheated’ on one’s diet. This generally leads to an unhealthy emotional cycle and can also cause poor relationships with food to be established.

5 tips to gain control of stress eating

Although stress and emotions can lead to over-eating, especially the types of foods that we should avoid when trying to lose weight, there are various ways to go about getting good control over these emotions and returning to a healthy routine where food is used for nutrition. Some tips to avoid emotional eating include:

  • Reducing stress in a health-promoting way which could be activities such as yoga, pilates or even more intense workouts.
  • Ensuring that we get enough sleep each night
  • Evaluating hunger. This involves asking ourselves honestly whether we are physically or emotionally hungry. Recognising when we are emotionally hungry will allow us to avoid over-eating and to evaluate those emotions as well.
  • Keep busy. Often boredom plays a role in snacking throughout the day which can also ruin weight loss attempts. Going for walks, reading and getting involved with various hobbies will help.
  • Removing temptations. The saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ may ring true with getting rid of temptations. It’s much easier to say ‘no’ in the shops than it is to say ‘no’ when the temptation is in your kitchen.

Emotional and stress eating can be difficult cycles to break, however, learning from setbacks and identifying why we are eating can be tools used to break the cycles and continue on our weight loss journeys.

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Katherine Jones RD(SA)

NHC Bryanston