There is much truth behind the phrase “stress eating.” Eating for any other reason than hunger falls into emotional eating- to make you feel better from stress, sadness, anxiety, grief etc.
Read on for the science behind stress/emotional eating & your health & Tips on alternatives to emotional eating
Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” push people toward overeating. Researchers have linked weight gain to stress, and according to an American Psychological Association survey, about one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale.
In the short term, stress can shut down appetite. But if stress persists long term, it’s a different story. The adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress doesn’t go away — or if a person’s stress response gets stuck in the “on” position — cortisol may stay elevated.
When stress affects someone’s appetite and waistline, the individual can forestall further weight gain by ridding the refrigerator and cupboards of high-fat, sugary foods. Keeping those “comfort foods” handy is just inviting trouble.
Here are some suggestions for alternatives to emotional eating:
1. Practice mindful eating. Know that your craving may be a result of a stressful event, and then ask yourself, are you truly hungry? Wait a few minutes before eating and drink 8-10 ounces of water.
2. Exercise or go on a walk, walk your dog, put on a good playlist and dance! Any type of movement that gets your heart rate up releases endorphins to make you feel good!
3. Find healthier options. If you still feel the need for a snack, consider a lower-calorie, lower-fat option than what you may have previously chosen. Here are some healthy snacks I enjoy:
- Something sweet: Cut up an apple and spread some nut butter on it. The combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat should help curb your appetite and satisfy your need for a sweet.
- Something savory: Consider trying hummus, or roasted and salted nuts, edamame or chickpeas, or beef jerky.
4. Watch portion size. Instead of taking the whole box with you, put a snack-size amount on a plate. Check the package to see what one serving size is, and try to stick to that.