Stress eating is one of the biggest obstacles that many of us face when it comes to healthy eating. It can be extremely frustrating to feel like just one little episode of stress eating, puts all of our healthy eating efforts to waste. All that kale and broccoli eating, for nothing. Gone out the window. So there’s only one thing left to do. Throw healthy eating out the window too! I mean we’ve been down this road so many times before.
“I’ve failed yet again”.
The first thing I want to say to you is that you have not failed. Let go of those thoughts of shame and guilt. They will get you nowhere. In fact, chances are stress eating BECOMES a reason why you stress eat even more. And that defeats the purpose of what we are trying to accomplish here: to give your body the right tools (nutrients) for it to properly function and thrive!
Your Relationship With Food
Food not only provides our bodies with nutrients. Eating is also a pleasurable and comforting experience. Childhood memories are tied to certain foods. Past experiences can create attachments to other types of foods. For example, if you created wonderful family memories around going out for ice cream, chances are you’ve created a special relationship of sorts with ice cream. You might turn to it during tough and stressful times to try to relive those precious moments you’ve shared with your family. Even if it’s happening in an unconscious way. The same way that you can create wonderful memories around certain foods, you can also develop aversion to others with negative experiences. For example, if white chocolate gave you food poisoning for 2 full days, chances are you’ll stay away from it. For ever! And if you’re thinking this was an awfully specific example, well that’s because that might have happened to me. 😉
We don’t only have a special connection and relationship with certain foods because of memories attached to them. There are some foods that by nature give you immediate satisfaction. Like in the case of foods that are high in sugar and fat. Now, I’m not here to hate on sugar and much less fat. You cannot deny however, that your stress eating episodes revolve around foods really high in sugar like cookies, ice cream, and cake. Or they’ll be fatty and heavily processed, like potato chips, fries, and pizza. Let’s just say that you will very rarely catch anyone stress eating with broccoli.
Why We Stress Eat?
This brings us to the reason why you have such a hard time controlling stress eating. You see, this is the way that you’ve found to cope with your day. Or not cope with it. It might sound simple and obvious on the surface. But think about it and let’s dig deep. We are under stress from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed.
It starts with the harsh sound of the alarm clock, then having your breakfast on the go because you realized you’re already late. Let’s not forget dealing with our ridiculous commute. Traffic, pollution, horns honking, people cutting you off, super slow drivers. You get to work or class already pissed and annoyed. Then you have your typical work or school stress. Pointless or stressful tasks, annoying coworkers or classmates, deadlines, meetings. You do this for 8 hours straight and back to the traffic you go. Same B.S. all the way back home. You make it home just in time to watch one episode on Netflix of some show and get ready to start everything again tomorrow.
Notice how you’re on autopilot. How you are just surviving through this routine. You haven’t had a single moment to actually process any moment of your day. No wonder you feel so out of control at night. So lost. In need of some sort of comfort. That right there, is why you can’t help but go for that cookie.
The Key To Help You With Stress Eating
Understanding and properly processing your day is key. We may not have much control over our routine at the moment. But there’s one thing that you have full control over. And that’s yourself and becoming aware and connected with your emotions.
So this is what I propose. Set 3 different times for you to check-in with yourself. Once in the middle of the morning, once in the afternoon, and the third time in the evening. During these little check-in moments, pay attention to your body. Are you holding tension anywhere? Especially on the back, neck, and head. These areas can really be telling when it comes to detecting our stress levels. Next, take a couple of deep breaths and check-in with your thoughts or inner conversation. What’s happening in that beautiful mind of yours? Are you angry at someone? Is something bugging you? If so, why?
Believe me, this will make ALL the difference for you. You won’t come back home wired and like a ticking bomb about to go off. You will be aware of your emotions and connected with your mind and body. You’ll be able to tame the wild stress eating beast that comes out especially at night to haunt you.
What If It Happens Again?
I can’t promise you that you’ll never stress eat again. Because it will happen. We are human, we have tons of beautiful emotions, and we’re not perfect. But what’s important to remember is to understand yourself. Be aware of your personal boundaries and your stressors. Learn to cope with them in a way that doesn’t revolve around seeking comfort from foods. Because that doesn’t make what you’re going through better. It masks and covers it up with an instant moment of pleasure followed by much guilt. Peel back those layers my dear friends. Get to the bottom of why you’re stress eating. It might be challenging at first because we are not used to checking in with ourselves. But once you get into this habit, you’ll unlock greatness within you.