Stay Away From Stress Eating

Stress Eating

No, that cupcake, donut, chocolate drizzle popcorn or pepperoni pizza, is not calling your name. Really. You may be bored, depressed, frustrated, and stressed beyond belief, but honestly, they aren’t whispering to you. It could be emotional eating, stress eating, or eating from the neck up, but it’s not talking food that’s hounding you.

Perhaps you confuse eating anything and everything you want with a reward and/or “cure” for stress, but, I hate to bring this bad news to you, it doesn’t really work. Down deep, when your mind is quiet enough to hear your own rational voice, you know that’s true. There is no such thing as “comfort food.” There is such a thing as stressful eating and the way to overcome emotional eating is quite clear. Read on and you’ll be able to walk by those cinnamon buns without having to plug your ears.

Stress, or emotional eating, is a “neck up” disorder that aims to solve irrational thoughts and feelings, but can’t. Stress eating comes on suddenly, beginning in your mouth and in your mind. One minute you are not thinking about food and the next you tell yourself you are starving.

Instead of learning to say to yourself, “I’m having a craving, but that doesn’t mean I have to eat,” or “It’s only uncomfortable but I can tolerate it…it’ll go away,” or “If I have that cookie, I only strengthen the habit of giving in,” you just nosh away on that one certain food you are fixated on, the one you erroneously believe you “must” have. The urgent sense that you feel to eat right now, paired with some upsetting feeling you think the ice-cream is going to solve, leads to mindless, absent-minded and automatic eating.

And afterwards that comfort you were searching for isn’t there, instead replaced by guilt. It’s paradoxical right? Here you were thinking you deserve to eat that one certain type of food that it would make you feel better, but instead it leaves you feeling more disappointed with yourself and continuing in that vicious cycle.
So you decide to “atone” and go on a diet. Oh no! Not a diet! Diets may erode your self-esteem and self-confidence. They may also negatively impact your energy and can put your life on hold.

It’s time to learn how to overcome emotional eating once and for all. It’s called mindful eating. It’ll help you learn the difference between physical and emotional hunger. It’ll help you recognize why you eat when you aren’t truly hungry, reduce overeating and associated weight gain while helping you eat less and feel more satisfied, and even improve your digestive system while choosing more nutritious foods. Above all, it’ll help you resolve your emotional issues in the first place.

To begin with, mindful eating, like most things that lead to sustained behavior change, takes time and practice. Being mindful, that is being present, focused, aware and non-judgmental, allows you to see what is going on in the moment, and leads to becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, sensations and urges.

You have this in you already. Mindful eating is about channeling or directing what you already have to live more optimally and healthy when it comes to eating.

Eating mindfully means slowing down and eating without distraction. It requires that you listen to your physical hunger, which always comes on gradually, and distinguishing between that and the sudden onset of emotional eating. It involves savoring and appreciating your food with all of your senses to restore your attention to your thoughts in order to eat more intentionally.

To begin developing the skills you need to avoid emotional, stress-related, impulsive eating and put you back in charge of your eating behavior, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, avoid distractions while eating. Eat in silence once in awhile, attend to how the specific food you are eating makes you feel, and of course, pay attention to feelings of fullness so you know when to stop eating

Use this technique to promote more mindful eating:

  • Stop before putting any food in your mouth
  • Breathe deeply 3 times
  • Reflect
  • “Why do I want to eat right now?”
  • “Why this food?”
  • “Is this what I really need?”
  • “What do I want to eat?”
  • “How much am I enjoying this right now?”
  • “How full am I?”
  • “Why did I eat that (or that much)”
  • Choose to eat or not

That’s the contemporary method many teach you to put an end to emotional eating. The advantages to stop your emotional eating include being healthier, looking better, feeling better, feeling more in control and more like yourself, and being comfortable around others. The disadvantages to stop your emotional eating? I can’t think of one. Can you?

Dr. Michael Mantell

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. has been providing psychological and coaching services for nearly 5 decades and continues to empower positive change among his global clients to enhance life in every way. He is a highly sought-after healthcare professional coach, an executive and team building consultant, and a longtime specialist in cognitive behavioral coaching.

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