Ever catch yourself stress-eating a whole bag of chips? Then you look down at the empty wrapper and think, âWhy did I do this? I wasnât even hungry!â Youâre not alone; weâve all succumbed to stress hunger. Hereâs how to spot itâand stop itâthe next time around!
Every year our local NAMI chapter puts on a wellness conference in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week in October.
This year I was asked to present my workshop: âHow to Stop Stress Eating,â which is based on one the books Iâve written.
It has been a few years since Iâve written on this subject, so I thought it would be good information to share again.
What Is Stress Hunger?
First, letâs think about stress hunger. This is when you are not physically hungry but your emotions, in response to stress, are trying to tell you otherwise. You seek out comfort foods to provide relief to what is really an emotional or mental problem: negative, unhelpful stress and anxiety.
When stress hunger strikes, which type of foods do you crave:
- SALTY foods?
- SWEET foods?
- OR BOTH?!
Well, I have some good news & some bad news â¦
First, the bad newsâhunger is part of our wired stress response. This means we may not be able to stop it completely.
Now the GOOD NEWSâthere is a healthy way to manage stress hunger. And that is by using the 2-step process I teach in my workshop.
How to Manage Emotional Eating
Step 1. Identify the SOURCE
Before you reach for the pantry door, pause and reflect:
Are you feeling physical hunger or stress hunger?
(Use the handout below to help you figure out!)
Step 2. Take ACTION!
- If youâre experiencing physical hunger, FEED it!
(Satisfy this hunger with healthful foods that are nutrient dense and filling.)
- If youâre dealing with stress hunger, FEEL IT & RELEASE IT!
(Use healthy tools to let the stress out! This could be journaling, exercising, meditating, connecting with a friend or loved one, playing outside with your children or pets, spending some time on your hobby, etc.)
There is a handout I give during the workshop to make this a little easier. You can download it by clicking here!
Indulging without Excess
At times, there is another LifeTOOL I use to help me manage my stress hunger: âharm reduction.â
This is when I check in with myself, recognize that Iâm dealing with stress hunger (not physical hunger), and then I decide to go ahead & eat something I am craving â¦ but only in a limited quantity!
Here are some examples of how I indulge without overdoing it:
- Instead of buying big, quart-sized containers of ice cream (I could eat the whole thing!), I only buy a small container or a single-serving mini cup.
- Instead of buying a BIG bag of chips, I only buy a small one.
- Instead of buying a whole pie or box of cookies (again, I could eat them all!), I just buy 1 slice of pie or 1 cookie at the storeâs bakery section.
Why do I call this âharm reductionâ? And why do I think itâs wise to indulge a craving, in moderation, from time to time?
Because when we deprive ourselves of something, we risk setting up the urge to binge!
With harm reduction, we set ourselves up to minimize the harm!
Let me know some of the strategies you have used when your emotions and stress levels compel you to eat. Share them in the comment box below!
~ To Living Well Today! ~
The post How to Identify Stress Hunger & Stop Emotional Eating! appeared first on hopetocope.com | Hope To Cope With Anxiety & Depression.
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