5 tips to help you avoid stress eating
We’ve all been there – mindlessly munching on chips or cookies after a stressful day. Research has shown that almost 75% of eating when you are not truly hungry is done for emotional reasons, with stress being high on the list. There are physical and emotional responses that occur when the body is under stress. Many times, stress eating is used to avoid uncomfortable feelings or to soothe your emotions.
“Foods that are usually high in fat and sugar are known to have a calming effect on the brain and the nervous system by stimulating serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good chemicals in the brain,” said Marilyn Meade Penrod, RN.
How can you avoid stress eating?
Penrod shared these suggestions to ward off stress and avoid stress eating.
- Acknowledge your stress. Journaling your feelings is a wonderful way to express your thoughts and feelings instead of “feeding” your feelings.
- Manage your thoughts. Thought switching is a powerful stress management technique when you desire an “instant calm.” Reframe any negative thoughts to more positive thoughts. Do not focus on the “what if’s” which can increase stress. Keep a mental picture of your favorite places, such as the beach, that you can “switch on” during stressful times. Also remember your accomplishments and the happy times in your life and keep a mental list of these.
- Exercise. Just 30 minutes of activity a day can prove to be beneficial by releasing endorphins in the brain, the same chemicals that are also released by overeating unhealthy foods. Pick an activity you enjoy as it will increase your odds of sticking with an exercise program. Exercise also promotes good sleep, which is also beneficial in decreasing feelings of stress.
- Learn to breathe. When under stress, practice taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. This can promote feelings of relaxation. Take these breaths so you feel them in your abdomen and not your chest. There are many relaxation apps available to assist you with breathing techniques and exercises to help manage stress.
- Connect with others. Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or therapist can decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.
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