Whatever it is that you are stressed about- if food becomes our only tool to manage stress, we find ourselves in big trouble – with resulting health and emotional issues.
Just as if we try to fix something using a hammer when the right tool is a wrench, we’d end up not getting the job done, and often having some clean up work to do from using the wrong tool.
Years of emotional eating to numb stress and pain or to avoid doing the things that truly feed us (often having nothing to do with food) require payback and healing.
The first step to overcoming this habit with grace is to bring awareness to it because we cannot improve that of which we are not aware.
Determine What Kind of Eater You Are:
- Fast Eater
- Slow Eater
- Stand-at-Kitchen-Counter Eater
- Eat-in-the-Car Eater
- Conscious Eater
Most Americans are fast eaters, and we need to take a few deep breaths before eating to slow down our minds and prepare our bodies to consume a meal so that our body can digest and assimilate the nutrients we give it.
Know the Difference Between Mindful or Mindless Eating
Studies show that we eat 30% more when we’re not paying attention to our food.
On average Americans spend 20 minutes a day eating ALL of their meals. Europeans average 2.5 hours a day on mealtimes. So, Americans have been shown to eat 30% more in those 20 minutes than a European eats in 2.5 hours at the table.
The moral of this story? Chew your food twenty times each bite. Put your fork down in between bites. Talk, breath, communicate, and enjoy during meal times.
The good news is that with conscious effort, anyone can break the habit of stress eating. Below are three tips to help you overcome stress eating and create a healthier relationship with food and yourself.
- Food Journal – Write it Down
Writing down everything you eat for seven days is an excellent way to bring awareness and consciousness to your eating habits. By documenting your meals, snacks, and emotional states, you can identify patterns and triggers that lead you to stress eat. For example, you might notice that you tend to eat more when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious. By recognizing these patterns, you can begin to make conscious choices about your food intake and develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress.
Do not judge yourself, your eating habits, or your emotions, but rather be an objective observer there to help and see where upgrades can be made to improve your physical and emotional health with food.
- Consume One Mindful Meal or Snack Daily
Mindful eating is a powerful tool for breaking the habit of stress eating. It involves paying attention to your food and the act of eating without any distractions. When you eat mindfully, you savor each bite and pay attention to the taste, texture, and smell of your food. You also listen to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness and stop eating when you’re satisfied, not stuffed. To start practicing mindful eating, try consuming one meal or snack each day without any distractions, such as the TV or phone. Instead, focus solely on the food in front of you and enjoy the experience.
- Know Your Primary Foods and Load Up On Them
Understand that physical hunger strikes below the neck. When you feel like eating but know you are not physically hungry, explore what else your body, mind, or soul really want.
Primary foods refer to the non-food aspects of life that nourish our bodies and souls, such as relationships, spirituality, exercise, and career. When we’re stressed, we often turn to food for comfort instead of addressing the root cause of our stress. By understanding our primary foods, we can identify what we’re truly hungry for and find healthy ways to nourish ourselves. For example, if you’re feeling lonely, you might call a friend instead of reaching for a bag of chips. If you’re feeling stagnant in your career, you might take a class or pursue a new hobby to spark your creativity.
By implementing these tips, you can bring awareness to your eating habits, practice mindful eating, and nourish yourself in non-food ways to overcome stress eating. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself throughout this process, and celebrate your successes along the way!