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Break Free From Stress Eating

Stress can happen at any time, in any place even on your commute home. I think we have all been there and feel that the quickest way to make yourself feel better is to grab a “snack”. It could be something sweet, salty, fatty or that one food that you have always gravitated to when you needed to feel better. You eat it and you “feel” better, right? The guilt alone can cause a lot of stress for those of us who use food as a means to deal with stress and emotions.

Stress eating is also known as emotional eating and is a big contribution to weight gain but can also be deemed as abuse of a substance. Researchers have learned that food addicts can experience the same neurological impulses and reactions as addicts of cocaine or heroin addicts. The difference is an addiction to food can only be changed by learning how to consume it mindfully since you cannot live without it.

If you find that you are a stress eater you may think that instant gratification from that bag of chips or candy bar is helping your stressful situation, but in all truth it could just be hiding a deeper problem and that food is filling a void in your life.

By acknowledging your emotions when you reach for that sweet or salty snack you will develop a healthier relationship with food. So take a moment, before you munch down and write down what exactly you are feeling; frustrated with your job, co-worker or family member. Or could you be sad, confused or scared about the stressful situation?

Pinpoint your Triggers:

Pay attention to the times when you eat even though you are not hungry.

Be mindful of what your body is really working through. Are you stressed, sad, scared, frustrated or just plain bored? Take that moment and really ask your body what it needs.

Often times those who turn to food and extreme diets are the ones who need to be in control in order for things to go smoothly in their life.

Those who are not comfortable with their solitude or loneliness may seek happiness in a cupcake or a bag of chips. So take that moment and really check in with yourself to see why you are grabbing for that food when your stomach is not rumbling.

Feel your emotions:

What would happen if you chose not to eat when you felt bad, stressed or sad? Believe it or not, some people think that they will fall apart completely and that they will never stop crying or could never deal with the boredom or frustrations. I challenge you to give it a try and instead of grabbing for that snack allow yourself to feel the emotion. Feel the sadness, anxiety or anger instead. Cry if you need to cry, scream if you need to scream and let the emotions go.

Eat mindfully whenever you are hungry:

Instead of rushing and trying to get a meal in before you need to dash somewhere, take the time to sit down. Turn the television off and set your phone in another room and enjoy your meal without the TV, radio or drama. Remember to eat only what your body wants and enough to feel satisfied but not stuffed. Create your meal time around other people, friends or family and discuss your day with enjoyment. If you are solo, really take time to savor your meal. The taste, smell and feel of the food on your tongue and how it satisfies you. Take time to be grateful for all the prep work it took to create your meal, including where all the food came from. Which farms, area of the country, is it organic or did it come from a local farmer?

Consume Mindfully:

To consume mindfully means that you are not running to food after every stressful moment or traumatic event that happens in your life. It means that you have checked in with yourself before you reach for that bag of chips or candy bar. You have pre-planned, bought the food, portioned out your snacks and are actually solving your problems as opposed to letting those problems consume you and then you consume something else to make yourself feel better.

Coping Mechanisms:

There are many different methods that can help you address what causes you to feel that need to eat.

1. Jot down immediately what you are feeling, instead of reaching for that snack, and then tear it up.

2. Call a friend and vent to them about what is happening.

3. Take 10 deep breaths focusing on the exhale and connecting it to your body.

4. Grab a big glass of water and take long, deep drinks.

5. Stand up and do some deep body stretches.

6.Pull out a book and read a chapter.

These methods will help you address the actual feelings you are having instead of hiding them away and getting rid of them by eating.

Part of the recovery is learning from every experience, so take your time and be curious at every moment and then document it so that you can see those triggers. Each stressful event will be a challenge so be prepared with a new strategy when the urge comes up to snack. As we age, our methods of managing our emotions will change, so being adaptable is a great way to help yourself change your habits.

Stress eating is a difficult behavior to change, but the benefits far outweigh the journey. By learning about yourself and your emotions you are strengthening every part of your being and will become a stronger person, mind, body and soul.

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