Ten Tips to Avoid Stress Eating

There’s no doubt that emotional eating can sabotage your weight loss efforts, and it’s much more complex than having more self-control. There’s a strong connection between mood and food. Sadness, loneliness, disappointment, fear and even boredom can trigger strong urges and cravings for certain foods. Major life events and daily life stressors can disrupt your hard work and send you into a tailspin of unhealthy food choices.

To help you get off the rollercoaster, our experts have put together some tips to help get you started on the path to conquering stress eating for good.

Tip #1 Avoid deprivation

Depriving yourself by totally banishing your favorite foods sets you up for cravings when stress levels rise. Losing weight is about finding balance. It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll never have a treat again. Choosing smaller portion sizes and eating nutritious foods most of the time is part of a sensible approach to eating and reduces stress-related cravings, but you can plan for an occasional treat.

Tip #2 Seek support

It’s difficult to step outside of yourself and view your life and habits from an objective perspective. Partnering with a professional is an excellent way to receive support and uncover the emotional and psychological triggers that drive your eating behaviors. At Marin Weight Loss & Wellness, we offer one-on-one counseling to help you gain insight into hidden emotional and psychological influences that trigger stress eating.

Tip #3 Exercise

Finding a healthy outlet for your stress, such as exercising, can help reduce emotional eating. Participating in physical activity is not only good for your body, it’s good for your mind and emotional health. Exercise reduces the stress hormone cortisol and has a positive influence on mood and feelings of well-being. Look for activities you enjoy, to increase the chance that you’ll stick with it.

Tip #4 Keep a survival kit

Creating a stress-fighting kit could be your secret weapon when it comes to emotional eating. A survival kit that contains your favorite stress-relieving items brings much needed comfort and can help suppress food cravings. You may want to include items such as your favorite essential oil or perfume, a soft scarf, and a music player with your favorite relaxing songs.

Tip #5 Engage in soothing activities

Whether it’s a long walk, hot shower, yoga class, manicure, or meditation, doing something soothing helps put your cravings on pause. Pleasurable alternatives to stress eating are a way to address stress directly. Through soothing activities, you receive stress-busting enjoyment without reaching into the refrigerator.

Tip #6 Practice mindfulness

Taking a mindful approach to food increases awareness and reduces your chances of binging on unhealthy foods. Part of what drives stress eating is a need to escape the present moment. By using mindfulness to focus on the present and concentrating on your senses and cues, you learn how to cope with the feelings and emotions that drive stress eating. The mindful eating program at Marin Weight Loss & Wellness provides the tools to help you use mindfulness to gain control of stress eating.

Tip #7 Keep healthy comfort foods around

For nearly everything you crave, there’s a healthier equivalent that can provide just as much satisfaction. Love ice cream? Try blending frozen bananas with low-fat yogurt and your favorite berries. Addicted to cheese and crackers? Try string cheese paired with bell pepper strips. The point is, keeping healthier versions of your go-to foods is a smart way to change your habits and improve your eating behaviors.

Tip #8 Don’t slack on sleep

Getting enough quality sleep is an often-overlooked component of managing weight and appetite. Sleep regulates hormones that play a role in hunger and food cravings. Going to bed late and skimping on sleep throws your hormones out of whack, making you more vulnerable to stress eating. Clinical data shows that missing just 30 minutes of sleep during the week is enough to increase appetite and food cravings and promote weight gain.

Tip #9 Keep a food and mood diary

Arming yourself with the right tools and resources plays a vital role in reaching and maintaining your weight loss goals. Keeping a food and mood diary helps you identify patterns and head off stress eating before it rears its ugly head. Recognizing your triggers gives you an opportunity to create a plan and develop coping skills to manage your emotions when they come up in the moment.

Tip #10 Sip your stress away

It may surprise you to know that the simple act of increasing your fluid intake can help reduce stress levels. Even mild dehydration puts the body under stress. When this happens, the body sends out a stress signal in the form of a hormone called cortisol. Incidentally, cortisol increases appetite and plays a role in driving eating behavior.

Start your journey today

Here at Marin Weight Loss & Wellness, Dr. Altschuler and her team help patients achieve their health goals through professionally supervised weight loss programs and health coaching. If you’re struggling to lose weight, schedule a consultation for more information. Call one of our offices in Novato or Greenbrae, California, to request an appointment, or book online at your convenience.

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