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eating spagetti“I can’t believe he just broke up with me!” Renee is headed for the ice cream and about to engage in stress eating.

Eating when stressed or when we need to relax or calm down is a bad habit. But we do it. Ice cream is the number one comfort food for both men and women. Comfort food is often high energy, sugary foods, eaten during chronic stress that tell the brain to calm down.

The problem with stress eating is that we feel guilty later and tend to gain weight. It is a habit most of us would like to break. Obviously the main solution is to practice better ways to reduce stress. If you are working on better stress management, here are 7 tips to help break stress eating:

  • Attend to the signs of physical stress (irritability, poor concentration, lack of sleep, etc,). If those physical signs are missing, don’t eat. Chances are you are emotional eating and not really hungry.
  • Have a number of ways to de-stress. Choose one when you have the urge to eat. For example, take a hot bath, listen to relaxing music, pray, engage in deep breathing, massage your shoulders or head, read a book, etc.
  • Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals makes it easier to binge or stress eat.
  • Practice self-care when stressed–get enough sleep, exercise and talk out your problems with a trusted fiend. Don’t turn to food.
  • Remove the source of stress when you can. Sometimes, the best strategy is to eliminate stress.
  • Don’t keep stress treats in your house. If food is available, in sight and only a cupboard away, the temptation is to eat. So eliminate the tempting foods.
  • If you are really stressed and want to eat, eat a small amount of a treat, not the whole thing. Researcher Linda Bacon found that you really only enjoy a few bites of food. After that, your taste buds lose their sensitivity to the chemicals in that food. So eat a few bites slowly and mindfully, and then put the rest away or share with someone else.

Overall, the goal is to stop reaching for food out of emotional need. This means you must press pause and become more intentional.

 

 

For more help with stress eating, check out Dr. Linda’s book, Press Pause Before You Eat.

 

 

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