Stress eating can happen at any time, but during the holidays - when stress levels may be higher than usual - lots of people deal with stress by turning to comfort foods. While delicious, those comfort foods aren’t always healthy, plus, we tend to eat more when stressed. And the thing is, biology is behind it.
The biggest reason people end up eating more while stressed is because of hormones. When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol - a stress hormone - and that extra cortisol makes you hungrier. So if you’re dealing with persistent stress, you could end up overeating. Not to mention, turning to sweets or comfort foods is like an escape from what’s making you anxious or stressed.
To manage emotional or stress eating so it doesn’t become an issue for you:
- Look for the root of your stress - Once you know what’s making you stressed, you can see how to get rid of it or cope with it with something other than food.
- Practice mindful eating - This means paying attention to the food you eat, appreciating everything that goes into your mouth and eating slowly so you realize when you’re full and don’t overeat.
- Stock the fridge with healthy options - Set yourself up for success by keeping healthy food around, so when you reach for something when you’re stressed, it’ll be good for you.
- Identify and watch for triggers - Common triggers include stressful situations, boredom, some social situations and bad eating habits.
- Stick to a normal eating schedule - Having a routine can help lower stress levels and it will keep you on track so you’re not getting over hungry and not grabbing whatever’s around.
- Don’t put restrictions on your eating - It’s okay to eat junk food sometimes and it’s okay to have splurge meals when you’re eating healthy most of the time, so allow yourself these treats without guilt.
- Reach for water - When you feel stressed and feel like comforting yourself with food, drink water first. For one, you need a lot of water to stay properly hydrated, plus, people commonly mistake thirst for hunger. After you drink the water, you may not even feel like eating, or at least not as much.