Stress is one of the top triggers when it comes to emotional eating. Stressful situations and stressful inputs like work-related stress, financial stress or family-related stress can all potentially drive us to eat in order to relieve the feelings associated with the situation at hand.
To avoid stress eating, it is important to get in touch with your own hunger cues so you can recognize whether you are truly hungry or you are turning to food for comfort and stress-relief. When you struggle with the urge to open the fridge, use a mindfulness practice to be in the moment and observe what’s happening. The pause should help you to better understand the reasons behind your cravings.
Simple Trick 1: Take Deep Breaths
Yes, it sounds simple, but there is a reason that deep breathing tops the list of almost any meditation or de-stressing practices, and that’s because it works. Close your eyes and take long, deep breaths for 3 to 5 minutes, filling your belly with air and pushing it all out.
Simple Trick 2: Drink Water or Tea
Not only are water and tea both healthy and hydrating, but they can also distract you from any stress-eating hunger cues you might be feeling. Many of us mistake hunger for thirst, not just during times of stress but all the time. If you are feeling like you need something to eat, see if a tall glass of water will satiate you first.
Eating When You’re Exhausted
It is super common to crave food when you are tired or fatigued. If you’ve been sitting at a computer for hours on end and can barely ask your brain to make one more decision, indulging in easy, convenience-type comfort food might seem like a common-sense answer.
Simple Trick: If you find that you turn to emotional eating when you are overly tired or burned out, a great way to distract yourself from this trigger is to take a break from the activity causing the tiredness. Take a nap, go outside, take a walk or do some household chores. Give yourself a chance to fully reset before returning to the activity in question.
Eating When You’re Bored
Another common trigger is boredom. Between the constant influx of activities and stimulation from screens, we are no longer used to the feeling of boredom and it causes us to feel uncomfortable and alone. Without adequate coping strategies, boredom can lead to eating or overeating, because eating is, well, something to do.
Simple Trick: Have a list of potential activities you can do to relieve boredom. Think: read a book, play a game, do the laundry, do some gardening, etc. Keep this list handy for when the urge strikes.
Emotional Eating From Loneliness or Sadness
Many of us use food to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions. Food can be a way to soothe our emotions as well as a way to distract ourselves from them. During the act of eating, you might feel some relief from the emotion, but as soon as you’re finished eating, the negative emotions will return.
The best way to work through this emotional eating trigger is to get more comfortable feeling these unpleasant emotions. Remind yourself that emotions, even strong ones, are only temporary and that in time they will pass. You can also employ some other ways to distract or work through your emotions, like journaling, painting, exercising, or talking with someone about how you feel.
Simple Trick: Try putting on some music! Make a go-to playlist that makes you feel good, energizes you and uplifts you.
Emotional eating is a very common issue that many of us deal with daily. It is important to take steps to understand as well as address your emotional eating, so you can find better ways to cope with intense emotions, boredom, or fatigue. Overcoming emotional eating isn’t easy, so it's important to be understanding with yourself on this journey. You most likely won't be able to give up every bad food habit in one day, especially since they’ve been cultivated over a lifetime. Take it slow and practice addressing these common emotional eating triggers. Awareness of the trigger is a very important step in overcoming emotional eating. Go through this list whenever you feel the urge to self-soothe with food.