When we’re stressed, a common reaction is to eat! A study from Harvard suggests that when we’re emotionally or physically stressed, we’re more inclined to opt for foods higher in fat, sugar or both. As you can imagine, too many of these choices can lead to weight gain and other health issues, so it’s important to recognize and understand what stress and emotional eating is and how we can combat these triggers.

What is Stress Eating?

Emotional hunger and eating are separate from true hunger, but it can be hard to distinguish one from the other. There are a few things to look out for when trying to determine which hunger you’re experiencing. Certain people have unique triggers for them. Try to pinpoint what your trigger foods or emotions are, to better prepare yourself for the next emotional eating attack!

Emotional hunger: 

  • hits very quickly, making you feel instantly starving’. True hunger comes on much more slowly.
  • craves treat-like’ foods and comfort foods – think cookies, cakes, french fries, and fried chicken.
  • leads to mindless eating – think-snacking in front of the tv, not intentionally consuming what your body needs.
  • isn’t located in the stomach, but rather in the mind.
  • tends to result in guilt or shame, after indulging in the comfort foods we think we have to have.

So, What Really is the Relationship Between Mood and Food?

The foods you eat can directly impact how and what you’re feeling. For instance, if you’re munching on fresh, whole foods that are filled with the nutrients your body needs, you’ll feel more alert and sustained, and less antsy and anxious. Similarly, if you’re eating lots of fast food and foods high in carbohydrates, sugars, and fats, you will be more inclined to feel stressed and in a worse mood overall.

Here are a few notable food behaviors that can greatly affect you:

01 If you’re not on a regular eating schedule and feeding your body nutrient-dense foods when it needs them, you’re more than likely going to have brain fog and sluggishness throughout the day.

02 If you’re skipping out on main nutrient and food groups, you’re inhibiting your body from producing its feel-good hormone – serotonin. You’re also probably missing out on vitamins and minerals which is linked to feelings of depression and chronic fatigue.

03 If you’re not getting ample amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, you’re less likely to experience symptoms of depression.

04 If you’re eating too many processed foods, you’re more likely to see a growth in your waistline and an increase in sluggishness and inflammation.

Combat Your Triggers

Mindful eating helps keep you in check when life’s stresses make you want to reach for the potato chips. What is mindful eating you ask? Mindful eating is a practice that develops your awareness of eating habits and allows you to pause between your triggers and actions.

Next time you’re tempted to emotionally indulge, try pinpointing what it is that’s actually making you crave what you’re craving. Is it something that happened during the week, are you experiencing symptoms of grief? After you figure it out, try waiting five minutes before digging in, this can help you think through if your splurge is really worth it.

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