How To Prevent Stress Eating When You’re Stuck at Home
Working remotely can come with some pretty great perks, such as staying in your cozy PJs with your pup at your feet all day. But it's easy to let healthy habits slide while being stuck at home -- especially with higher-than-usual stress levels given the uncertainty of the pandemic sweeping over the nation.
It's totally natural to seek an instant distraction that mindless snacking can provide, especially when there's extra stress in the picture. While it's tempting to binge eat bags of salty potato chips, it's possible to eat healthy -- even if you're stuck at home. Not sure how? We can help! Read on to learn how to kick stress eating to the curb. And for more great wellness tips, be sure to check out our blog.
But First, What Exactly Is Stress Eating?
Stress eating falls under the general umbrella of emotional eating -- a pattern where food becomes a self-soothing mechanism to deal with a distressing situation (COVID, anyone?).
Nearly all of us do this on occasion. You might come home late from the office after a difficult day and pick at a pint of chocolate ice-cream, barely noticing you're eating until your spoon finally hits the bottom of the tub. Or you might find yourself in front of the fridge, munching on leftovers after you've argued with a friend -- thinking less about the cold pizza you're eating than about a spiteful comment you made.
Now, these habits don't necessarily mean you have an issue with stress eating -- rather, it's when food feels like your go-to strategy for coping with stress that it may be time to address it.
Here are some helpful tips to prevent stress eating when you're stuck at home:
Own Up to Your Feelings
You know that your emotions are the trigger for your stress eating, right? So why not acknowledge them? It's totally okay to feel mad, bored, or lonely at times. The feelings may be unpleasant for sure, but they are not dangerous by any means, and you don't always need to "fix" them. Allow your emotions to come and go without judging them.
Find Alternatives to Eating
A soul-soothing cup of herbal tea or a brisk walk around the block are great substitutes for nibbling off stress. The great thing about these stress-busting activities is that they always leave you feeling better, not worse! If you feel the need to eat, try hard or crunchy foods. Why? Because they help to relieve stress by putting your tight jaw muscles to work. Try snacking on baby carrots, soy nuts, or almonds.
Though having a jar of drool-worthy cookies on the counter may add to the visual appeal of your kitchen, the practice may lead to overeating.
Having tempting snacks within eyesight can lead to frequent snacking -- even when you're not hungry. According to research, visual exposure to high-calorie foods stimulates the striatum -- a part of your brain that modulates impulse control -- which may lead to overeating and increased cravings. For this reason, it's wise to keep particularly tempting foods, including candy, chips, cookies, and baked goods, out of sight and out of mind, such as in a pantry or cupboard.
Note: To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a tasty treat from time to time -- even when you are not necessarily hungry. However, overindulging too often can harm both your mental health and physical health -- so keep that in mind.
Don’t Deprive Yourself of Food
Don't deprive yourself of food or make your intake of food way too strict. If you set unrealistic goals, you'll start eating high-calorie foods, binge, and eventually overeat. We are in stressful times, so following a very restrictive diet or depriving yourself of certain foods can quickly backfire. Above and beyond all else -- be gentle with yourself.
Research has shown that restrictive diets are not useful for any length of time, harming both your physical and mental health, ultimately leading to a great deal of stress, which you already have enough of.
Pick Up Some New Recipes
With all difficult times -- there are some silver linings. With so many restaurants closed or only accepting half capacity, this is the time to put on your chef's hat and create meals at home.
Not having the option to go out to eat at restaurants forces you to cook more meals yourself, which, believe it or not, has been shown to improve overall health. For example, a recent large study conducted on over 11,000 people found that consuming home-cooked meals more frequently was associated with a greater intake of fresh fruits and veggies. Plus, it found that those who ate home-cooked meals more than five times per week were a whopping 28 percent less likely to be overweight and 24 percent less likely to have excess body fat -- compared with those who ate home-cooked meals less than three times per week.
Pay Attention to the Clock
We're often told to listen to our bodies when it comes to hunger and to focus less on what time the clock reads. But because of our current situation with the pandemic, many of us are feeling higher levels of anxiety and stress. So while it may go against what we're typically taught with intuitive eating, you will want to pay close attention to the times that you're eating since normal routines are off, which can make triggers for “eating time” a little fuzzy. For instance, because you're stressed or bored, you might think you're hungry -- but a quick glance at the clock can remind you that you just had lunch thirty minutes ago.
Try the Less Stress Kit
When we know stress is the culprit behind our habit of overeating -- why not find ways to reduce stress? One surefire way to do that is with the Less Stress Kit from Love Wellness. This powerful kit of targeted supplements works together to keep you calm and resting peacefully while supporting digestion for overall bliss.
Speaking of digestion -- did you know that 95 percent of your body's supply of serotonin (the chemical that influences your mood) is found in your gut? Keep your gut healthy and happy by taking a quality probiotic like Love Wellness's Good Girl Probiotics. This super-supplement is made with eight strains of good bacteria, whereas most probiotics only contain one.
Cut Back On Caffeine
People tend to feel a lack of energy when they're feeling stressed and turn to caffeine as a little pick-me-up, but caffeine can disrupt your sleep at night, which can ultimately make you more stressed. If caffeine keeps you up at night, try limiting your consumption close to bedtime or swap to decaf.
Practice Mindful Eating
When you practice mindful eating, you become much more aware of your internal signals of fullness and hunger. You also become more in-tune with what triggers you to eat in the first place. Mindful eating can help you avoid binge eating and allow you to enjoy your food more -- even when you eat less. Mindful eating is the process of putting aside all other distractions and concentrating all your attention and senses on the food you are eating. You may spend a moment appreciating the food before consuming it. You’ll want to put your utensil down in between bites and chew thoroughly, and resist looking at screens or any kind of multitasking as you eat!
Pay Attention to Your Moods
If you're like most women who experience the joys of PMS, you know firsthand how cravings can lead you down a rabbit hole to binge eating. A great way to keep PMS symptoms in check is by taking a top-notch supplement with mood-enhancing ingredients -- like #Mood Pills from Love Wellness. This powerful supplement assists with mild mood changes associated with PMS and can also be helpful to deal with fatigue and occasional work stress.
And last on the list, but certainly not least, one way to prevent stress eating is simply by breathing. Focus on deep breathing for a few minutes or step outside for a little fresh air, allowing the warm sun to hit your face. Now, your stress won't disappear, but deep breathing can act as a reset and bring you into the present moment, creating a little buffer between the urge coming on and the actual act of eating. It will also give you time to decide the best way to react.
A Final Word
We all eat for different reasons -- stress, boredom, cravings, and physical hunger. None of these reasons are wrong by any means, but over the long term, they can lead to weight gain and health issues -- especially if food is your only way of coping. Before you put food in your mouth, stop for a moment and ask yourself why you're eating. If it's because you're super stressed or even bored, eat a tiny amount, then move on and find other healthy activities to relieve stress like meditating. Or try skipping the small snack altogether and go find something else to do, coming back to eat when you feel physically hungry.
Whether you're looking for ways to de-stress or mood-enhancing supplements, Love Wellness has your back!
Is Snacking Good or Bad for You? (healthline.com)
Poor ability to resist tempting calorie rich food is linked to altered balance between neural systems involved in urge and self-control (ncbi.nim.nih.gov)l
Overeating with and without loss of control: associations with weight status, weight-related characteristics, and psychosocial health (ncbi.nim.nih.gov)
Frequency of eating home-cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study (ncbi.nim.nih.goy)
How Intuitive Eating Works, and How to Get Started (livestrong.com)
Dieting does not work, UCLA researchers report (newsroom.ucla.edu)
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