Stress eating is consuming food in response to stress, especially when you’re not hungry. It’s a type of emotional eating whereby one eats in response to whatever emotion one is feeling. Emotions also dictate how much one eats.
Biochemically, stress eating is when your body demands food because of the stress-response hormone cortisol that triggers cravings for pleasure in form of sweet foods (e.g ice cream, chocolate) or salty indulgent foods(e.g crisps).
It is normal to binge eat when stressed and it’s only a small percentage of people who don't reach for a cookie, or a bag of potato crisps when dealing with exam finals,break-up stress or when preparing for a work presentation.
Stress eating is a natural ,biological and psychological phenomenon but if left unchecked, it could escalate.
Signs that you are stress eating:
1)Eating in response to outside cues like seeing food being advertised on television or hearing a radio advert of food.
2)When eating makes you feel better especially when stressed or when worried about something.
3) When you eat because you have nothing else to do
4)Craving certain foods especially when stressed.
5)Eating after an argument or after an unpleasant occasion even when you are not hungry.
How to avoid stress eating
Bodies are different therefore whatever may work for someone else may not always work for you. Health is different for every person too.
To combat stress eating, you can always talk to a nutritionist for a different diet approach. Alternatively, to control or avoid stress eating you can do the following:
a)Find different ways to deal with stress
You can use the 4P action plan.
Pause: Reflect on what type of hunger you are experiencing.
Pry:Take a second to figure out what specific emotion is trying to come up.
Pick: Decide whether eating at that particular time is the best choice.There may be a self soothing activity you may consider engaging in.
Persevere: You will have to move on from the choice you made above. Whatever it was whether you chose to eat or do something else. Do it and move on.
b)Be gentle on yourself
Don't be too harsh on yourself because you are stress eating and you feel like you are losing control over it. Stressing only makes it worse. It happens to almost everybody. We are only human after all. There is no need to beat yourself to it.
c)Find the source of the stress
People have stress triggers that cause them to eat when stressed. If you can identify your triggers, you will be able to take steps to tackle stress before it is too late. You can keep track of these triggers by writing them down in a journal.If you don't know the triggers yet,you can carry a notepad and note down when you eat and the environment you're in and the people around you during that time.This may help get clues on some of the triggers that lead to stress.
d)Figure out new ways to relieve stress
After identifying the stress triggers,find new ways to deal with stress apart from eating. You can find some time and meditate especially when at home.If at work you can try getting a colleague friend to talk to when things get heated up. You can also try walking instead of eating.
e)Get help for emotional stress
If you have tried all the methods and it still doesn't work for you, you could try getting help from a trained professional. Most social workers and psychologists are trained to deal with this type of emotional distress. They may be able to help you consider changing your environment, your toxic family and friends. You may also be recommended to get new ways of tackling stress apart from eating according to what works for you.