Ready to break free from stress eating and bring back happiness to your eats? Try some of these simple tricks next time anxiety strikes.
1. Focus on the real issue.
We all know food is just a crutch when we’re stressed. “Stress eating is not the primary problem, but a symptom of unmet needs,” says Alex. Ask yourself ‘How do I feel?’ or ‘What do I need?’ to figure out what’s really getting under your skin.
2. Think long-term.
Take a minute to focus on the future (whether that means recalling your weight loss goals, or how awesome you want to look on vacation next month) before you give in to stress eating. It can help get you out of the moment so you make healthier food choices instead of succumbing to the lure of a tasty treat, suggests a 2014 study.
3. Get mindful.
In a study in the Journal of Obesity, women who underwent mindfulness training — learning stress reduction techniques, how to recognize hunger, and pay attention to taste — were less apt to stress eat and lost more belly fat compared to a control group. Next time you’re feeling taxed, try this exercise. You’ll learn to identify your feelings, accept the unpleasant ones and focus on your breathing so you can fight the automatic urge to reach for a snack.
4. Be kind to yourself.
“Self-compassion can decrease stress eating,” says Alex. “When you’re a kind, understanding friend to yourself, it’s easier to resist the urge to try to disconnect through stress eating,” she adds. If you do stress eat, promise that you won’t beat yourself up and understand that it happens to everyone sometimes. That can help stop you from eating out of failure and help you make better choices later.
5. If all else fails…
Go ahead and indulge. “Food is a lovely, comforting thing,” says McCreery. So if you’re going to do it anyway, she recommends really enjoying it. “Sit down, let yourself relax, and taste the ice cream.” You do deserve the break. It’s ok. And consider this: foods, such as dark chocolate, may actually curb your stress and help you regain your resolve and focus, enabling you to curb your cravings. Of course, moderation is key. Plan on savoring an ounce of chocolate rather than the whole bar.