CURBING STRESS & EMOTIONAL EATING
BY HIRANMAYII AWLI MOHANAN
While rushing to make a deadline, you go for a quick snack when all of a sudden you discover you’ve consumed a whole bag of popcorn. Everyone may connect to this at some time in their lives because we are all emotional beings. Eating delec- table food can occasionally feel better than coping with the voluminous thoughts that constantly bombard your mind. But the moment you take your final mouthful, all sense of relief vanishes. However, once you develop the habit of using food as a form of consolation, you might not be able to stop stress eating. Changing a stress-eating habit takes hard work and prac- tice. However, we have rounded up tips and skills to manage stress and tame stress-eating tendencies.
How do you define stress eating, anyway? Stress eating is when you eat in response to your emotions, as opposed to really nutritionally filling your body. Eating more than one normally would and eating quickly when not hungry are its defining characteristics. It makes sense that some people use food as a calming agent when troubling emotions arise because eating is a very peaceful activity. Because here’s the thing that’s often overlooked: It engages all five senses. Smell and taste are obvious, but a food’s texture and feel as well as what it looks like are very important too. As for hearing? Think: the crunch of a crisp apple, or the slurp of a warming soup. While it’s good manners to refrain from munching loud enough for the entire table to hear, you can always hear yourself chew and swallow. From a sensory input standpoint, food is able to serve a purpose to calm, occupy and distract oneself.
1. Increase Your Awareness
First and foremost, increase your awareness of when and what situations trigger stress eating. Pay close attention to when, where, and the kinds of food you are reaching for when you do it. Keep track of what is happening right now and pay close atten- tion to the tension and emotions that are being experienced. Maybe you just had a particularly difficult meeting and realised you always behave in this way when you meet with this particular coworker. Once you notice this pattern, you might research alternative tactics to employ that would work well. Always keep in mind that this is a customised solution, so determine what works for you.
2. Recognise Your Craving Patterns
Consider keeping a record of the times of day or situations when you frequently experience cravings, as well as how you feel during those times, in a food journal or even on your smartphone. If you know you tend to binge munch while dealing with stressful travel, it’s possible that you get overwhelmed after dinner thinking about your to-do list for the next day and go looking for ice cream. If you are aware of your tendencies, you may recognise them, halt and ask yourself if you are actually hungry.
3. Consciously Plan Meals and Snacks
If you frequently find yourself elbow-deep in a bag of salty snacks due to imminent deadlines, be extra conscious that you’re sitting down for regularly scheduled meals (and snacks) on those days. Planning your meals will prevent you from blindly consum- ing food just because you feel pressed for time for dinner.
4. Perform a Brain-to-Belly Scan
To eat more intuitively, it’s important to pause and check in with your body and brain to determine what first triggered
this hunger uncertainty. Here’s the general thought process you want to move through, step by step:
• Start with your brain: How do you feel in your mind? Are you criticising yourself for consuming food when you’re not actually hungry? If so, don’t be hard on yourself; mistakes are normal. Also, are you eating because you’re anxious or frustrated about a relationship?
• Consider emotional intrusions: Which mood are you in right now? Are you upset over a performance review? Now is a good time to write down your sentiments in a journal.
• Zero in on your throat and stomach: Are you thirsty? How recent did you eat? Was the meal exciting? Why or why not?
You can learn to know yourself and your hunger cues better by using the brain-to-bel- ly scan. When you’re feeling cagey, pausing and digesting your feelings can be the first step toward intuitive eating enlightenment.
5. Keep Your Mouth Busy
Even after a lengthy, introspective stroll, you could occasionally still feel the want to stress eat even though you’re not physically hun- gry. This is especially true if it’s a day when, for example, family matters are especially troubling you. So, hold off on reaching for your go-to stress snack. The act of placing food in your mouth can sometimes be enough to satisfy your hunger and tempo- rarily settle your mind so you can focus on what is really important.