There’s something so rewarding about digging into a pint of ice cream after a tough day.

Eating fast food seems to make you feel better when you’re under pressure. Having a tough time with the family or friends? Nothing helps like chowing down on home-cooked comfort food.

These are prime examples of emotional or stress eating. It’s not uncommon to use food to cope with feelings. Soothing yourself with food is a familiar way for people to deal with stress.

Unfortunately, stress eating can be an obstacle to your good health. The good feelings you get from indulging are short-lived. In the long run, they may harm your health. There’s a growing link between the food you eat and how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.1 But in the heat of the moment, how can you prevent the indulgence?

Adopt a plan using these techniques to help you stop using food as a way of coping:

  1. Stop, relax and breathe. Quietly sit with yourself. This helps create space between your decision and intake of food.
  2. Be mindful of emotions. Proceed with awareness of your feelings.
  3. Observe your body’s level of hunger. Rate it on a scale from 1-10. With 1 = uncomfortably hungry, 10 = uncomfortably full. Choose to eat if you’re hungry or take a pass if you are not. The goal is to eat until you feel satisfied at about a 7-8 on the scale.

Establish healthy habits

Move your body. Regular activity can help you minimize the stress that leads to emotional eating.2 Stretch. Take a walk. Any movement that you enjoy helps.

Be consistent with your mealtimes. Skipping meals or waiting too late to eat can cause blood sugar levels to drop. Not only will you be “starved,” but your judgment could be impaired by dizziness, headache and irritability.

Keep track. Write down your cravings and explore the timing and other associations like stress. While this is easier said than done, there are simple things you can do to help, like keeping a journal. Making note of alternatives may help to keep your urges in check.

Be conscious of your caffeine intake. While caffeine can help make us alert, too much can add to our stress levels. Feeling jittery isn’t productive.

Visualize the future. Before you eat, take a moment to think about the future. How will you feel 10 minutes after eating? Think about how you will feel 10 minutes after resisting your urges. Make a decision that considers your future feelings, not just your immediate urge.

To get the most out of your body and mind, pay attention to what you’re putting in. If you enjoy a balanced and mindful diet, there’s still room for ice cream, fast food and comfort food in moderation. Enjoy!

Speak with a dietitian today

Looking for snacks that will fill you up? High-fiber snacks will do the trick and are even heart-healthy.

Published April 5, 2023


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