For some, it happens after an argument with your spouse or testy text from a friend. Maybe a looming deadline or money concerns triggers it for others. Whatever the stressful event, many of us turn to food for comfort and distraction. And not a bag of baby carrots or stalks of celery, but food in the form of cookies, ice cream or chocolate. That kind of junk is convenient, and our bodies are built to seek it in high-stress situations. Eating carbohydrates that are packed with fat or sugar releases brain chemicals that leave us feeling good. But here’s the kicker: After you work your way through that sleeve of cookies or tub of ice cream, the guilt of doing so may end up leave you feeling worse. (I know it does for me.)
Emotional eating can get in the way of your weight loss. It’s not easy to break the cycle, but try some of these tips to help you take better control.
Keep notes. Awareness is key: In a journal, write down what you eat, when, how much, and how you’re feeling. Over time, you may see patterns developing that reveal the connection between mood and food.
Learn replacement techniques. You often know when you’re using food as consolation for a bigger issue. Refocus your attention on what’s really bothering you and, in those moments, try some methods to manage the stress―like deep breathing or meditation.
Think future. When on you’re on the brink of stress eating, take a second to focus on your long term goals―whether it’s to lose those last 10 pounds, or to be able to run more with the grandkids. Some research suggests that might help you get out of the moment and make healthier choices.
Give yourself a break. If you overdo the junk food in a moment of anger, forgive yourself and start fresh. Just try to learn from the setback so you can make a plan for how to deal better in the future.