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5 Tips for Avoiding Stress Eating

Modern life is stressful, and becoming increasingly so. The American Psychological Association reports that in 2019 people were stressed about health care, both accessing and paying for it, mass shootings, climate change, descrimination, terrorism, and sexual harrassment, among other things -- and that was before a global pandemic struck. 

When you add those kinds of big, national concerns to those that affect us more personally, like stress at work, the psychological strain of parenting or caring for aging parents, relationship issues, and so on, it’s not surprising how many people struggle with emotional eating. 

Dr. Latisa S. Carson and her staff at Uniquely Fit Medical Weight Loss & Wellness Center are dedicated to helping you reach and maintain a healthy weight. You may be surprised by how important your emotions are in that process. Our lifestyle coaching services are an integral element for many of our patients who are working to overcome stress eating. 

Why does stress drive food cravings? 

When you’re faced with a stressful situation, your body responds by releasing several hormones, including cortisol. Chronic stress can mean chronically high levels of cortisol, which can make you feel like you need to eat all the time. Food may also provide comfort during times you’re feeling weak or vulnerable. 

Following the tips below will help you recognize and avoid emotional eating: 

1. Check-in with yourself

One of the most important steps in avoiding eating due to stress is to take the time to slow down and pay attention to whether you’re actually hungry or not. That may sound silly but if you pause before eating and consider it, you may realize you’re not hungry.

Keeping a journal, and tracking what and when you eat, as well as how you feel -- either when you eat, when you feel the strong urge to eat even if you’re not hungry, and how you feel after you eat -- can reveal a great deal about how your emotions and eating habits are interconnected. 

2. Follow a meal plan

Rather than restricting or depriving yourself, our team encourages you to create a meal plan that is nutritious and enjoyable. You may be surprised by how much a menu that you look forward to and feel good about changes your relationship with food. A satisfying and healthy meal may be the key to not craving junk food while you watch TV. 

Planning your snacks along with your meals can be another useful tool. You’re going to want to snack in all likelihood, so having a plan for when cravings strike and having healthy options on hand can make a big difference. 

3. Take away temptation

Try to avoid having foods that lack nutritional value in your home. If you can’t completely avoid that, keep them out of sight. Keeping cookies in a cabinet instead of in a jar on your counter may seem small, but when it comes to stress eating “out of sight, out of mind” is often true. 

4. Use your support network

Picking up the phone and chatting with a friend when you feel like reaching for a bag of chips is a simple method of distracting yourself, and may help relieve stress. If you’re a patient at Uniquely Fit Medical Weight Loss & Wellness Center, talk to your coach about stress eating. 

Having a support network is a critical part of creating a healthier life for yourself. If you don’t have a circle of family and friends for support, consider joining a support group. Our staff can offer suggestions. 

5. Work on lowering stress

The last tip can help you avoid stress eating, but may also help improve your overall health. Chronic stress is linked to numerous health problems, so there are multiple benefits to a life with less stress. 

Of course, it’s easy to say “lower your stress levels.” Much like losing weight, lowering stress can be far more complicated that it seems on the surface. Begin by considering what you can stop doing and think about what you’d like to do. 

A half hour reading each day might be the key to lower stress for you, or a meditation class. Saying no to additional commitments or obligations, or stepping away from some of your current ones may open time in your life and lead to less stress. ''

If you’d like to learn more about how you can tame stress eating, book an appointment at Uniquely Fit Medical Weight Loss & Wellness Center. We’re currently offering telehealth appointments as well as in-person appointments. You can call us or schedule online at your convenience.

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