We've all been there. It's been a stressful day at work, your favorite football team is losing on the big screen, or you flipped on the TV to yet another heated political squabble. What do we turn to? Some comforting (and usually unhealthy) food. Here are five easy steps to avoid this food pitfall.
Stress eating happens to the best of us. It can be as simple as mindlessly munching as you watch your team lose yet another 14-point lead, or cooking up some classic comfort food (we're looking at you, fried chicken) to make up for a bad day at the office.
High-carb and high-fat foods make us feel good, literally. Dopamine (the hormone that makes you happy) levels in your brain increase when we're eating these types of foods. So how can you combat the urge to stress eat when you body is telling you to do just that?
Practice Mindful Eating
If you're in an emotional state (or simply emotionally exhausted) then it will help to take a moment to practice mindful eating. Sit back, think about why you're choosing the food in front of you, and ponder if you're actually even hungry. Replaying why you might be turning to this comfort food will help you be more aware of these habits in the future.
Keep a Clean Pantry
No, we're not talking about spring cleaning your kitchen. If you know that a bad day will end with you wolfing down a bag of potato chips, it's probably best to avoid them when grocery shopping. Know what foods you have a weakness for and don't regularly keep them in the house. Or better yet, get individually portioned products to keep you aware of how many servings you're eating.
Work It Out
It's very easy to come home from a long day and flop down on the couch until bed time. But a recent study found that exercising after stress will help you be less likely to overeat. If you're tired, don't worry about going for a long run or pumping some iron. Simply go on a stroll through your neighborhood to blow off some steam. Even better, get your mind off your problems (and the foods they're making you crave) by listening to a captivating podcast while you're active.
Turn to a Hobby
If you're not interested in being active to soothe your mind, then turning to a distracting hobby might be the ticket to calming your nerves and cravings. Take up knitting, write your daily journal entry, or meditate for 15 minutes. Doing something that you enjoy, and can be proud of, may help you turn to other activities besides eating when you get stressed.
Don't Avoid the Comfort of Food
In the end, it's not a crime (and not going to ruin your waistline) to occasionally indulge in a comforting dish. It doesn't even have to be unhealthy to be considered a comfort food. The key is to be aware about what and why you're eating. As long as it's not habitual during stressful times and doesn't involve overeating, embrace the fact that you occasionally treat yourself. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and shouldn't be adding to your stress.