I am a self proclaimed stress-ball. No, I’m not one of those cool little actual stress balls that you can squeeze when you’re stressed. I am a literal stress ball. My muscles in my body actually have knots from being such a stress freak. It’s true!
Sometimes when I let myself just get into absolute basket case mode, I feel the need to chew something. Better yet, I feel the need to eat. Which can lead to a dangerous habit. Avoiding stress eating is going to be vital to reaching your goals.
Let’s talk really fast about why your body is doing this.
We’re going to get sciency really fast, but hang with me because it’s important! Then we’ll get to what you actually came here for which is tips on avoiding stress eating.
Your body has two branches of the nervous system; the parasympathetic state and the sympathetic state.
The parasympathetic state is a relaxed, non-stressed state of mind and the sympathetic state is when your body is in fight or flight mode. Your body literally thinks that you are in danger.
In some people, being in a chronic sympathetic state can trigger the feeling of needing to eat even if they are not actually hungry.
Translation- stress eating.
This chronic feeling of stress can cause you to have cravings but sometimes just the need to chew.
So, how do you combat this? I mean, you work full time and you’ve got kiddos and a family to take care of. Of course you’re stressed!
It’s about management and preparation.
Avoiding stress eating tip #1 – Think about what you’ve eaten that day and if your body is actually hungry
Let’s make sure you’re actually hungry before you eat. Whatchathink? That’s a ground breaking idea I think.
While this tip may sound very logical and almost “duh”, it’s actually a very real thing that happens. There are many girls that I have talked with that have said that they eat simply to eat.
I have a client that she is working to lose some weight and when we got to the point of working on her overall diet, she found that she would often eat simply out of habit or the need of something to do.
She wasn’t eating bad food either, she would eat simply to eat and give her mouth and hands something to do and it ended up that she was eating around 2,500 per day on average.
Which, for a gal trying to lose weight, is way over the mark!
When she cut out her ‘snacks simply to snack’ and planned her snacks, she lost almost 2 pounds in a week; and no, it wasn’t water weight!
This is why as you’re learning the difference between your body telling you you’re actually hungry and “hey, you’re stressed, let’s fix that by eating”, it’s important to meal prep and measure out your food according to what your body needs.
Avoiding stress eating tip #2 – Go for a walk/run/go to the gym/get outside
This really ties in with number one, but basically? This means get your hiny moving!
A lot of times when we get stressed out to the point of feeling the need to just eat something, if we were to take our minds off of it by going to the gym or going for a run, we will take our minds off of that feeling and get some activity in.
Plus! Bonus – it’ll be time to actually eat when you’re done.
Remember me talking about in the top portion all the hormones that go into making you feel hungry, etc.? Yep, this helps counteract that.
Don’t forget that I’m not saying ignore your feelings of hunger, what I am saying is to take a minute to do an activity to see if you’re actually hungry.
Because if you followed step one and you’ve eaten all your foods and snacks for the day so far and you’re still hungry, there’s a good chance that it could be stress. Sometimes it could mean your calories are miscounted, but that’s another post in itself.
Don’t stress about the stress eating. Learn how to manage it. Which is what you’re doing so, good job! Let’s move on to the next one.
Avoiding stress eating tip #3 – Have good snacks on hand
Now that you’ve determined you’re actually hungry and it’s not just stress hormones messing with your brain, let’s make sure that we’ve got some great snacks to have on hand to curb that hunger.
This is actually an extension of tip number one because planning your food ahead of time will make a huge difference in the way that you address your hunger.
If you need some great snack ideas that will keep you feeling full, you can head over here for 22 snack ideas.
You know something else? It doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, I have this thing I do on my Instagram stories called Amber’s Ugly Meals, because I firmly believe that it doesn’t have to be pretty to be good. Just sayin!
Don’t stress about making your snacks pretty. They can totally be as simple as my snack below.
Avoiding stress eating tip #4 – Grab some chewing gum
YES! I’m pretty sure this one doesn’t need a lot of explaining, but sometimes when you’re stressed, you body has the need to chew, right? So, grab some sugar free chewing come.
You get the chewing motion without the chance of possibly over eating.
Again, if you determine you’re actually hungry, eat one of your snacks. But if it’s just your brain telling you you’re hungry and you’re actually not, grabbing a piece of gum could be a lifesaver!
Avoiding stress eating tip #5 – Make sure you get enough sleep
While this one may seem a bit weird when talking about stress eating, we really don’t give getting a good night’s sleep enough credit.
In fact, we often place too little importance on it.
Especially as mamas of youngin’s we have to get up early and stay up late and a good night’s sleep is often hard to come by.
However, getting as many good night’s sleep as you can a week will help curb those hormones, which will in turn help curb those cravings.
I completely understand the feeling of not being able to turn your brain off at night. Believe me, I completely understand that feeling.
A bedtime routine will help calm your mind down and get you actually ready to go to sleep so that you won’t be lying there in the dark with your eyes wide open wondering why you aren’t sleeping and if you should just get up and get stuff done instead.
Your bedtime routine should be calming and minimal screen time such as your cell phone and computer. That blue light in those screens makes your brain think that it’s still daytime outside and you should be awake!
Tip- If you do use your cell phone, it needs to be on a nighttime setting where the blue light isn’t as harsh.
The best way to not stress eat is to be prepared. Since you know that you are prone to stress eating, being prepared with the tools to combat it will make your life a whole lot simpler when it comes to battling it.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking that I’m a nut case because how in the world could you have snacks prepared ahead of time.
Here’s some tough love, my love. You ready?
It’s because you have goals and you can’t afford not to be prepared. Being prepared helps keep you from self sabotage.
This isn’t me passing judgement, it’s me stating facts. You can do this! Learn to understand and listen to your body to be able to know the difference between actual hunger and stress triggers.
It might take some time, but I KNOW you can do it. You’ve got this!
*Disclaimer – I am not a doctor. If you think you need to see your doctor about your stress, then do it! Don’t hesitate! 🙂