We’ve all reached for that tub of ice cream or had one too many pizza slices to get us through the tough times. Stress is something that affects all of us, but it’s not always that easy to spot the signs. These are the signs to look out for if you suspect you might be stress eating.
What Is Stress Eating?
Stress eating happens when your body produces an excess of cortisol, which is your stress-response hormone. With an increase of cortisol, your body begins to crave pleasure, which often creates urges for sweet, sugary, and fatty foods.
Your body releases cortisol when stressed, which also triggers the release of glucose. The trigger of glucose is to support your muscles in a fight-or-flight instinct we inherited from our ancient ancestors.
These days we don’t get chased by predators, but your body still reacts like we do. As you use up your body’s glucose stores, you need to make more, which is where the stress eating comes in. In short, when you experience stress, evolution kicks in to send glucose to your muscles, triggering a craving for sweet or fatty foods to restock your stores.
Stress Eating Isn’t All That Bad
Although it might seem bad, stress eating shouldn’t be seen that way. It’s encouraging that your body is talking to you, and you can interpret what it wants. Stress eating really only becomes a cause for concern when people try to dampen their feelings of stress through food.
While eating something delicious might make you feel better in the short term, it’s still important to find a way to deal with the stress.
Ways To Deal With Stress Eating
One way to help yourself stop stress eating is to use the Four Ps of Stress Eating technique. The four stages are pause, pry, pick, and persevere. Firstly, you should ‘pause’ to figure out what type of hunger you are experiencing; it could be boredom, or perhaps you’re actually just hungry.
The ‘pry’ stage asks you to investigate which emotion you are experiencing, such as anxiety, fear, loneliness, etc. When you get to the ‘pick’ stage, you have a decision to make; is eating at this particular moment the best thing for you?
The ‘persevere’ stage is all about owning the decision you made at the ‘pick’ stage and coming to terms with it. If you chose to eat a snack, then just enjoy the food you ate and move on.
Don’t Be Hard On Yourself
At the end of the day, stress eating is actually pretty normal. Even dietitians can find themselves stress eating, and going with the urge to stress eat can be a good thing. It’s just important to be able to walk away from overeating for your long-term health.
Balance is hugely important in your diet, but there is nothing wrong with a little indulgence every so often. Sometimes you can embrace stress eating without guilt, while learning to walk away at other times for the benefit of your overall health.