Why can't I stop stress eating?

Jun 16, 2022

 by Mike Bevard

Ever had a stressful day (or month) affect your eating habits and throw you into a downward spiral? 

You find yourself sitting on the couch with your spoon scraping the bottom of the ice cream tub or your hand buried deep in a bag of chips? 

Then afterwards, you feel guilty, defeated and even more depressed, UGH!! 

Well don’t feel bad because you’re not alone. I’ve been there before myself. 

I’ve got a great tip to help you cope with stress eating, but first let’s understand it a bit more. 

Why do we turn to food when we’re stressed? 

Because we are using food to solve a problem. Only it’s a problem that food can’t solve. 

It’s everyday life circumstances that cause stress and anxiety which usually lead to overeating and even sometimes, undereating.

Here’s how our body reacts to stress..

When we are initially hit with a stressor, our appetites might actually shut down due to the release of adrenaline and our fight/flight response kicking in. 

But if that stress persists and is chronic, something else happens. Our adrenal glands release cortisol which increases appetite, causing us to stress eat and crave high fat/sugary "comfort foods". 

And I believe as a society, most people are unfortunately in a chronic state of stress! 

Researchers have linked weight gain to stress and according to the American Psychological Association, about 25% of Americans rate their stress levels an 8 out of 10 on a consistent basis and over 75% of adults said stress played a role in their eating during the past month. 

So what can you do to battle this? 

Take a deep breath and don’t stress LOL. I’ve got good news that there’s strategies you can try to see what works best for you. 

Things like exercise, deep breathing, meditation, and just talking with a friend. 

But here’s a unique strategy that I came across from Precision Nutrition that I really like and thought it might help you. 

It’s called the “Nourishment Menu”

This gives you the option to stress eat if you want but you take an ACTION beforehand that nourishes your body, mind and spirit. 

For example, before deciding to eat you could: 

  • Go for a 10 minute walk
  • Take 3 deep breaths
  • Listen to calming music or your favorite podcast for 5 minutes
  • Play with your pet for 5 minutes
  • Write a few quick lines in your journal 
  • Do small chores around the house like folding clothes, dishes, dusting, etc..
  • Drink a big glass of water

The idea is that taking a short ACTION before jumping right into stress eating might break the pattern or cycle while still giving you the feeling of relief you’re looking for. 

Sometimes it might work, other times it might not and you have the food anyway and that’s ok.

If you nourish your body instead of stress eat 1 out of 3 times that day, it’s a win in my book! Then build on that the next time. 

Up for nourishing your body and giving this strategy a shot this week? 

Let me know by leaving a comment below. 

Get After It!
Coach Mike

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