Have you ever been stressed out and grabbed the closest snack you could get your hands on, even when you’re not hungry? Its okay, we’ve all been there. This is called stress-eating or emotional eating. It is when we are not necessarily eating because we are hungry, but we use eating as a coping method for stress.
So when does stress eating become a negative coping method? Well when we do reach for that snack, it is typically not a healthy choice. Come on, you know it’s true. It is not very common that during that 8 hour cramming session for finals that you’re first craving is a fresh salad. If stress eating is used continuously, it can become habit. This can lead to higher intake of fats, sugars, salts, and calories overall.
So how did I know you don’t usually crave a salad? Well our bodies are actually designed to crave those types of foods. This is because when we are stressed, the stress hormone called cortisol, gives your body those cravings for fats, sugars, and salts. Foods can give us a short boost of that “feel good” feeling, for example after eating chocolate.
But have no fear; there are many healthier ways to deal with stress, or to break your stress-eating habits. Here are some examples!
• Be aware of the times you eat. Try to eat every 3-4 hours throughout the days. This will help you to avoid eating unhealthy snacks just because they are available.
• Always be prepared. If you know you are going to have a long day away from home, think ahead and plan out what you want to eat. This could include bringing healthy snacks like fresh fruit, and bringing money to buy a salad for lunch.
• To avoid stress eating all together, substitute that urge with a healthy activity that you enjoy. For example, now that spring has arrived take a walk with your friends when you need a break from studying rather than going right for the fridge.
• Listen to your body. This is very important, and we sometimes forget to do so because we are doing other things while we are eating. Eat meals slow to recognize when your body is full, and stop when you feel this way. To avoid these distractions, turn off all technology and be mindful of the food you are eating.
Now that the semester is winding down, we are bound to get stressed out. But it is our choice on how we deal with that stress. Take control of your body because that truly is the first step in handling our stressors.
Written by Jennifer Ryan, Peer Educator