Don’t think you are the only person who secretly indulges in food. Maybe for you the temptation is the bakery down the street, a bag of chips calling to you late at night, or the Girl Scout cookies no one knew you bought. Lots of people have moments when they surrender to temptation and overindulge. Feeling guilty about it can just lead to more overindulging. So ditch the guilt and arm yourself with these strategies to stop stress eating.
Choose healthy first.
When you are stressed out, you are producing higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol that can make you crave sweets and salty foods. Instead of trying to fight it, select a sweet or salty food that’s healthy for you. Before you reach for the donuts, make yourself a smoothie with your favorite fruit, nonfat milk and yogurt. Not only will a smoothie satisfy your sweet craving, it will also suppress your appetite so you are less likely to consume several donuts in one sitting. If it’s salt you crave, eat some pickles, almonds or walnuts. Keep some of your healthy snacks on hand so you can easily turn to healthy options first.
Create a fail safe environment.
Don’t put foods you have a difficult time avoiding in your house. You know the temptation challenge on the TV show, The Biggest Loser? Well, that’s the kind of environment you are creating for yourself when you fill your pantry with foods you crave. I am not saying you can’t indulge once in awhile (which we will get to in a minute) but don’t create your own temptation challenge in your home. For example, I could stare at a bag of Oreos for a year and never eat one, but if there is ice cream in my fridge, I’ll eat it….so I don’t buy the ice cream flavors I LOVE or I’ll eat them.
(But I will have a real ice cream cone when on vacation and visiting a Ben and Jerry’s…come on, I’m human!)
Related: 5 Ways To Curb Binge Eating
Indulge once a week.
Sometimes people stress eat to sabotage all of their healthy eating because they feel deprived from favorite foods and they give up. Instead of throwing in the towel on eating healthy, consciously indulge once a week. Choose one meal when you eat what you want (within moderation), and get back to healthier eating for your next meal. Don’t dwell in guilt.
Empower yourself with exercise.
You have probably heard it a zillion times, but exercise is one of the best ways to elevate your mood and alleviate stress. Plus, you often will feel so good after you finish a workout that you won’t want to ruin your calories burned with overindulging.
When do you stress eat? What just happened? Keep a log of what triggers you. Eventually you can predict when you might stress eat and arm yourself with other choices. You can try to find ways to avoid or reduce those triggers or find healthier options to turn to when you are triggered. Again, choose healthy foods first—have a big bowl of veggies to fill you up, or snack on some strawberries ready to go in your fridge. Make it easy to choose healthy by having foods accessible. Personally, evenings are my hardest time of day. I grew up having dessert most nights, so I usually crave a little something sweet. My favorite evening snack: 0% fat Fage Greek yogurt with a ½ c of blueberries and a tbsp of sliced almonds…it’s sweet, creamy and a little salty! YUM!
As you try these strategies, it’s always smart to tackle your stress head on so you can reduce it. There are all sorts of healthy ways to reduce stress that are easy. Get some sun. Treat yourself to something you enjoy that doesn’t involve food. Take a bubble bath. Enjoy a glass of red wine. (Just one glass!) Get a full night’s sleep. Call up a friend. With a little work, you can step off the cycle of stress, overindulgence and guilt.