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Stress Eating - 3 Ways to Stop Stress Related Eating

Aug 1, 2008
Are you a stress eater? Stress eating is one of the most common forms of emotional eating.

Maybe the thought of tackling a huge project at work has you craving a cheeseburger and fries. Perhaps you turn to that chocolate fudge cake after a fight with your partner.

Stress related eating is something we all do at one time or another. The problem comes when stress related eating becomes a habit. This can cause weight gain, frustration and health problems.

Eating when stressed actually does have some biological roots.

When you're stressed your body releases cortisol - which is a stress hormone that makes you crave sugary, high calorie foods like chocolate, pizza, ice cream,etc.

These foods help to raise the levels of serotonin (a calming neurotransmitter) in your brain.

So craving these foods may be your body's way of stopping the stress hormones (which can do damage over the long run) and starting the release pleasure hormones.

But does that mean we throw in the towel and jump into a pile of french fries, cheeseburgers and chocolate fudge ripple?

Not necessarily.

Because while binging on junk may help us feel better temporarily, it's harmful in the long run. In fact, it will probably make us even more stressed with the health problems and guilt that comes with extra pounds.

So what can you do instead of eating when stressed?

Here are a few strategies to incorporate so you don't give into stress eating:

1) Reach for emotional support

Friends or family can help us through times of high stress. Just talking it out with a loved one can help reduce your stress.

Call a friend. Get together with your family for a meal. Go shopping with your best bud. There's nothing like feeling someone has heard and understood you to lessen the load.

2) Deep Breathing

This may not sound fancy, but it's actually incredibly effective. Take a deep breath and repeat a phrase to yourself like "It's ok", "You are safe", or "You can relax now" over and over.

Do this for several minutes until you start to feel more relaxed. This can calm you down and help reduce the stress hormones racing around your body. You'll find that if you do this enough, your junk food cravings may lessen after a few minutes of deep breathing.

3) Laugh

Lauging is one of the best things you can do to relieve stress. Find a funny movie, talk to a hilarious friend or even read jokes online.

Laughing can also help reset your mind from focusing on the negative thoughts to the positive. Even if you don't want to laugh, find something fun to do that will take your mind off the stressful situation. Then when you go back to it, you'll find new energy to handle the situation.

Those are several ways to handle stress related eating. Some other things you can do might be to journal about your feelings, take a walk to burn off the stress hormones in your body or pound a pillow or punching back to release anger or aggression.

No matter what you choose to do, recognize that eating when you're stressed is not the solution. It doesn't solve the problem - and can actually add to it.

When you continually eat out of stressful feelings you develop a habit. This habit can then become deeply ingrained and difficult to break. It can sabotage any dieting or weight loss effort.

Realize that there are ways to cope with stress other than eating. You can develop new coping mechanisms and end the pain that stress overeating causes.
About the Author
Kate O'Neill writes for Stop Emotional Eating - a website offering tips, resources & programs to help you stop emotional overeating. For more information on how to stop emotional eating visit http://www.Stop-Emotional-Eating.net
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