Hemingway coined the term “grace under pressure.” Grace under pressure does not mean freedom from stress. It is the ability to deal with stress. Many struggle to cope when they feel anxious or stressed. They seek relief through habitual and unhealthy behaviors. Emotional eating is one such behavior.
Causes of Emotional Eating
Knowing what we need to do can be quickly overturned by what we want to do. Stress demands relief. Harmful and unhealthy choices are often exercised to relieve stress because they are familiar. There is comfort in familiarity even if a familiar relief has a poor track record for long term success. When stressed, people often want immediate relief. Emotional eating can provide that relief, but it is a short-lived solution that can have the side effects of overweight or obesity.
Stress eating can be caused by an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty and sweet foods. It is little surprise that stress is one of the most common emotional eating triggers.
When people are stressed they often have a need for social support, and thusly call a friend. But going out for a meal with that friend could easily become a problem. Emotional eating does not have to be a solitary behavior. It can be exercised in the company of friends, as well. Read: “Ensure Healthy Eating When Eating Out.”
Other triggers for emotional eating are nervous energy, using comfort foods to address stress, and an inability to deal with difficult emotions.
Emotional Eating and Weight Gain
Researchers have found that women who experience one or more stressors 24-hours before eating a high-fat meal can slow metabolism. In fact, their metabolisms can slow so much that they can gain 11 pounds in only a year.
Arguments with spouses and co-workers have been shown to cause stressed women to burn 104 less calories than non-stressed women, after eating a high-fat meal. Subjects also experienced less fat oxidation, the process by which large fat molecules are converted into smaller molecules and used as fuel.
Tips to Avoid Emotional Eating
Emotional eating stems from being powerless over your emotions. It is not about being powerless over food. So anything that soothes your emotions can help you to gain control over them. Do things that increase peaceful feelings: listen to good music, sing, meditate, pray, write poetry, take a bubble bath, run, go for a walk in nature, workout, do deep breathing, play with your dog, color with your children or grandchildren. It all depends on what makes you happy. Read, “What to Do about Binge Eating.”
Until such time that you are able to train your mind to be in control of your emotions, here are a few food tricks that you can use when you’re about to reach for the “bad food stuffs:”
If you are feeling pressure and craving sugar, a mandarin orange might be just the sweet treat you need. It will satisfy the craving for sugar and contains the vitamin C that strengthens the immune system during times of stress.
Pistachio nuts can be substituted for chips. At 4 calories each, pistachios are among the lowest calorie nuts. Plus they contain healthy fats and fibers that help to regulate blood sugar.
Try using your non-dominant hand when eating. It will slow the pace and promote mindful eating. Read, “Weight Loss Trick Use a Smaller Plate.”
Eat healthy crunchy foods that are low in calories such as raw fresh vegetables. Or you can chew chopped ice (ice cubes are too hard on the teeth).
Black tea has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. A cup of black tea therefore could make a difference.
In good health,
Content is the opinion of the author and does not constitute or is a replacement for medical advice.