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Are You Stress Eating? 7 Tips to Stop Doing It

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Stress is a natural part of life. There are good and bad types of stress, and the key to overcoming the latter is to select good coping mechanisms. When life hits us hard, or we celebrate, or we’re just bored, knowing how to cope appropriately is important for our health and well-being. Unfortunately, many people don’t deal with stress like they should. In fact, many people deal with stress in one particularly unhealthy way: overeating. Call it stress eating or emotional eating, but using food to hide from our feelings is not a good long-term tactic. To be truly healthy, we must know the difference between real hunger and gluttony, and more importantly, we must apply better strategies when life gets us down. In this article, we’ll break down stress, stress eating, and seven tips to help overcome using food to cope with life’s difficulties. <div class="row mb-4"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5 push-md-7 align-self-center"> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wm-wmade-static-media/media/public/Assets/images/stress.jpeg" alt="stress eating"> </div> <div class="col-12 col-md-7 pull-md-5"> <h4 style="margin-top:20px;"><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is Stress? (General Adaptation Syndrome)</p></h4> <p>If you’ll indulge us for a minute, let’s take a look at the historical and scientific side of stress. We think understanding this will really benefit you, especially if you are prone to emotional eating.</p> </div> </div> <p style="margin-top:-20px;">People throw the word ‘stress’ around freely, but not many people know what it is. To understand stress, just remember the acronym GAS—and no, it doesn’t have to do with flatulence.</p> GAS, or <i>general adaptation syndrome</i>, is a three-stage process that describes how stress works in our body <sup>1</sup>. These stages are: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. The <i>alarm stage</i> is when your body notices the stress. An example is when your heart rate elevates. The <i>resistance stage</i> is when your body attempts to cope with or normalize the stress. That’s why during the first minute or two of exercise, your body feels funky. <i>Cortisol</i> is released and things attempt to normalize. If the stress is significant enough, however, you enter stage three: <i>exhaustion</i>. Here, your body is depleted of resources or gives up. Eventually, an adaptation is made. Examples of <i>good</i> adaptations that can be explained using the generation adaptation model include stronger muscles, stronger heart and lungs, and even weight loss. <h4 style="margin-top:20px;"><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">OK, Now What is Stress in English? What Do I Need to Know?</p></h4> Alright, now let’s simplify it. You’re reading this because you want to know more about stress eating or emotional eating. What do you need to know about stress? Stress is the body’s reaction to change that requires an adjustment or response. This may be a mental, physical, or emotional change. Believe or not, stress can be either positive or negative (see the next section on <i>eustress vs. distress</i>). Most forms of <i>chronic</i> stress, however, are bad. When your body isn’t given an opportunity to heal or relax from stressors and stays filled with cortisol, bad things happen. Examples include illness, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/can-ketosis-reduce-inflammation">inflammation</a>, anxiety, and even disease. The truth is that stress is part of life—the good kind, bad kind, and everything in between. Having ways to control or counteract the bad stress when it appears is necessary for living a healthy life. <h4 style="margin-top:20px;"><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Eustress vs. Distress</p></h4> As we said, there are two kinds of stress: good and bad. Here’s the difference. <h5>Eustress</h5> <i>Eustress</i> is the good kind. When we talk about adding lean muscle through progressively heavier or more intense exercise, we are describing a type of eustress. Switching from a carb-heavy diet to the ketogenic diet is also a type of eustress. You can remember this because your body must <i>adapt</i> to it, and the adaptations are positive for your health. <h5>Distress</h5> <i>Distress</i> is the bad kind of stress and the kind we are used to hearing about. Distress is any type of stress that reaches the exhaustion phase, keeps cortisol flowing through the body, and results in negative side effects like weight gain or anxiety. Weight gain, anxiety, and other health problems are examples of the side effects of chronic distress. This is why controlling and coping with our stress is important, so this doesn’t happen. <h4 style="margin-top:20px;"><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">How Do People Cope with Stress?</p></h4> <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wm-wmade-static-media/media/public/Assets/images/stress+man.jpeg" alt="stress manp"> </div> The short answer is that it depends, and the long answer is that it depends a whole lot. Anything from consuming alcohol to emotional eating to exercising can all be considered mechanisms for coping with stress. <p style="margin-top:-20px;">The truth is we all have our own habits and triggers. But they can be changed at any time. Even if we’ve coped with stress in an unhealthy way before, we’re always one decision away from making a better decision next time.</p> The key is finding healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress—exercise, meditation, long walks, or talks with loved ones—and practicing them. <h4 style="margin-top:20px;"><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What Are Signs That I’m Stress Eating?</p></h4> Perhaps you eat when you have a bad day, use food to feel better about life events, eat past the point of feeling full, or eat when you’re bored. These are signs of emotional eating because all these signals—sadness, pleasure, boredom—start in your mind and not on your plate. Everyone’s emotional eating looks a bit different, but these are some signs to look for. Keep in mind, these are guidelines. <h4 style="margin-top:20px;"><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">7 Ways to Overcome Stress Eating</p></h4> Here are seven ways you can overcome stress or emotional eating. <h5>1. Keep a Food Diary</h5> Keeping a diary is one strategy for helping you be more mindful about both your hunger and emotions towards food. Whether you write down what you’re eating, how you’re feeling before or after a meal, or keep track of your macros (see tip #2) with pen and paper, this might help you overcome emotional eating. Not only that, but there are serious psychological benefits to keeping a diary for both men and women. Research shows it makes you happier and stimulates a part of your brain that reduces feelings of anxiety <sup>2</sup>. <h5>2. Count Macros</h5> We’ve talked about the benefits of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/why-you-should-be-calculating-your-macros">counting macros</a> on the blog before, but here’s a quick recap. Basically, all human food is made up of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. These are the three macronutrients, or <i>macros</i>. Counting macros helps us set target goals for weight loss and follow the loose guidelines of the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-101-a-beginners-guide">ketogenic diet</a> (approximately 70 percent of your daily calories coming from high-quality fat sources). Plus, counting macros can help keep you accountable to occasional splurges or lapses where you emotionally eat. <div class="row mb-4"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5 push-md-7 align-self-center"> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wm-wmade-static-media/media/public/Assets/images/stress+workout.jpeg" alt="stress workout"> </div> <div class="col-12 col-md-7 pull-md-5"> <h5>3. Stay Active!</h5> <p>Seriously, boredom is a real problem when it comes to emotional eating and hunger. Our brains are primed to stay engaged, solve problems, and take on the, and when our brain doesn’t have that stimuli, it finds ways to stay busy. Next thing you know, you’ve just eaten a plate of nachos.</p> </div> </div> <p style="margin-top:-20px;">The truth is, you might be able to overcome emotional eating simply by changing your schedule up a bit. Try not to schedule long lapses in your day or eat meals by yourself if you can help it. Alternatively, adding new activities to your schedule (like an <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/">at-home workout</a>) might keep your mind engaged and away from the pantry.</p> <h5>4. Join a Community</h5> Accountability is not only healthy in a relationship, but it might be healthy for your waistline, too. A like-minded <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/">group of people</a> striving towards fitness goals might open you up to a whole new world―one where you don’t feel like you’re alone with emotional eating. One where you know someone else is hitting a workout that day, so you should too. As the old saying goes, “You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.” To overcome your stress eating, maybe you just need more positive people in your life. And not for nothing, there is a national group called Overeaters Anonymous<sup>3</sup>. <h5>5. Be Compassionate</h5> Keep in mind that not all forms of emotional eating are the same. Someone might abuse food because they’re bored or sad. Another person might overeat to celebrate a personal victory in their life. Both are forms of emotional eating. If you’re trying to rid yourself of the habit, you might try something simple: loving yourself more. We know, it sounds corny, but overeating is a way to hide or avoid our negative emotions <sup>4</sup>. Try to lessen the negative self talk and change the conversation in your head. Be more mindful of how you talk to yourself and acknowledge that you’re working on it. <h5>6. Know Your Triggers</h5> Emotional eating can be difficult to decipher. Unlike an alcoholic, you can’t just stop eating food forever. You have to learn what real hunger is and what isn’t. You have to also know what makes you reach for unhealthy food. By becoming more aware of what triggers you to binge eat, you may be able to counter the negative habit. Again, you could keep a diary. You might also just make a list (mentally or with pen and paper) of times when you know food is appealing to you. Consider which emotions trigger you to eat more than you should. Knowing those are literally half the battle. <h5>7. Eat the Right Stuff</h5> <div class="row mb-4"> <div class="col-12 col-md-5 push-md-7 align-self-center"> <img class="img-fluid" src="https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/wm-wmade-static-media/media/public/Assets/images/veg+stress.jpeg" alt="veg stress"> </div> <div class="col-12 col-md-7 pull-md-5"> <p>The final tip is a biggie, because it’s one we preach about all the time. If you want to overcome emotional eating, here’s a tip: fuel your body properly. High-quality fats and lean proteins will keep you full throughout the day, and fibrous vegetables will nourish your body and make you feel energized. By eating the right stuff (and if you haven’t caught on, we mean the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-101-a-beginners-guide/">ketogenic diet</a>), you give yourself the best chance at not only weight loss, but at overcoming habits that have defeated you in the past.</p> </div> </div> <h4 style="margin-top:-20px;"><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Wrapping Up</p></h4> Stress is a natural part of life, but chronic stress can wreak havoc on your body if you aren’t careful. The key to managing stress is to select good coping mechanisms for the good and the bad that life has to offer. Unfortunately, many people use food as a tool for coping, which is not good for our health. Whether it’s knowing your triggers, refusing to be bored, or differentiating between real hunger and just wanting to eat, overcoming stress eating is an individual thing. There may be some trial and error but remember to be compassionate and give yourself credit for the attempt. For tasty and healthy indulgences, check out <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/">Warrior Made</a>’s delicious and healthy <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/">recipes page</a>. Whether you’re in the mood for a tasty broth, a high-protein dinner option, or even low-carb dessert options, we have hundreds of keto-approved recipes waiting for you. <h5 style="margin-top:30px;">Links:</h5> 1. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/general-adaptation-syndrome#definition"> What is general adaptation syndrome?</a> 2. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/2009/feb/15/psychology-usa"> Keeping a diary makes you happier</a> 3. <a target="_blank" href="https://oa.org/"> Overeaters Anonymous</a> 4. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.healthline.com/health/emotional-eating#6"> Emotional Eating: What You Should Know</a>

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