Nutrition Pros Share 5 Things to Do to Combat Stress Eating

Have you ever found yourself reaching for a light snack only to realize you’ve devoured an entire pack of chips? If it’s been a long day at the office or you’re dealing with an emotional time in your personal life, you may be prone to dealing with it all by stress eating. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this. It happens to everyone, even nutrition experts. Here’s how they deal with it and how you can also manage it.

But First, What Is Stress Eating Really?

woman stress eating
Also known as emotional eating, stress eating happens when you eat in response to your emotions as opposed to experiencing physical hunger. Since eating tends to be a calming experience, many people turn to it when faced with negative feelings like stress, anger, and sadness. Eating pampers the five senses, and it makes you feel better, regardless of the nutrition metrics of the food you’re eating. The problem is that it doesn’t alleviate the negative emotion – it only dulls it for a moment.

Keep the Mouth Busy

A smart way to combat stress eating is to chew gum or drink tea when you get the urge to eat after a stressful day. This will keep your mouth busy while getting your brain off of food. By creating the sensation of putting something in your mouth, you’ll likely calm your mind, and it’ll reduce the craving for food.

Stay Hydrated and Get Enough Sleep

couple drinking water
Often, we confuse dehydration or being tired with hunger. In reality, the sensation you get when you’re dehydrated or underslept is quite similar to that of craving food. To prevent “eating your feelings,” make sure you drink enough water and get plenty of sleep.

Plan Every Meal and Snack Ahead of Time

It may be difficult to do, but consciously planning your meals and snacks can greatly impact your eating habits. If you actively map out your day so you know what and when you’ll be eating, you can prevent yourself from mindlessly eating just because you’re stressed or feel pressured. Pack a lunch to work, prep your snacks ahead of time, and write it down if you have to.

meal prep
Do a Brain-to-Belly Scan

Nutrition experts recommend taking a second to stop and check in with your body and brain when you feel a wave of stress eating is around the corner. The goal is to figure out what’s causing it. Start by asking yourself where you are mentally, what thoughts are you having, how you feel after eating, etc. Then, consider your emotional state, mood, and whether you’re dehydrated.

Keep a Food and Nutrition Journal

person journaling while eating healthy snacks
The key thing when dealing with stress eating is understanding your craving patterns. The best way to do that is by starting a food and nutrition journal. Keep a log of what you eat, when you eat it, and what cravings you get. After a while, you’ll be able to see patterns that’ll help you prevent them.