A few years back when I would get stressed out, overwhelmed, or angry I would eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream in one sitting.
The whole thing.
In one sitting.
All by myself.
In that moment, I didn’t really know how to stop stress eating and didn’t really care about the calories or the consequences.
I was upset and I was going to do what I wanted.
I was mindlessly reacting.
If so you’re not alone.
Stress eating also known as emotional or binge eating (whatever you want to call it) isn’t all that uncommon.
It includes things like:
- eating more food than you wanted or planned to because you’re bored, stressed, angry, or overwhelmed
- saying “To hell with it!” and eating foods you know you’ll regret later
- eating foods that logically you know you shouldn’t have
- giving into peer pressure and eating something you really don’t want
- doing great on a diet or healthy eating plan until you have a stressful day
- and it even includes eating certain foods because you’re happy or celebrating, so it’s not always related to negative emotions
- I actually didn’t even realize emotions had such an impact on my eating habits until a few years ago when I started diving into the topic to better help my clients.
When you’re an stress eater all that knowledge about what to eat and logic goes right out the window.
Stress eating has nothing to do with knowing what’s the healthiest food choices, but rather about recognizing how you feel and being mindful so you can make a conscious decision despite how you feel.
So rather than just digging right into a meal or a snack without thinking about what I’m doing, I take a mindful pause before I decide to eat something.
Otherwise known as the 10-Minute Rule.
I take 10 minutes to feel my feelings and decide if what I’m about to eat is REALLY something I want.
I ask myself,
“Do I really want this food?”
“How am I feeling?”
“Will this food fuel my body and make me feel good about myself?”
Sometimes I make the decision to eat the food, even if it’s unhealthy.
But by taking a mindful pause before eating, I’m able to enjoy my food and avoid feeling guilty about what I’ve eaten because I’ve actually taken the time to make a conscious decision, rather than an emotionally driven, unconscious decision that I’ll end up feeling guilty about later.
I’m able to really enjoy the taste and texture of the food and feel satisfied once I’ve finished eating it, rather than wondering where it all went!
But more often now, with a lot of practice, I’m able to say no!
By asking myself the questions above, I often find I don’t really want the food or I realize the consequences such as weight gain, lowered energy, bloating, or digestive issues aren’t worth it.
Now don’t get me wrong.
Every now and then the old Becky sneaks back in and mindlessly eats more than I should but it’s been years since I’ve eaten an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s so that’s progress!
I’ve done the necessary work and taken steps to be mindful before I decide to eat something and I’ve gotten better at recognizing my emotions and managing them in healthier ways.
So, I encourage you to explore your eating patterns.
Start paying attention to what and how you eat when you feel stressed, overwhelmed, angry or sad.
Notice what you eat when you’re around others, or even what and how you eat when you’re happy or excited.
Keep a journal if you have to!
I’m positive you’ll start to see a pattern emerge.
If you find that you tend to eat out of emotion the first step is to acknowledge this pattern.
Realize it’s not good or bad, but it is what it is and that you have the power to change your behavior.
The second step, is to start taking a 10 Minute Mindful Pause before you eat, acknowledge any emotions you are feeling, and make a conscious decision to eat that food in front of you or not.
Are you willing to give it a try?