Emotional eating, or stress eating, is pretty common for a lot of people.
We’ve all done it in some way, shape, or form. We turn to food for comfort.
However, it’s one of the most damaging things you can do to your weight loss progress. Because we don’t really stress eat on healthy food.
You don’t normally hear people say they eat cauliflower when they’re in emotional distress. No.
We usually turn to our comfort food. Whether that’s donuts, chips, cookies, chocolate, candy, crushing a tub of ice cream in one sitting, or a combination of all those things.
Today, I’m gonna be sharing with you 5 simple but extremely effective techniques on how to stop emotional eating.
Or, at the very least, how to deal with it better. Make sure to stick around until the end because the last tip might just change your life.
How To Stop Emotional Eating
Let’s quickly address what causes emotional eating to begin with. By the way, I’m gonna interchange stress eating, emotional eating, or comfort eating. They all basically mean the same thing.
If you can stop it in its tracks before it even happens, then you’re absolutely winning. We can cut the cord right there.
Because it’s not really helpful if you just tell someone to just stop stress eating when they’re in emotional distress.
That’s like telling a drowning person that they just need to drown less and swim more. Or someone living in poverty that they need to make more money than they’re spending.
It’s not very helpful. It’s too big of a blanket statement.
Emotional Eating – Explained
So, what actually causes emotional eating?
First, we need to look at it from a physiological standpoint. Whenever you’re emotionally stressed, it triggers a cortisol response which is one of four counter regulatory hormones.
Your fight or flight response gets triggered and your body gets flooded with glucose so you can use it as immediate fuel to fight or flight.
This physiological response to stress is the same whether a dog is chasing you, you’re going for your daily 30 minute run or your daily Spin class, you’re stressed out of your mind from work, or you’re in a stressful relationship.
Your body treats all types of stress the same way. Cortisol gets triggered. Are you with me so far?
But it’s not safe for your body to have really high blood glucose levels as a byproduct from that cortisol response. It’s toxic.
If you have a way to burn it off like exercise, great. But if you’re emotionally stressed, it’s a different story.
Your body secretes insulin, the storing hormone, to store all the extra glucose that you can’t burn off as fat. It stores it specifically around your belly.
Unfortunately, along with that blood glucose spike also comes a subsequent blood sugar crash.
Your body perceives this sugar crash as a threat and it doesn’t wanna go into hypoglycaemia.
And in comes those insatiable cravings for highly palatable and ultra processed sugary foods to bring your blood sugar levels back up. Then the cycle starts again.
As you can see, it’s not really your fault that you can’t help but eat your trigger foods when you’re stressed. Your body is actually designed to look for them.
Now that we know that elevated cortisol levels is directly tied to emotional eating from a physiological standpoint, we’re gonna focus our strategy around moderating that cortisol response.
We’re gonna come at it from different angles. I’m gonna give you a multifaceted approach. As always, there are levels.
1. Take care of hunger
This is a very important concept that you need to understand. It’s literally the secret to weight loss.
Weight loss in its very essence is about controlling hunger, not counting calories. If you can take care of hunger, you’re winning.
I talk about this a lot on my channel. But if you’re always eating a highly satiating meal that’s nutrient dense. Meaning it contains healthy fats, animal protein, and vegetables. Then that’s gonna activate your satiety hormones and turn off your hunger hormones.
You’re gonna have a very moderate blood glucose response from that meal. You won’t have that blood glucose and insulin roller coaster ride.
Remember, it’s when that huge spike and subsequent dip that trigger emotional eating. It’s when you’re at a low, literally.
Plus, when you prevent that blood glucose crash, it can also prevent that spike in cortisol levels from happening to begin with.
It’s a vicious cycle. Because when you’re about to become hypoglycaemic, your body will naturally start to produce more cortisol to raise blood glucose to prevent you from passing out.
Again, people who produce more cortisol are also more likely to stress eat. So stabilizing your blood glucose levels by having a satiating meal and turning off those hunger hormones will help prevent potential stress eating.
Or even if you do stress eat, you won’t eat as much because you’re already full.
Now, what if you’re already stressed and you can’t get ahead of preventing that cortisol spike to begin with? This is where our multifaceted approach comes into play.
2. Go outside
An unbelievably effective way to significantly reduce stress and emotional eating is just by going outside.
I wish everyone did this more often. Go outside for at least a 15 minute walk. The more, the better.
You get bonus points if you do your walk in nature like a park, a trail, or close to a body of water.
Studies have shown that walking boosts endorphins, which are your happy hormones. It also reduces stress and alleviates mild depression, for free.
Being in nature also helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression because it most likely has to do with the earths healing negative ion’s.
The less stressed, anxious, and depressed you are, the less likely you are to stress eat. Plus, I’ve literally never met anyone who didn’t feel better after going for a walk in nature. It’s just part of our DNA as human beings. That’s why movement is medicine. And, it’s free.
From a practical standpoint, if you’re studying or you’re working on something that demands a high level of concentration. It’s actually so much more beneficial to take short breaks and go for a quick walk when you’re stressed because you always come back mentally refreshed.
When I have a hard time focusing, that’s my cue to go for a quick walk.
Next, let’s address your surrounding. This is extremely important when it comes to figuring out how to stop emotional eating. Because you are a product of your environment.
3. Get rid of your trigger foods at home
Why? Because when you get stressed and trigger foods are within arms reach, guess what you’re gonna eat?
We’re lazy by design as human beings. We evolved to conserve our energy so we can use it to hunt. Use this designed laziness to your advantage. Don’t stock trigger foods at home.
You want to create a barrier between you and your impulse.
Because sometimes the fact that you have to put pants on, drive through traffic, pick up the ice cream, wait in line to pay, and drive back to your house is enough to deter you from having it to begin with.
4. Take yourself out of stressful situations
I am extremely blown away by people staying in crappy relationships, staying in jobs they hate, or hanging out with friends that treat them bad. People justify it for reasons unknown.
Plain and simple, all those things stress you out and cause you to stress eat.
You have more power than you think. Most of the time, you’re in control whether you willingly put yourself in those situations to begin with.
Unfollow people that make you feel bad on social media. Better yet, go on a social media diet.
If your current relationship is stressing you out and cause you to stress eat? Leave. It’s not the right relationship. If your friends make you feel bad, you need new friends.
Here’s one of the biggest takeaways in this video. Nothing is worth it if makes you unhappy.
I don’t really know a lot of people who make good food decisions when they always feel bad.
5. Get some sleep
I talk about the importance of sleep a lot on my channel as well as the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation.
Not getting adequate and quality sleep, 7 hours minimum, moves every health metric in the wrong direction.
You need to protect your sleep at all cost. Lack of sleep messes up important hormones like Ghrelin, which is your hunger hormone. It also affects Leptin which is the hormone that signals your body that you’re full.
You also get elevated cortisol levels because your body is freaking out that it didn’t get enough time to rest and repair itself. Even one night of bad sleep increases cortisol by 100%.
Lack of sleep also affects the amygdala which is the reward centre of your brain. All those things combined results in stress eating.
I don’t really know a lot of people who make good food decisions when sleep deprived.
Now, I actually saved the best tip for last. This might be the most powerful strategy on how to stop emotional eating. It could even potentially change your life. This is next level stuff.
Think of your mind as a bright blue sky. Think of your thoughts as cute little fluffy clouds.
It doesn’t bother you, right? We see clouds and we just let it pass.
But sometimes, there’s a lot more clouds in the sky. You’re a little stressed. Sometimes, there’s even a storm. This is when everything goes wrong in your life which results in emotional eating.
Sometimes we get so caught up that we forget about the blue sky altogether. But it’s still there. Think about when you’re on a plane flying through the clouds. It’s always there, without fail. Blue skies.
It’s easy to forget that what we’re looking for when we’re stressed, is already here. And that’s why we need reminding. You are the blue sky.
6. Practice mindfulness
Let’s do a quick exercise. This is instantly gonna lower your stress levels, I promise.
I want you to take a nice deep breath through your nose, and out through your mouth.
You instantly feel better, right? That feeling gets magnified when you actually sit down and practice mindfulness.
Back then, I used to think that I was too cool for school when it comes to this stuff. I was wrong. I wish I started practicing mindfulness sooner.
It’s so simple, yet so effective. The best part is, it’s free. All you need to do is find a quiet spot in your house. Close your eyes and just focus on your breathing. That’s it.
Your mind will naturally wander when you do it. It’s most likely gonna think about whatever is stressing you out.
That’s the whole point. The thought will come up, the clouds, and you can let it go. You just come back to your breath and be in the moment. Remember, you’re the blue sky.
We can be so busy sometimes that we forget to do the one thing that’s essential to human life. Breathe. I highly recommend that you use free guided meditation apps to make this a lot easier to get started with.
Personally, I use ‘Headspace’ and it’s been a complete game changer when it comes to managing my stress levels. I meditate for 10 minutes every morning and it’s literally changed my life. It might just change yours.
As always, if this was helpful, share it with a friend who could benefit from it as well!
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