How to Stop Comfort Eating and Stress Eating
The Shame. Guilt. Disappointment.
Stress eating. Comfort eating.
I know what emotional eating is like – coming home, feeling stressed and anxious and having an overwhelming urge to eat. Heading straight to the kitchen and reaching for the familiar favorite comfort foods.
It felt like I was eating on autopilot, barely pausing between mouth-fulls. There was no sense of fullness or satisfaction, although the eating did make me feel better in the moment.
Knowing I should stop, but not wanting to. The thoughts of, “Well, I blew it, so I might as well just keep on eating.” Planning to do better tomorrow, there was always tomorrow. But knowing in the back of my mind I’d probably fail again. I knew I didn’t want to feel this way about myself, but I also didn’t know how to stop stress eating.
Then, after, feeling a little sick at how much junk I had eaten. The shame and sense of disappointment. Emotional eating caused more of the negative feelings I was trying to deal with.
It was a vicious cycle.
But I broke free, and if you struggle, I know you can too.
So how do we change this destructive pattern? How do we stop stress eating?
It starts with self-compassion. Understanding that there are things we are struggling with, and we are doing the best we can.
We also need awareness – awareness to understand our triggers, and an open willingness and curiosity to experiment to find healthy alternatives.
If we want to break the pattern of stress eating, comfort eating, instead of just trying to stop, we need strategies – some will work better than others, depending on the day, the circumstances, and our mood.
The first thing I want you to do is to think about your triggers – the where and the when.
Second, make a list of possible alternative actions that will deliver a reward, without sabotaging your health and well-being. Being mindful, having a plan, and then taking new action.
Third – be compassionate when you find yourself struggling. And remind yourself that it will pass – I think, for many of us, there is the fear that we won’t be able to feel centered and in control again, that the cravings will just go on and on, and we will end up returning to poor eating patterns.
Pay attention to your triggers – and have a plan for alternative ways you can cope.
- If you are depressed or lonely, call, text, or make plans with someone.
- If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.
- If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
- Take a brief walk
- Read something inspiring (you could write your own positive mantra or affirmation and store it on your phone or keep it in your wallet, or wherever you can have access when you need it.
- Watch a funny video or read some silly jokes online – laughter is a great stress-reliever.
- Practice deep breathing. Inhale slowly to the count of four – pause – then exhale slowly to the count of four. Repeat four times.
Pause and check in with yourself when you feel the urge to comfort eat. Can you put off eating for 5 minutes?
While you are waiting, check in with yourself – how are you feeling? What do you really need right now? What would truly feel nourishing – mentally, physically, emotionally?
If you find yourself comfort eating, slow down and really pay attention to your food – the taste, texture, colors. Put the fork down between bites, and aim to chew food at least 15-30 times. Bringing more mindfulness to eating helps us receive more pleasure, feel more satisfied, and feel fuller sooner.
And finally, I want you to know you are definitely not alone in this. So, so many people struggle with this. Instead of hiding in shame, let’s talk about it and support each other.
What’s your biggest trigger for stress eating?
What are some ideas you have to change this pattern?
Let me know in the comments, or join the Seeking Joyful Simplicity Facebook Group for more ideas and support for living with Vibrant Health.