When we are going through very stressful events or time periods, it is very common to reach for food sources that provide some sort of “treatment” for these difficult times. “Stress eating” is a major reason why so many people fail in their weight control efforts.
First, let’s explore “stress”: I do not believe there is anyone out there that does not experience stress. Of course there is a spectrum with some people working through stressful situations everyday whereas others may have far fewer stressful episodes. For those with children at home and full time jobs, my suspicion is that stress is a daily occurrence.
Stress causes chemical changes. There is a release of the “fight or flight” hormones (epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol), a depletion of serotonin and other neurochemical changes in response to the stressors encountered.
With stress being a negative situation in most cases, the body will in a reflex-like manner try to offset the stress with an action(s) of immediate gratification. The ingestion of a high caloric, sugary food will provide this “comfort” and/or immediate gratification.
When we take a step back and evaluate the actions/reactions, we realize that the eating of these food sources do little-nothing to obviate the stress. Conversely, the weight gain that occurs produces further stress and consternation.
The first step in stopping this cycle is trying to take a several second delay before seeking those “stress eating” food sources and thinking through the behavior. Ask yourself: “Will eating this cookie or donut really change the situation(s) that is stressing me out?” The answer is obviously “No” and hopefully the behavior will be averted. Additionally, try to consciously think through the consequences of the behavior before the action is taken: “ If I do not lose the weight, I will be stressed even more so it is just not worth it to do this stress eating.”
Is it easy to avoid stress eating? Absolutely not. Can it be done successfully? Absolutely yes.