by Will Grumke April 29, 2021 4 min read

We all have a connection to food in some way.

Some people see food as just fuel, while the majority of us have an emotional connection to it in some way, shape, or form.

We all have tough days here and there, but how we deal with those tough days is different for everyone.

That said, emotional eating is one issue that is extremely prevalent in our society.

This means that when we're stressed or upset, we turn to food for comfort or to relieve boredom ... and that's a really unhealthy habit.

See, when this usually happens, we find ourselves reaching for sweet or salty junk foods that give us a feeling of relief.

This becomes a vicious cycle of eating to help with emotions ... then in turn, feeling worse for eating, and eating more because of it.

Learning to identify and break this cycle of emotional eating can be difficult, but there are simple things you can do to overcome it!

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How to Identify and Minimize Stress Eating

1. Know why you're eating

The first thing is to become aware of why you are eating. Which emotions are you experiencing as you reach for a snack? Are you really hungry?

Do you reach for chips or cookies after work, because you had a bad day? What about when you're bored while sitting at home and watching TV?

The more aware you are of your eating habits and emotions, the easier it is to identify when you are emotionally eating vs eating out of hunger and necessity.

Ask yourself if you are really truly hungry, or is it boredom/stress?!

2. Have a semi "set" schedule of eating throughout the day

When you have a routine of eating (ex: 3 meals and 2 snacks), you know that there are specific times later in the day to eat, which gives you a structure vs you just hoping to get in another meal at some point later in the day.

This also helps keep you satisfied throughout the day, while avoiding drops in blood sugar ... which can lead to those afternoon cravings, and potentially even stress eating when you get home from work.

On that same note, when you eat consistently throughout the day, you can avoid the overwhelming feeling of hunger in the evening.

Having a schedule can definitely help us avoid all of the little snacking here-and-there along the way that can really add up in calories!

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3. Only go into the kitchen at meal or snack times

It is a common trend to get home and head straight to the kitchen, even if it is not time for a meal.

But instead, if we switch that up ... and when we get home, we change clothes and go for a walk or change and prepare an actual dinner, instead of just snacking...

We can start to create a good routine of eating full meals.

In addition to that, it's not a good idea to hang out in the kitchen.

This is because as easy as that is to do ... it also makes it easy to reach for snacks and mindlessly eat.

4. Be Mindful and get rid of distractions

I think we can all agree, we've been guilty of this at some point … sitting down and eating, while watching TV or being on our phones.

When was the last time you ate a meal without distractions?

The problem is ... we are more likely to overeat without realizing it, when there are distractions around.

But, when we minimize what is happening around us while we eat, we are more aware of the food we are eating ... as well as our personal cues of hunger and satiety.

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5. Get moving!!

Whether it is a 5-minute walk, or a 45-minute workout ... it's extremely important to get moving on a consistent basis.

This is because physical activity increases endorphins (the hormones that make you happy).

Not only will this help boost your mood and relieve stress, but it will help keep you out of the kitchen and away from any food temptations.

If a walk or workout isn’t an option at the time, find something else to keep you occupied. You might work on a project, read a book, or play with your dog or kids to keep you busy.

6. Out of sight, out of mind

This might be easier said than done - get rid of your favorite junk foods or the foods you crave the most.

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Do not put them on your list and do not buy them when at the store.

The convenience of these foods and being shelf-stable for months, or right at your front door with a few clicks, can be tempting.

Simply put, if the cookies are not in your cabinet, you cannot eat them.

Clean out the pantry and restock with more fresh foods, and high protein snacks.

When you give yourself nothing but good choices, you are more likely to stick to those good choices all day long.  That's why many people prep all of their meals for the week ahead of time.

7. Hydration

Our body can go approximately a week without food, but only a couple of days without water.

This means that hydration is such a monumental factor in how we feel, and our overall health.

Since our body knows how much water it needs to operate properly, if you are even slightly dehydrated, your thirst mechanism can trick you into thinking you are hungry.

Keeping a bottle of water handy at all times, and drinking water consistently throughout the day can have an immediate impact on your hunger!

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It's good practice to shoot for 100-120 ounces of water per day if you do not know where to start.

With that, simply drinking a glass of water when you get home can help curb those hunger cues.

We're always here to help

Take one habit change at a time, implement a new routine, and be mindful of your feelings.

We all have emotions, it's just how you react to them that matter.

And if stress eating is something you struggle with, or you need help with anything else at all ... don't hesitate to let us know!

We're always here to help you out however we can.

Just simply send us an email, or give us a call at 1-800-409-9732! Either way, our team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers & Fitness Nutrition Specialists will be here to help you out!

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Will Grumke
Will Grumke

NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, NASM VCS Virtual Coaching Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer