How to Manage Stress Eating


How to Manage Stress Eating

Experiencing stressful situations causes the body to undergo a variety of hormonal changes, including the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol release under chronic stress can make weight loss difficult. High levels of this hormone cause muscle loss and fat gain (specifically around the mid-section). Stress can also bring about physiological changes in the lungs, adrenal glands, liver, & the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nervous and reproductive systems.

When we are stressed, we search for comfort anywhere it can be found.  It’s common to turn to food for comfort, but that leads to weight gain. Understanding how stress affects the body and recognizing stress triggers can aid in keeping you on track to reach your goal and keeping the weight off for as long as you practice some or all of these tips.

  1.  Have a game plan worked up ahead of time so when stressful situations occur and you can be sure they will, you will know how to respond.
  2. Identify Stress Triggers : By first identifying our stress triggers, we can be better prepared to have a plan in place to keep us from stress eating. Examples include divorce, getting married, worry, moving to a new home, taking care of elderly or sick family, emotional problems, etc. School’s out, the kids are home for the summer – plan for YOU.
  • A. Surge/Burst Exercise

How exercise changes physiology in relation to stress: (Read:  6 Hormones You Can Balance Using HIIT Exercise)

Exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits. It increases your “feel good” hormones. Increases energy, decreases cortisol (if you keep the exercise under 30 minute 3xs a week); so it increases lean muscle and therefore metabolism, testosterone and H.G.H. (Human Growth Hormones), and improves your mood.

If you want to learn more about what type of exercising, please call our office to schedule a time with us.

  • B. Deep Breathing

Tactical breathing is a stress reducing technique that our service members and law enforcement use when they find themselves in stressful situations. This type of breathing works for them in some of the most dangerous and stressful situations; then it should work for us during our stressful times.

How to:  When we breathe in our bellies should push out and when we breathe out our bellies should come in. We should also breathe in through the nose and out of the mouth. Breathing pattern should be:  breathe in for 4 sec., hold for 4 sec., and breathe out for 4 sec. Do 5 cycles of this; it is a total commitment of just 60 seconds.

  • C. Swap stress eating with another activity

There are many things that we could use to replace a stress eating habit.  Have you ever got a song stuck in your head and it will not go away? Even if you make a conscious effort to not think about it, it pops into your mind anyway. The only way to make it go away is to think of another song to take that one’s place.

Well, stress eating is the same way. There needs to be something that you can replace stress eating with. Some examples would include:

  • Chewing gum such as; Xylo Burst, Spry, and Pur are acceptable types of gum to replace stress eating with.
  • Start a diary. Write about your stress instead of eating during it.
  • Drink flavored herbal teas.
  • Paint
  • Go for a walk
  • Go to the bookstore and read
  • Put on music that you love
  • Knit
  • Call a friend
  • Visit a message board or forum or Facebook and spend time online
  • (When at work)—Change tasks, take a walk around the office
  • Taking a nap or Going to bed early

Published July 2022 IHC of Charlottesville, Dr. Kirk Childers ,

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