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Tips to Manage Stress Eating

Emotional Eating and How to Stop It

Sometimes the strongest food cravings hit when you're at your weakest point emotionally. You may turn to food for comfort consciously, unconsciously, when facing a difficult problem, feeling stressed, or even feeling bored.

According to a study from the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, timing may play a role in appetite and gut hormone responses to meals and stress. This study showed that the “afternoon/evening may be a high-risk period for overeating, particularly when paired with stress exposure, and for those with binge eating.” To help curb this increased chance, pay attention to snacking habits after a long day of work to help prevent weight gain. Try these tips on how you can manage stress eating:

  • Practice mindful eating.
  • Find healthier options.
  • Watch portion sizes.

Remember, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor or a dietitian when you make changes to your diet. Before you can break free from the cycle of emotional (stress) eating, you first need to learn how to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger.

Emotional Hunger vs. Physical Hunger

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. Physical hunger comes on gradually.
Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly. Physical hunger can wait.
Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. Physical hunger is open to options when lots of things sound good.
Emotional hunger isn't satisfied with a full stomach. Physical hunger stops when you're full.
Emotional eating triggers feelings of guilt, powerlessness, and shame. Eating to satisfy physical hunger doesn't make you feel bad about yourself.

When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without emotional eating.

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