There’s something about knowing you should be rationing your food to limit trips to the grocery store that makes you want to eat more to calm your nerves.
Stuck on another boring Zoom call?
Drafting an article for work and stuck on the next line?
Just heard another depressing statistic?
It’s going to happen.
You might be wondering, “Wouldn’t it be better to talk about how to prevent stress eating?”
While that is helpful, there’s already a million resources out there to ease the root of your stress. Just open up your social media or email (assuming you’re inundated with self-care content like me). And if not, I’ve written a few articles myself.
What I’m much more interested in sharing with you now is what to do once you’ve already caught yourself in the stress-eating act.
Because, again, it’s going to happen.
And once you’re there, those stress relief tips probably won’t be able to save you.
Here’s what you do when you find yourself reaching for yet another slice of that ooey gooey pepperoni pizza that was supposed to last for tomorrow’s lunch.
—> Increase awareness of the situation. <–
Acknowledge that you’re stress eating, and give yourself permission to enjoy the heck out of that comforting object of your affection, be it a pizza, brownie, sandwich, chickpea salad, hummus, or cookie.
Lack of awareness, or mindfulness, causes us to eat until the entire thing is gone, and then we look down with amazement, suspicion even, wondering what happened.
You might even blame the poor dog.
“Where did it go?? I could’ve sworn I had two bites left!”
You were eating, and your mind was off somewhere else, perhaps dreaming of the day you can go to the store at the drop of a hat to get bacon so you can fulfill your latest whim to make spaghetti carbonara from scratch (maybe that’s just me).
When you pay attention to what you’re eating, enjoying the flavors and textures, you’ll be satisfied quicker.
The richness of the chocolate fudge brownie delights you with a mere 3 bites, coating the roof of your mouth in a layer of heaven. “Maybe I’ll save the rest for later.” Maybe.
You might even think “Wow these salt and vinegar chips are really salty and really vinegary,” and put the bag down with some remaining for once.
An effective way to increase awareness is to vow to only be eating when you’re eating. I prefer to state suggestions in the positive so this is my way of encouraging you to refrain from multitasking.
Sitting at your desk, chowing down on a ham and cheese sandwich while writing an email is a fool-proof way to make food disappear. Eating while watching TV is even more effective. Why? Because your brain didn’t register the food. It’s still hungry, and now you want to reach for a little something extra.
So much for tomorrow’s lunch.
Close the lid of your laptop, turn off the computer monitor, put down the phone, and see what it’s like to be one with the sandwich. Taste the smokiness of the ham, the creaminess of the cheese, the softness of the bread as it melts back into dough in your mouth.
If you’re eating for comfort, the only way you’ll get it is by allowing the food to comfort you (otherwise you’ll just keep eating and eating until finally your brain gets the message). And to do that, you must be aware that you’re eating.
Enjoy the flavors and textures, and put down your electronic devices.
Happy stress eating! And may you find with each bite, your stress transforms a little bit more into pleasure.