Someone very wise told me that I stress eat. So I thought about it…. And I went back through my food/exercise log. I spent a lot of time thinking about this. Stress eating is a real thing, not an excuse.
Some people drink a beer when they’re stressed out…I eat. Or at least, I used to. Let me back up for a minute.
What Does Stress Eating Look Like?
- Do you ever realize that you’ve demolished an entire bag of snacks? Or the whole batch of cookies?
- Do you eat while you watch television?
- Do you remember actually being hungry before you eat?
- Do you find that you eat more when you are angry? Or frustrated? How about when you’re sad?
- Do you eat and eat and eat…and still end up “hungry”? Almost like food isn’t satisfying?
I stress eat. For me, I have found that I tend to stress eat when I’m sad or overwhelmed. Thankfully, I clean when I’m angry…so that’s a relief! (No, not really.) most of us have a lot of stressors in our lives: school, home, work, kids, partners, parents, grandparents, friends, illness…the list goes on…and on…and on.
What’s On Your Plate?
Most of us are stress magnets. At least, we think we are. I know that I allow myself to be. I hate having a messy house, and I schedule my day…every day.
Some days I feel like our doormat says: STRESS WELCOME. Of course, I realize that it doesn’t. But you get the idea. In the past (and currently, although I’m trying to change that), I have dealt with stress by eating.
Anything and everything. Chocolate, yogurt, fruit…you name it. As long as my hand was picking up food and shoveling it into my mouth, I didn’t care. It honestly just didn’t matter. Now that I’m on a mission to learn my body, and take good care of it, I really need to change. NOW. The big question is: HOW?
Actually, I would venture to ask why.
Why Do We Stress Eat?
There are a lot of theories out there, but here’s the gist:
- Cortisol. It’s the stress hormone…and it makes you hungry. Fun times, right?
- Habit. As a kid, did you have a bowl of ice cream when you were down and out? Did your parents take you to the diner to cheer you up?
- Distraction. Something bother you? Just eat your way out! (Hint: this is my problem!)
- Fun. You go to the movies and get a popcorn…and a soda…and a candy bar…and you have to eat it all, right? Or you go out to a restaurant…and have appetizers, drinks, dinner, and dessert. Because it’s all about good times…until your pants don’t fit.
- No time. When did you eat last? Do you really need the double double burger? Or is it just convenient?
- Memories. My mom makes KILLER chocolate chip cookies. And when I’m sad, I want chocolate chip cookies-my mom’s. Coincidence? Probably not. Conditioning? Far more likely. I even find myself rewarding Smalls with a shake or cookie for a good day at clinic…oops! That needs to change!
How Can We Change?
Here’s what I’ve found: I need to find other ways to deal with my stress. I’m guessing that you do, too. What a simple solution…but it’s not really. But if you really want to change, you can…and so can I. What concerns me most is that my children are learning their behavior from me.
It’s important to me as a parent that I am a good role model, and that I show them how to be healthy. It’s no longer acceptable to me to just follow the “do as I say, not as I do” mantra.
The first thing I promised myself was that I was going to pay attention to what I was putting in my mouth-and why it was going in my mouth. Am I genuinely hungry? Do I really need this? Would a walk or a workout video be a better option? Should I eat an apple instead?
If we are logging our food, we are far more likely to realize when we begin that path toward emotional or stress eating. Are you simply eating to stay awake? (I know I’m guilty of this one! What mom isn’t?!)
I really enjoy using MyFitnessPal to keep track of my food and exercise. It keeps me accountable, and it’s free. Free is good!
Pause For A Minute
If you feel like you might not need that second bowl of cereal, then take a step back. Really think about it. Go do something-laundry, a walk, squats, play with your babies…just try something else. If after a reasonable amount of time (No, not a minute!) you still want that bowl of cereal, then have it!
I’m sure that you will find times when you are genuinely hungry, but many times, you may not be.
Drink More Water
This one is paramount. After all, 66% of your body is water. Are you drinking enough water? Do you keep track? If not, you should. The recommendation is 8 8-oz glasses of water a day, which 64 oz. For me, I really need twice that to feel hydrated and well. Yes, you can drink too much water, but you would have to drink a lot more than 120 oz.
Talk About It
Want to eat all of those brownies? Is something bothering you? Find another emotional outlet. Mine is blogging (HI!). What’s yours? Do you need to talk? Call your mom, your bestie, or talk to your spouse. What about a cute journal? Or keeping a diary?
If you’ve got things to do, you’re less likely to eat. So get out there. Join a book club, or a mom’s group. Find a MOPS meeting near you. Go to church. Read a good book…or a lot of awesome books. Garden. Play a board game, or solitaire, even. Start a memory book for your kids. Just do something.
Exercise! Walk to a park. Do some yoga. Find a good workout video that you can squeeze into your day.
Find other ways to engage your time, and maybe you will discover, as I have, that you aren’t really hungry all the time after all.
Don’t Give Up
Changes aren’t going to happen overnight. You’re going to have a day where you curse yourself for buying everything to make Italian Cream Cake (Oops-but it was delicious!), or you will wish that you’d not purchased that large bag of pretzels that is now in the trash…. But as time goes on, it gets easier. If you need to, make a list of alternatives to stress eating and tape it to your fridge.
Be sure to include things that you genuinely enjoy! Or try drinking a glass of water before each meal or snack. It’s possible that you’re just thirsty, after all.
Believe me when I say that you’re not alone. I’m right there with you, today especially. Being a mom is not easy, but we need to find other ways to spend our time. At least I do. Okay. Time to go workout.
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