Do you find yourself eating more than usual when you’re feeling stressed? If so, you’re not alone. Comfort eating is a common way to cope with stress and negative emotions. Unfortunately, this can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
In this blog post, I will discuss 11 ways to stop comfort eating and cope better with stress. By making some simple changes, you can overcome comfort eating and improve your overall health.
What is comfort eating and why do we do it?
Comfort eating is defined as eating in response to negative emotions, such as stress, boredom, or sadness. In such situations we often turn to food for comfort because it’s readily available and can temporarily make us feel better.
Food is also often used as a way to procrastinate or avoid doing something else. For example, you may have told yourself that you will start working on that project as soon as you finish your snack. Of course, once you’re done eating, you find another excuse not to start working.
Eating high-sugar and high-fat foods releases chemicals in the brain that can boost our mood. We get an immediate dopamine hit that makes us feel good. However, this feeling is short-lived and often leads to guilt and shame.
The problem is that with time our brains adapt to that dopamine rush, meaning that we will need even more sugar to get the same boost. This can lead to a vicious cycle of comfort eating followed by guilt, which in turn leads to more comfort eating.
When comfort eating most people eat mindlessly, putting food into their mouth without even realizing they are doing so. Thing back to the last time you had a packet of crisps – your hand probably went from the packet to your mouth over and over without you even thinking about it, and before you knew it, the packet was empty.
This type of mindless eating can be a hard habit to break because it’s so ingrained in our daily lives. We often eat without even thinking about it, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
The dangers of comfort eating
When we comfort eat we do not stop when we are full. We keep on eating, even if we are not hungry in the slightest. This can lead to weight gain, which in turn can lead to obesity and all the associated health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
So comfort eating is a short-term solution that can have serious and damaging long-term consequences.
So, what can you do to stop comfort eating? Here are 11 tips:
Identify your triggers: What situations or emotions lead you to comfort eat? Once you know your triggers, you can start to find other ways to cope with them.
Plan healthy meals: When you have healthy meals planned, you’re less likely to turn to unhealthy comfort foods.
Eat mindfully: Pay attention to what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. This can help you to avoid overeating. You should aim for ‘intuitive eating’ which means eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.
Get enough sleep: When we’re tired, we’re more likely to crave sugary and fatty foods.
Exercise: Exercise can help to reduce stress and improve your mood. You could start by going for a walk or doing some yoga.
Talk to someone: Talking to a friend, family member, or therapist can help you to manage stress in a healthy way.
Take breaks: When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax. This could involve reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature.
Avoid food triggers: If there are certain foods that trigger your comfort eating, try to avoid them.
Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and understand that everyone makes mistakes. If you do slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Just try again tomorrow.
Seek professional help: If you’re struggling to overcome comfort eating on your own, seek professional help. A therapist can help you to identify and change negative thought patterns.
Making even a few of these changes can help you to stop comfort eating. The goal is that every time you get an urge to eat, you are able to question where the urge is coming from.
If you want to eat because you are hungry, then go ahead.
If, on the other hand, you are not hungry and you want to eat to distract yourself, consciously choose another activity to do instead.
Comfort eating is a learned behaviour, and it can be unlearned with time and effort.
One final tip is to be patient with yourself. Changing any behaviour takes time, so don’t expect to stop comfort eating overnight.
Just keep taking small steps in the right direction and you will get there in the end.