We chose a career where we knew there would be hard days. But then we started working and all of sudden we’re staring at a client or a classroom, and suddenly we’re thinking, “but I didn’t know it would be this hard.” Add in financial frustrations and the fact that if you described your personal life with the word “shambles,” it would be an understatement, and you find yourself coming home day after day mentally exhausted with a repeating inner monologue that demands, “give me all the carbs.”
The struggle is real.
With that in mind, when we talk about stress eating its essential, we acknowledge poor eating habits don’t happen in a vacuum. It can be a survival tool when the world around us is harsh, and we just want to feel better. Wanting to feel better isn’t a crime.
I can only tell you about me. I’m one of those annoying people who love healthy foods. I really do. On a perfect stress-free day, I find myself drinking but nothing but water all day, eating fruit and falling in love with a salad from home complete with my own dressing. That’s on a perfect day. However, I realized quickly as a social worker that about 10% of my days were “perfect” and instead I spent my days eating whatever I could shove in my mouth between clients and deadlines, and I began a torrid love affair with potatoes chips and coke in a glass bottle.
So trust me, when it comes to stress eating, I have been there… no, I’m still there. But here are the 4 tips that reduced my stress eating.
Regulate Your Breakfast
When I began looking at the way I stress eat a pattern started to emerge. On the days I ate a healthy breakfast, I was more likely to stay on track and not binge. It was like having my breakfast under control gave me the confidence to face the day and say, “I’ve got this.” I felt full longer, and therefore I could plan out my lunch instead of rushing around grabbing the first thing I could because I was starving.
Once I regulated my breakfast, I started throwing an apple in my bag for a snack instead of grabbing chocolate from the front desk. Having control of my breakfast made saying no to things that weren’t good for me easier. Oh, and my stress levels weren’t as high either.
I’m begging you: don’t go on a “diet,” don’t make a laundry list of rules, don’t try to force yourself to conquer stress eating. You’ll likely stress over the rules, and — and spoiler alert– stressing about stress eating doesn’t make it better. Start small, promise yourself you’re going to eat breakfast in the morning, and it’s going to be healthy. I personally blend a fruit and vegetable smoothie each morning, and either has some boiled eggs, soy yogurt with granola, or Cheerios. However here is a list of other great breakfast ideas courtesy of Pinterest.
Swap out quick processed foods for quick, healthy ones
This one takes a bit of planning, but it’s worth it. Once you find yourself eating breakfast regularly, start planning some snacks throughout the day. Two quicks tips for that: 1) the easier, the better, and 2) make yourself eat a snack. Set an alarm if you have to.
When I analyzed my eating patterns, I noticed a fundamental truth about myself and food: I’m lazy. If there’s a carrot stick on my desk right now vs. a potato chip bag I have to cross the street to get, the carrot stick will win every time. The more I made convenient foods accessible, the easier it became to eat foods that made me feel better and less likely to stress-eat during the day.
I also made snack time non-negotiable. I would place my apple/nuts/veggie snack right in my line of sight. Seeing it in front of me ensured I ate my snack, even on the busiest of days. Once I had my breakfast regulated and was eating my snacks, my stress went down, and for the rest of the day, my eating choices were healthier.
Make a late-night snack your friend
There is a lot of controversy over whether it’s healthy or not to eat late at night. But let’s be real when it’s 9pm and your stomach is growling, does it really matter? It’s not about if you should eat late at night, and more about what you should eat late at night. My suggestion is again having some easy, healthy and accessible foods in your cupboard, perfect for late-night snacking. Click here are some ideas for healthy late-night snacks and enjoy every bite.
When you get the urge to binge eat (and we all do), slow down
I’m not going to even to attempt to tell you that binge eating is wrong and you shouldn’t do it. You know why? Because binge eating happens. Sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants (or our anxiety wants what anxiety wants). I know some people have complete mastery over binge eating, but I don’t. And I think more people are like me. I have significantly reduced how much I binge eat, but on tough days (mainly around my cycle) I’m going to have one day where I eat way too much of foods I have no business eating. I accept that.
So now instead of stressing out about how wrong it is to binge eat, I only ask myself to slow down when I’m eating. 30 seconds into my whole “give me all the carbs” binge, I try to slow myself down, take a deep breath, and walk away for a moment. Even if its just to turn on the TV or get my laptop from another room. I get up move and then come back to whatever I’m eating and then take a few more bites. I may do something like this a few times until my brain calms down enough to tell me I’m full. It’s only then that I put the snack away.
Stress eating happens, but there are ways you can reduce and control it. So go easy on yourself, and if you are struggling with this, you are not alone. I see you. I’ve got you.
How about you challenge yourself to try one of the tips I mentioned? Let’s chat about it. In the comments below tell me how it went. You know I can sympathize!