Think Before You Snack: How to Curb Emotional Eating

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Have you caught yourself snacking more than usual lately? With how stressful things are right now around the world, it’s easy to find yourself making more trips to the pantry or simply munching throughout the day. This is not out of the ordinary, as a study from the University of Liverpool found that more stress tends to lead to emotional eating. However, it’s our responsibility to nourish our bodies, especially during this time. That being said, here are some key ways to help you curb emotional eating.

1. Determine the Root Cause

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Emotional eating is a coping mechanism, so to cut out this habit it requires you to confront what’s stressing you out and making you turn to emotional eating. This is explained in one of Maryville University’s psychology studies, which emphasizes how behavioral and psychological aspects work in tandem to influence human behavior. It’s a two-way street between your biology and psyche. So, in the same way that you use emotional eating to cope with personal issues, you can also flip the script and examine how your mindset affects your relationship with food. You’ll be mentally equipped to overcome your unhealthy eating habits once you’ve determined what’s causing you to eat more — be it a problem at work, or issues with your family.

2. Stock Up on Healthy Snacks

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It’s important to understand that emotional eating is not a one-off event. Rather, it’s a cycle wherein stress or a certain feeling triggers you to eat too much or consume junk. To this end, the best way to prevent you from snacking on junk food is to eliminate the source. If you’re worried about satisfying your taste buds, there’s no need to fret, as your snacks can both be nutritious and delicious. As we’ve shared in our ‘High Protein Snacks to Power Your Workout’ post, there are tons of healthy food sources to munch on, such as beef jerky, hummus, and yogurt. Alternatively, you can also stock up on snacks that are known to fight stress like blueberries, dark chocolate, and oatmeal.

3. Get in Tune With Your Body

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If you notice your body gravitating towards the kitchen or catch yourself reaching for more chips, there’s a scientific reason behind these physical sensations. As explained by diabetologist Achim Peters, the brain requires about 12% more energy when experiencing acute stress. This, in turn, causes the sudden craving for sugary snacks when you’re emotionally exhausted. Thankfully, this can be managed by refueling yourself using healthy lifestyle practices. For instance, meditation is not only a great method to reinvigorate yourself, it also staves off tension in the mind.

4. Savor Each Bite

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More often than not, people eat mindlessly when they’re experiencing a lot of emotional stress — whether they end up chewing too quickly or aimlessly scroll through Instagram while having a meal. However, not paying full attention to your food can cause you to miss your fullness cue and thus overeat, as pointed out by nutrition writer Amanda Capritto. To eat in a more conscious manner, you can apply mindfulness when eating — from understanding your emotional triggers to carefully choosing your snacks. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine found that mindful eating increases the intake of healthy food sources, while also improving physical activity levels. All in all, savoring each bite will help you appreciate your meals and improve overall wellbeing.

With Lifesum, tracking your healthy habits (and the not so healthy ones) becomes a breeze. We’ll help you pick the right food, and eat the right portion sizes, to reach your personal health goals.

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