Author and entrepreneur Bill Phillips once said: “Food is the most abused anxiety drug. Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.” These words of wisdom highlight the prevalence of emotional eating. “Emotional eating” is when an individual turns to food when facing negative emotions, such as stress, anger, sadness, or boredom. While it is important to find healthy ways to cope with distressing situations, emotional eating leads to a path of unhealthy habits.
During the stressful finals season as a high schooler, I would find myself mindlessly nibbling away at several chocolate chip cookies to get through long study sessions. I would turn to foods with added sugars to calm myself when I was overwhelmed. I was rapidly gaining weight because of this. I realized that I needed to change my eating habits. So, over the past year, I developed a healthier relationship between food and my emotions. Here are the three practices I used to combat emotional eating:
1. Do The Little Things That Boost Your Confidence.
Whether it’s doing your makeup, getting dressed up, or doing your skincare routine, take some time in the morning to do whatever makes you feel cute and confident. These simple habits help me transition out of my morning grogginess and into productivity mode. I become energized. I’m ready to conquer my fitness goals for the day. When I feel good about myself, it’s a strong reminder that my body doesn’t deserve greasy junk food. Overall, boosting one’s self-esteem helps drive away negative emotions that cause emotional eating.
2. Find a Recreational Sport or Hobby That You Love.
This tip is especially useful for people (like myself) who snack out of boredom. My perspective shifted from “living to eat” to “eating the live.” I now intentionally choose foods that would best fuel me for the activities I loved doing. Also, whenever an activity engrosses me, I’m distracted away from my cravings.
Recreational sports are my favorite form of exercise because I obsess less on “How much longer do I have to run to burn off the calories?” and more on the pure enjoyment of the sport. It sets up a goal system that combines the mastery of the sport, sweaty exercise, and lots of fun. My sport of choice is figure skating, and because I want to be a better figure skater, I feel motivated to eat clean. Also, accomplishing a new technique or faster time in a sport can boost your overall self-esteem. This positive self-reflection again acts as a reminder that your body deserves higher quality, healthy foods.
If recreational sports are not your thing, find a hobby you can spend hours on without even realizing how much time has passed, like playing music, upcycling clothes, or Drawing. These small hobbies stopped my habit of eating while bored.
3. Eat These Stress-Reducing Foods.
According to UCLA Integrative Medicine, the following list of nutrients and foods can counter stress.
- Vitamin C (oranges, other citrus fruits) helps lower cortisol, stress hormones, and blood pressure during high-anxiety situations.
- Complex Carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, fruits) can induce the brain to increase serotonin production and stabilize blood pressure to reduce stress.
- Magnesium (spinach, leafy greens, salmon, soybeans) fights headaches and fatigue and improves sleep quality.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish and nuts such as salmon, tuna, flaxseeds, pistachios, walnuts, almonds) reduce surges of stress hormones and confer protection against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome.
- Dark Chocolate can also improve cognitive function and mood due to the cocoa content. Researchers also found that consuming dark chocolate daily can be beneficial for individuals suffering from high anxiety levels.
- Oatmeal can reduce stress hormone levels and boost serotonin, which stimulates a feeling of calmness.
How do you combat emotional eating? Let us know in the comments below!