We all get hungry. That’s a natural, biological function. However, self-help author Marla Ahlgrimm explains that many of us also eat during times of high stress. Emotional eating can cause bloating, weight gain, and gastrointestinal issues. Fortunately, there are ways to step aside and walk right past the stress snacks.
Today, Marla Ahlgrimm shares tips.
Awareness in the moment is crucial to curb emotional eating, says Marla Ahlgrimm. As you reach for that bag of chips, ask yourself if you are eating for hunger or if you are simply looking for a distraction. Pay attention to the days and times you reach for empty calories, and keep a journal to help you pay attention to the pattern so that you can make lifestyle changes to help overcome all that ails you.
Determine if your cravings are linked to your menstrual cycle.
Marla Ahlgrimm explains that some women experience an increased appetite in the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle. For women with PMS, their levels may be elevated, and they might think their added hunger is due to their emotions. Pay attention to patterns here as well. If you notice that you're hungry and eating more often in the days leading up to your period, then it may be hormonal and not stress.
Plan your snacks.
One of the most effective techniques to avoid stress eating is to plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Marla Ahlgrimm says that you don’t necessarily have to follow conventional eating times. You may want breakfast closer to 10 AM and then choose to have a light lunch a few hours later. Plan your eating times around when you’re hungry and you need the most energy, not just based on the clock.
Manage stress before you open the fridge.
If your first instinct is to grab a block of brie and a pack of crackers after a frustrating phone call or other interaction, take a moment to stop and deal with your emotions before you snack. Marla Ahlgrimm says something as simple as a quick walk around the block can help you clear your head so that you are more in touch with your mind and body.
Sugar-free gum works to both keep your mouth busy and ensure proper saliva flow throughout your mouth. Marla Ahlgrimm says there’s nothing wrong with popping in a piece of gum when you think you might be hungry.
Drink your water.
About half the time, what we perceive as hunger is actually mild dehydration. If you are stressed out already, you may have forgotten to drink up. Have a glass of water, and then decide 30 minutes later if you still need food. Marla Ahlgrimm says you can add fresh fruit or sugar free drink mix if you don’t like the taste of plain water.
Get enough sleep.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain is not in as good of a position to manage stress, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Give your body at least seven hours each night – Marla Ahlgrimm says that women may need an extra hour or so in the days leading up to their period.
If you’re honest with yourself, you probably don’t really like every snack you eat. Marla Ahlgrimm notes that you're most likely eating out of boredom or habit. Try stocking your refrigerator and pantry with snacks that you actually like. Then, when the craving strikes, put your computer to sleep, leave your phone on your desk, and take a moment to enjoy and appreciate your little indulgence.