Overcome Stress Eating by These Simple Changes in Lifestyle

  • Usman 

As we’ve heard about overeating, it must seem like a very common or tempting thing to do. It has crept into the lives of many. Overeating is not an unusual occurrence during holidays especially, however, if it becomes a habit, it can become a very unhealthy thing to indulge ourselves into. The following read will provide you with the basic picture, and how overeating and stress eating can be interrelated.

overweight man while stress eating

What is overeating?

In simple terms, overeating means consuming food in large quantities which implies that your intake of calories is more than the requirement of your body, especially at a particular meal. It can follow you up by gaining little or a lot of weight (depending on your metabolism). There are actual disorders that are related to overeating, such as Binge Eating, more commonly known as Bulimia.

What is stress?

None of us are fans of changes, it is one of the scariest things to experience for many. The negative, uncomfortable feeling in your body can be termed as stress – this could be an emotional, mental or physical response of the body as it is subjected to different experiences.

Stress can be triggered by many factors, which may be because of the environmental conditions at home, workplace, school, relationships, etc. Stress is the root cause of depression, perhaps the number one reason of it. However, this is only subjected to negative triggers. Stress can also have positive triggers. That ‘freak-out’ or ‘cold-feet’ sensation right before you’re about to get married, the mixed emotions while childbirth, promising career positions or even getting into your dream college.

Are you stress eating?

It’s not that hard to figure out when someone is stressed out, as it usually shows up on their face. However, there are certain hidden symptoms as well, and an increased appetite would be one of them.

It is normal to munch on snacks while working or studying – in fact, it’s often a source of relaxation. Before you realize it, you have wiped off the whole thing. Who doesn’t like to eat? However, there are many who end up consuming a lot more. And there is a strong link between stress and weight loss.

Link between stress and overeating

A few studies indicate distinct gender-based coping mechanisms of stress. When stressed, men tend to drink or smoke while women incline towards food. To support that, obesity in women is aligned with stress or binge eating. Especially during premenstrual periods, women like to go out and ‘casually’ buy 2 burgers, extra fries, 12 cupcakes, and a ‘diet’ coke to overcome the intensified range of emotions they experience.

Worrying about things like an interview, an exam or a social gathering you have to speak at is completely natural.  As anxiousness is one of our emotions, it is okay for it to be present from time to time, however, it should not come in between your daily routine where even the littlest of tasks become hard for you to perform.

If you experience anxiousness daily or have this sensation of fear then you may have an anxiety disorder. This feeling is severe and causes alarming impairment of strength or ability to function on a regular basis.

An anxiety disorder might hold you back from doing everything that you love. If anxiety disorders are not diagnosed on time and not given the proper treatment then cases can go out of hand and will make everyday things difficult for you to do.

Sometimes people may become accustomed to consuming food whenever they become anxious, upset, or tense without even noticing it. Every individual then looks for a source of escape. While smoking, drinking, excessive sleeping are some examples, again, so is stress overeating.

If you haven’t experienced this yourself or haven’t seen anyone then it might not make sense as to how eating helps overcome anxiety. As the nature and habits of individuals vary, the way one deals with anxiety can be diverse in all aspects.

Clinical signs of anxiety disorders often arise from binge eating. Studies prove that, in comparison to the average populace, individuals who suffer from binge eating disorder are more prone to develop severe anxiousness. 

BED or binge-eating disorder has been characterized as repeated occurrences of ingesting substantial junk in a fairly limited time span. A person can feel as if they have a weak ability to take charge of the episode, following a guilt phase where one feels bad for eating way out of proportion. Stress eating can impact your health, studies, work or social life.

Stress eating disorder (Bulimia/BED):

As we mentioned earlier, a source of escape for many of those that suffer from anxiety can be food. The usual cycle of a stress eating disorder, is the same as when you’re dieting and you cheat, however, there is a lot more anxiety and stress that comes with it. You eat and eat, to suppress the initial onset of anxiety.

It does not end there though, once the damage is done, the individual is subjected to an even bigger dose of the guilt of eating so much, and that results in worries regarding their weight. However, sadly enough, it is never in their hands. Following are some stressful things that might cause you to overeat:

  • Any changes in your regular life pattern
  • Losing a loved one
  • Financial Issues
  • Family/Relationship Problems
  • Trouble at work

So, let’s think of a bad breakup her. What is the first advice your best friend would give to you? “Let us head out and get some ice cream for you.” After consuming 4-5 tubs of that fudgy ice-cream, do you, or do you not feel a hundred times better? That is how this escape for those suffering from stress eating disorder works. Some behavioral and emotional symptoms of BED are listed below:

Behavioral overeating:

  • You cannot resist eating or check what you consume.
  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food.
  • Eating when you are already full (overeating)
  • Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later, secretively.
  • Normally eating in the presence of others, but eating greedy when home alone. Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes whatsoever.

Emotional overeating:

  • Only way to release stress is eating.
  • Embarrassment over how much you’re eating.
  • Feeling numb while binge eating, as if you are on auto-mode.
  • Never feeling ‘full’ or satisfied.
  • Beginning to feel culpable, frustrated or self loathe right after you’ve eaten.
  • Feeling desperate to take charge of what you eat and your weight.

It really is a vicious cycle. But how does it work, really?

A hormone called Cortisol usually increases your hunger, specifically during stressful times like these. However, if you have stress eating disorder, you automatically have a much higher levels of this hormone present inside your body – hence the ever-increasing desire to eat.
Cakes, Cookies, French fries – While some may term them as your best friends, they are actually known as comfort foods. Why is that so? Mainly because these foods tell your body to release a hormone known as serotonin – the happy hormone. This, however, does not last long, as just as your ‘buzz’ breaks, after the consumption of these sweets, your blood sugar eventually drops.

As if the cycle isn’t horrible enough, there are many other effects of BED. Mainly, social, physical and emotional problems.
If an individual suffers from binge eating disorder, he is more prone to other problems such as insomnia, stress, being suicidal, anxiety, weight gain, etc.

The good news is, many people can recover from these disorders. There are certain ways in which you can overcome your habit of overeating as well.

How to stop stress eating?

The first tip for stress eating recovery would be to build a healthier relationship with food. Let’s say, food is the only way you feel any better at all. Why consume junk food only, then? Perhaps shifting to a healthier source of food would help. It does not sound very appealing, because , of course, junk food over everything else – but a line has to be drawn somewhere.

You can do this by trying to fight the temptation. How are you supposed to eat excessive amounts of junk if there is none available? Simple, try to keep your supplies as minimal as possible. This way, not only do you fight your temptation, but there is none available either in case your intentions fall weak!

Another important way is to learn how to distinguish between your physical and emotional hunger. Let us suppose, you haven’t had breakfast, you skipped lunch, and its 8 pm now, you are obviously starving. Perhaps here, treating yourself with a great meal won’t be so harmful because you are actually hungry.

However, if after a great meal, when you’re full and have had enough, and are only bored – you fight that emotional hunger by knowing that you have eaten enough. It may be easier said than done, but a little hard work goes a long way.

The most important one would be, for you to learn the feelings that are triggering you. Of course, the first step would be to avoid the triggers in the first place. But if triggered, try to face the feeling instead of running away from it. Identify what you’re feeling, and feel it to the fullest. Avoiding these feelings will only cause more negative feelings because, of course, you cannot avoid them. Hence, try to accept what you are feeling with zero judgments, and go easy on yourself.

How to stop eating at night?

One way to avoid eating at night is to keep a balanced diet throughout the day. If you skip meals, your body will continuously feel the greed of more and more food, or you will keep feeling excessive hunger. This may be both, physical and emotional hunger. However, this doesn’t mean to starve yourself at night too.

If you ARE in fact feeling hungry, a little of munching should do. All you need to do is make sure to stop when you feel even slightly satisfied, as late night binge eating is a lot unhealthier than that done during the day-time.

Moreover, try to break ‘the routine’ that all of us are fond of which is, Netflix with a bucket of food. If you have trouble imagining screen time without any snacks, cut down on your screen time. The first week will be like living in hell, but it takes about a month to form a habit, just fight the urge and you’ll get your healthy lifestyle back.

Summary

As humans of today’s age, where there are constant setbacks, heartbreaks, downfalls and all the more causes to our stress, it is impossible for one to completely set himself free from stess overeating. Occasional binge eating may be acceptable, the problem, however, arises where it becomes a habit.

Knowing ways to keep a balanced diet, to manage your stress without these unhealthy coping mechanisms, and of course, when in dire need, the use of medication will help. The most important thing of all is to accept and love yourself. Despite all your feelings, problems, weight, or anything else because you as an individual are so much more than these things.

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Muhammad Usman

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