Finding comfort in food is common, but do you rush to your pantry everytime you feel low, bored or otherwise upset? The use of food to deal with the emotions every single time you need a break is not comforting, rather alarming. It leads to binge eating, which eventually ends up in weight imbalance and other complications.
During my visit to a gynaecologist at Bajwa Hospital, I found a lot of women with this complaint of being overweight and stressed at the same time. Most of them were not able to conceive because of the weight gain that occurred as a result of binge-eating.
Stress, Binge, Regret, Repeat!
Stress contributes to both binge eating and the desire to overeat. These eating habits can lead you to a cycle where;
- You eat a lot when you feel stressed
- You regret after eating, knowing it will end up in weight gain and then stress about it.
Emotional Hunger vs True Hunger
Humans do need to eat to survive, but how to know if you’re eating out of hunger or emotions? So, let’s compare.
- Physical Hunger develops slowly and on the other hand stress eating or binge eating develops all of a sudden. If you crave only certain foods, that is also a clear sign of emotional hunger.
- Most importantly if you don’t feel any guilt after eating, that’s called true hunger. However, if there’s this constant remorse and shame after having food then you need to consider seeing a doctor.
How Stress Makes You Eat?
Have you ever questioned yourself why after a small fight, a bad day in the office or even after having a breakup you go and dive right into a pack of chips and cookies. It happens because during these tough times your body produces a hormone called Cortisol which functions to increase hunger. If you have a disorder then your body already has higher levels of this hormone than those who don’t.
After having any sweets or carbs, don’t you think your energy levels shoot up? There’s a reason behind it: these foods send a signal to your brain to release Serotonin (the happy hormone), which boosts your mood. That is why munching on sweets, chocolates and even french fries is often known as “comfort food”. But, the comforting feeling doesn’t last long. Soon after having these foods your blood sugar levels will crash and you will get shaky and tired.
How to Avoid Binging When Stressed?
First and foremost, consult with your doctor, he can help you keep a check on your unhealthy habits. You, yourself should also stay mindful of your eating patterns and try out these options to help yourself out.
Keep a Diary
Try and keep a diary with you and use it to write down how you feel when you eat out of stress. Note down all the triggers. Jot down all the drivers, write each and every meal either big or small, also write how you felt while having it.
Instead of eating your comfort food, whenever you feel an urge to eat, turn your attention towards the healthier options with low calories and fats. However, foods high in nutrition are not what you crave while feeling stressed, but these help a lot.
Divert Your Attention
When you feel like the stress is making you reach for that cookie jar, don’t panic. Call a friend, talk it out and ask for help.
Incorporate meditation in your daily routine. It helps in reducing stress and anxiety. Yoga is a great way to meditate and exercise at the same time.
Resist yourself from grabbing foods to snack on. Choose small plates and measure out your portions.
Engage yourself in positive self talk. As the feelings of shame and guilt are closely associated with binge eating. It is very important to indulge in positive self talk after having an episode.
Food may help you ease your emotions initially, but to address the feelings behind the hunger is not easy for everyone to explain. Just work on yourself and find ways to cope up with your binge eating habit. Talk it out, see a doctor and look for a solution instead of running away and ignoring it.