A good friend of mine was telling me the woes of his stress eating yesterday, and it can be super hard to deal with. The worst part? When you are stressed out, your bodies cortisol levels are high, which makes you crave "comfort foods", leading to weight gain, and then when the initial stress is over, you get stressed about the weight gain!! It can be a viscous cycle!
How can you combat stress eating? It really means that you have to combat stress by realizing that it is occurring. When you are in tune with your body, you know when you are undergoing stress, so best thing to do is to schedule your time, when possible, to allow for things that relax you like yoga, walks, time with a significant other/good friend, read a book, watch a movie, cuddle a creature, etc. Whatever makes you feel happy and good, even for just an hour a day, will make you feel better. As for the eating specifically:
1. Make sure that you are eating meals and not munching mindlessly on bad food (like high carbs, processed foods, etc)
2. Keep only healthy foods in your house. If all you have to munch on is grapes, and you are crunched for time to do anything, you aren't running out for unhealthy snacks!
3. Try drinking green tea in the afternoon, it can give you a little energy boost and calm your nerves at the same time.
4. Also, try to eat high fiber foods that will fill you up and normalize your bodies sugar levels
5. Bring your own healthy foods/snacks to work/school/etc with you.
6. Just be conscious of what you're eating: I've totally been there when you are so totally over the top stressed that all you can imagine is ordering a pizza and eat mindlessly, while you have a million other things on your mind. Try and keep yourself in the moment and realize what you are putting in your mouth.
7. If you tend to have a sweet tooth, keep "healthier" sweets around like cubes of dark chocolate, chocolate covered fruits, or eat the SERVING size of your favorite candy. Also, drinking a cup of hot chocolate gives you protein and satisfies your sweet tooth! If salt is what does it for you, eat something that is salty but OK for you like salted nuts, seeds, or eat the small serving size bags of pretzels/chips but eat them with hummus to boost protein- it will keep you filled.
Finally, try to get adequate sleep (8 hours) which I know seems impossible sometimes, but your brain and body need that time to rest, try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise (ANY kind just to shut your brain off and work your muscles), drink your 8 glasses of water, and limit caffeine (I know you feel you need it, but it can make your stress worse!!) And, realize, when the stress is over, your routine can go back to normal, and if you have gained any weight, it will fall off- a drop in cortisol levels does amazing things for the body!
So, good luck to my friend- we will be working out together soon enough ;) and keep these tips in mind for the rest of you who will have their periods of stress in the future!
Yours in Good Health