February 5, 2018

Has Your Stress Eating Gotten Out of Control? Take these Steps to Overcome Binge Eating

Written by Rachel Eddins

Woman stress eating

More and more people are stress eating.

If you’ve been reaching for the Ben & Jerry’s more often lately, you’re not alone.

Overall, our lives seem busier, more rushed and more stressful. Food is a common go-to for coping with feelings of stress and overwhelm.

It may seem difficult to stop turning to food for comfort. But you don’t have to accept that you’ll continue gaining weight.

Try these tips to overcome binge eating.

Don’t Focus on “Dieting”

Binge eating has psychological components. It’s not just a simple matter of needing to develop better eating habits or cut back on food. Therefore, traditional dieting is not likely to help you manage binge eating disorder. Strict diets that limit entire food groups or limit your calories too much can result in more binges. Rather, focus on eating on  a consistent rhythm and eating enough at each meal. This will help keep your body balanced and reduce cravings.

Realize that Binge Eating is an Eating Disorder

When you think of eating disorders, you may think of starving or forced purging, also called anorexia and bulimia. But binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in Houston and the U.S. at large.

A supportive therapist can help you manage your eating disorder. When you need to overcome a binge eating disorder, you can’t do it alone.

Find Healthy Ways to Ditch Stress

Stress is one of the primary triggers for binge eating episodes. Eating for stress is completely rational. When you’re stressed, food can be a way to calm, distract, give your hands something to do when you have anxious energy, and give your body a way to relax.

Food can also slow down racing or scattered thoughts and it’s a socially acceptable way to give yourself a break. It’s normal to feel more relaxed after eating, and to seek food for this reason. In fact, when we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, and we’re full of the hormones that activate our fight or flight responses. Eating activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to relax. And, food does provide the calories we need to increase our energy and focus.

The downside is that this relaxation only lasts a short while. Additionally, if you aren’t making mindful food choices you might not be giving your body the nutrients it needs to sustain balance and energy over the long term. And this will only lead to more fatigue, stress, and cravings, which then leads to more impulsive eating.

It’s time to find healthier ways to manage your stress. Try some of these suggestions:

  • Get out of the house more. Spending time around other people will likely make you feel like you’re part of a community. Consider volunteering to help others, which feels good and fills your time.
  • Turn off the news and cut back on social media. Both are very anxiety-producing. If you choose to still participate, at least limit your exposure before bed
  • Do things to take your mind off stress and worries. Occupy yourself with activities that will distract you and keep you busy. Get regular exercise, write in a journal and take up yoga or meditation to calm your mind.

Practice Mindful Eating Habits

Few people intend to have eating binges. They develop by accident when you’re under stress and aren’t paying attention to what you eat.

Watching TV or browsing the Internet while snacking can make you feel stressed out.  This can lead to mindless snacking. Decide that you’ll only eat in controlled environments, like at the dinner table.

Give full attention to whatever you are eating.Even if you’ve only got one minute to eat, give your food your full attention for that minute with no multitasking. Try to experience whatever you are eating fully – the sight, smell, texture, taste, and feel in your body.

Start with one meal or snack a day and practice giving it your full attention, even if just for a few minutes.

Set Boundaries

Are you doing too much? Taking on too much responsibility for others? Or giving more than you receive? Stress can surface when our boundaries are too loose or too rigid. Decide that you are worthy to have your needs met as well and consider saying, ‘let me think about that” instead of “yes” to requests. Identify what gives you pleasure and determine how you can add it in your life in small ways each day. Let go of perfectionism!

Get the Right Support System

You need supportive people around you when life is stressful. Now is the time to draw close to your friends and reach out to new ones. Houston is a world-class city with friendly residents and amazing resources. You can also talk to a therapist to help you get through these difficult times.

Binge eating disorder is more likely to flare up when you’re under stress. But you don’t have to remain trapped in the struggle. When you manage your reactions to life, you’ll find it easier to manage your eating habits, too.

Want more help with food and body issues?

Attend our group program, Make Peace with Food, Mind, Body & Emotions or virtual program, Beyond Emotional Eating to move past food and body issues.

Click here to learn more about individual therapy for binge eating disorder.

Read more: 10+ strategies to stop emotional eating. 

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