Emotional Hunger: How to Stop Eating Stress

You don’t have to go fast food to relieve stress

They say you are what you eat. But it is important not only to choose healthy food, but also to eat it right. In a calm state, we eat to replenish our strength, but in tense moments, food is perceived as a source of positive emotions. Trying to cheer up with delicious, but unhealthy food, we seize stress. This is called emotional seizure. Together with wellness coach and nutritionist Andrey Semeshov, we will tell you why it is harmful and how to stop running to the refrigerator when your nerves are overwhelmed.

Why do we seize stress?

People eat for two reasons. The first is to satisfy hunger and maintain energy levels in the body. The second is to drown out stress and unpleasant emotions. Moreover, in the second case, we most often choose something sweet or fatty. However, after eating, the problems do not disappear, but the feeling of guilt for uncontrolled gluttony is added to them.

One of the main causes of emotional seizure is hormones. When stressed, the body begins to produce cortisol, the so-called stress hormone. It sends a signal to the brain to mobilize – supposedly it is necessary to replenish energy in order to cope with life’s difficulties. That is why, instead of an apple or yogurt, you want to eat something sweet, salty or fatty.

According to Andrey Semeshov, in many cases, the habit of seizing stress goes back to childhood: when, as a reward for some success or to console, we are offered something tasty. Thus, a certain pattern is formed: if something upsets you, you need to reward yourself with a cookie or chocolate.

Another common reason lies in physiological characteristics, the nutritionist notes. The body’s response to stress is fairly standard – mobilization. For example, the blood supply is redistributed so that blood drains from the digestive system and rushes to the muscles. When the brain believes that the body is in potential danger, we have no time for food – we need to save ourselves. In this case, starting to chew something hard, we seem to try to turn the physiological reaction in the opposite direction, switch from the regime “we are in danger” to “everything is fine, we are eating.”

Distinguishing real hunger from the desire to seize stress is pretty easy. The first one develops gradually, you want not something specific, but eat in general. And after saturation, the brain gives the appropriate signal. While emotional hunger comes on suddenly, you only crave certain foods – like your favorite burger or fries. But you are unlikely to feel pleasure and satiety.

In addition, experiences negatively affect metabolism – they slow down metabolism, food is absorbed worse, and you gain extra pounds faster.

How to stop seizing stress?

Awareness of the problem is the first step towards solving it. First you need to figure out what triggers the uncontrolled absorption of food, and exclude this factor, be it fatigue, loneliness, boredom or problems at work. For example, a walk or dancing can help get rid of anxiety, a game with a pet or immersion in pleasant memories will help get rid of anxiety, a hot bath and a cup of chamomile tea will relieve fatigue, and a good book or favorite hobby will dispel boredom. There are other life hacks that can help you deal with emotional seizure.

Andrey: I advise my clients a banal method – before gutting the refrigerator, going to a workout or just walking around the house for an hour in the park. Having promised yourself that if the desire to eat everything that is not nailed down does not disappear, then immediately upon your return you will do just that. Practice shows that physical activity will allow you to effectively switch from experiences and the need to “seize stress” will disappear.

Don’t run away from problems

Instead of seizing troubles, we must get rid of them. Do you burn out at work, and when you come home, you collapse from fatigue? Perhaps it is worth changing such a job to a more relaxed one? Constant scandals with a loved one? So, it’s worth understanding the relationship and finding a way out of the situation.

If the problem cannot be eliminated, you need to develop a different attitude towards it – look for positive moments or approach the situation with humor. The main thing is to act sensibly and judiciously, not to remain captivated by emotions.

Go in for sports

Physical activity improves mood and gives a burst of energy, which means it is an indispensable tool in the fight against emotional stress. It’s not for nothing that athletic and fit people are less stressed. Unfortunately, due to internal experiences, many find it difficult to force themselves to go to the gym or work out at home. But you can always find the time and energy to take a walk in the evening or go dancing.

Sleep is just as important. Without proper rest, the body will try to replenish energy in other ways, and the easiest of them is to absorb sweets. A healthy eight-hour sleep will help control appetite and cut back on unnecessary visits to the refrigerator.

Remove everything harmful from your eyes

It’s hard to resist the temptation when the fridge is filled with sausage and chips and the kitchen is tempting with chocolate and chips. It will be easier to break the vicious circle “stress – food – stress” if you remove all unhealthy food from your eyes and replace it with something more useful – vegetables, fruits, honey.

Moreover, if you are nervous, shopping should be postponed. Otherwise, come home with bags full of buns and cookies.

No coffee and alcohol

Coffee and alcohol can only provide temporary comfort and energy. In fact, they will not help to cope with stress, but will only deplete the nervous system more. Better to drink water, fresh juices and herbal teas.

Don’t forget to rest

Dedicate at least half an hour a day to relaxing. This can be meditation, breathing practices, or a hot candlelit bath. Such rest will help to unwind and relieve the accumulated tension.

Don’t go on a diet

Diet is stress in itself, so during difficult periods of life, you should not torment yourself with this. Eat right, but occasionally indulge in something delicious. The main thing in this business is moderation.

Listen to yourself

Intuitive eating is a nutritional practice that dates back to the 1990s. Try to listen to the signals that the body sends during hunger – a breakdown, profuse salivation, headaches. Eat when you really want to eat, not out of sadness or boredom. And do not sit at the table just like that – get up as soon as you feel full.