March is National Nutrition Month originally created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help Americans make informed food choices and develop healthy eating and physical activity habits.
For many, one hurdle in developing healthy eating habits is chronic emotional or stress eating. According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, nearly 40% of Americans report “stress eating” at least once per week. This is because the hormone released by stress, cortisol, increases appetite which can lead to increased food consumption, fat storage, and weight gain.
Reducing Stress Eating
Emotional eating can lead to overeating which can cause obesity. The foods are commonly eaten when stress eating, fatty, sugary “comfort foods”, harm your body beyond just weight gain including fatigue, irritability, lack of motivation, headaches, and feelings of nervousness, depression, and anxiety.
For those looking to implement long-lasting improvements to their eating habits and reduce the frequency of emotional eating, applying the 3 “Rs” is a place to start.
Reflect on eating habits both good and bad and identify triggers for unhealthy eating.
Replace unhealthy eating practices with healthier ones.
Reinforce your new, healthier eating behaviors.
In addition to spending time on the 3 “Rs”, those who suffer from frequent stress eating can work to implement the following day-to-day tips for managing their emotional eating response.
- Implement mindful eating – acknowledge that your craving may be a result of stress and determine if you are truly hungry.
Curb over-eating risk by preparing healthy snacks and meals ahead of time to regulate portion size.
- Choose healthy snack options high in protein to curb hunger for longer periods.
- Monitor portion size – instead of taking the whole box with you to the couch, place a serving size into a bowl.