Emotional eating, stress eating, comfort eating—it’s all the same thing at the end of the day: When you eat because of your emotions, rather than because your body actually needs nourishment, it can have disastrous effects on your health and weight loss progress. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself gaining weight quickly, making emotional eating one of the worst habits to have when trying to lose weight or improve your health in general.
1) Eat Three Small Meals a Day
Overeating at night is a common trigger of stress eating, so limit your evening meal to no more than 400 calories. Don’t eat within two hours of bedtime, either—you want your blood sugar level to be as stable as possible when you sleep so you wake up feeling refreshed.
2) Cut Out Sugar and Flour
Both sugar and flour elevate blood sugar levels, which leads to an increase in insulin levels. When your body is flooded with excess insulin, you might be tempted to reach for sweets or sugary carbs—making it harder than ever to keep off excess weight. If you’re really struggling with stress eating or emotional eating, eliminating these types of refined carbs can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and help keep your cravings at bay.
3) Avoid Binge-Eating Triggers
When you’re trying to lose weight, it can be tempting to cheat on your diet by binging on unhealthy foods. When you do succumb to these urges, it’s important that you learn how to avoid binge-eating triggers. One way is by filling your home with healthy alternatives. It will be hard for you to binge if there isn’t any junk food lying around!
4) Drink Water Between Meals
It’s easy to slip into mindless eating during meals, particularly when we’re eating with other people. To avoid overeating at mealtime, try keeping a glass of water near you (even if it’s just half a glass) and drink between bites. This will keep your mind occupied on staying hydrated instead of looking for something else to put in your mouth.
5) Use an App For Tracking Food Intake
There are a lot of great calorie-counting apps out there. Some, like Lose It!, track everything you eat or drink throughout your day; others, like MFP (My Fitness Pal) or MyPlate Calorie Tracker, only enter foods that can be found on MyPlate.
6) Keep Snacks Handy
When we’re under stress, it can be hard not to reach for a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream. But when we keep healthy snacks handy, we can prevent ourselves from making rash decisions. If you’re in need of a quick treat, try any one of these snacks that have 200 calories or fewer: carrots with hummus, an apple with peanut butter, yogurt with honey and walnuts, celery sticks filled with guacamole.
7) Set Reasonable Goals
If you’re feeling stressed out and your solution is to stuff yourself with cookies, don’t worry! We’ve all been there. To start overcoming emotional eating, set reasonable goals for yourself. Say, for instance, you have a stressful work meeting coming up in half an hour. Instead of indulging in a pint of ice cream, try taking a walk around your office building or playing some basketball at lunchtime—something that will calm your nerves before getting back to work.
8) Track Your Progress Every Week
Track your progress every week by noting down how much weight you’ve lost, what your body measurements are, or how much inches you’ve dropped. For example, if you want to lose 1 inch off of your waist, take a tape measure at exactly 9:00AM (before eating breakfast) on Monday morning. Every Monday morning after that day, take another measurement at exactly 9:00AM—if your waist hasn’t gone down by an inch then something is wrong!
9) Ask For Help
One of our favorite ways to prevent ourselves from stress eating is by asking others for help. Because, let’s be honest, when we’re having a hard time coping with life, sometimes we need someone else to help us out. Try reaching out to a friend or loved one when you feel yourself falling off track – they can help you work through your feelings in healthy ways that won’t lead to overeating.
10) Educate Yourself on Healthy Food Choices
First things first: Learn which foods are actually healthy, low-calorie alternatives to your favorite treats. We’re not saying you can’t ever have another doughnut again, but if you find yourself with an intense craving for sugar or carbs—which is often triggered by stress eating—it’s worth doing a little research about healthier options. For example, berries contain less sugar than most other fruits; plain yogurt contains less fat than ice cream; and Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt.