Top tips on how to resist comfort eating

Doughnuts are a comfort food to many.

Doughnuts are a comfort food to many.

1
Have your say

A lot of people suffer or have suffered from stress. It can be caused by a lot of things, like moving house, financial obligations, getting married, family, being unhappy in your job, having a heavy work load.

Whatever the dilemma, the human reaction is to comfort yourself to make yourself feel better.

You know, when you feel like you have no option but to bury your head in a big bag of crisps and finish off a tub of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting? Or when you visit the kitchen for, well … whatever’s there.

Here’s why food is your go-to for stress – and how to stop the cycle.

This Is Why You Turn to Food When You’re Stressed:

When you’re stressed your body releases cortisol, which increases your appetite. Your appetite is ramped up even more if you’re anxiety is causing you to lose out on sleep too.

Unfortunately, that anxiety-induced hunger can have long-term consequences for your waistline.

When you’re under stress, you often feel out of control and overwhelmed – and that can affect your eating habits, So it’s no surprise that you go after junk food like a hungry lion, rather than keeping up your normally healthy habits. You’re worried about the past or the future – not what you’re eating in the present.

Stress also contributes towards lack of focus. That’s why getting stuck into a family size chocolate bar always feels easier than actually coming up with a plan for how to tackle that super tough work project.

When Junk Food Is Calling Your Name

It would be great if we craved carrots and celery sticks when we’re stressed. But, instead we crave high-carb, high-fat foods like takeaways, bread, cookies, ice cream etc. The reason for this is because it increases feel-good hormone dopamine.

How to Stop Stress Eating

1. Focus on the real issue.

We all know food is just a crutch when we’re stressed. Stress eating is not the primary problem, there’s normally an underlying issue. Ask yourself ‘How do I feel?’ or ‘What do I need?’ to figure out what’s really getting under your skin.

2. Think long-term.

Take a minute to focus on the future (whether that means recalling your weight loss goals, or how great you want to look on holiday next month) before you give in to stress eating. It can help get you out of the moment so you make healthier food choices instead of giving in to the temptation of a tasty treat.

3. Be kind to yourself.

Self-compassion can decrease stress eating. When you’re a kind, understanding friend to yourself, it’s easier to resist the urge to try to disconnect through stress eating. If you do stress eat, promise that you won’t beat yourself up and understand that it happens to everyone sometimes. That can help stop you from eating out of failure and help you make better choices later.

4. If all else fails …

Go ahead and indulge. Food is a lovely, comforting thing. So if you’re going to do it anyway, really enjoying it. Sit down, let yourself relax, and taste the ice cream. Of course, do so in moderation. Savour a small brownie rather than the whole batch.

Your Trainer: Graham Low, owner of East Coast Fitness, is an award-winning personal trainer based in Seaham. The ex-professional footballer was nominated for the Small Business of the Year and Leisure Awards at the Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards last year. Graham won the Leisure Award at the North East Hotels Association Awards while working as gym manager at Seaham Hall in 2012. For personal training, boot camps, small group training and online programmes email graham@eastcoast-fitness.com or visit www.eastcoast-fitness.com