Published on April 05, 2019

Hungry or Stressed?

If you ease your stress with a handful of chocolate or a big bag of salty chips, you’re not alone. Emotional eating is a common stress reliever. Here’s how to keep it under control.

woman in pajamas eating cake looking as if she doesn't want to get caughtStress triggers the systems in the body that are associated with metabolism, cognition and reward.

Women who are constantly in a state of high stress tend to reach for comfort foods (high in fat, sugar or both) more often than women who experience stress less frequently. That’s because their cortisol levels, the hormone the body releases during stressful events, are elevated for a longer period of time. When your cortisol levels stay high, you eat greater amounts of unhealthy foods, store more fat and gain weight.

You don’t have to give up the sweet treats and salty snacks. Just being mindful of your habits can help you gain more control over emotional eating.

Pay attention to your snacking habits. Take note of when you grab food. For many women, it’s at the end of a long day. Keeping a food journal for a few days is a great way to gain insight into your eating habits and begin to recognize unhealthy patterns. Try prepping some portioned snacks. You can still get a quick fix, but you’re less likely to binge.

Prepare healthier snacks. Stock your pantry with lower-calorie options of your favorite snacks. If you have a sweet tooth, try a piece of fruit and a protein source, such as an apple with peanut butter. If you love savory snacks, try hummus with veggies.

Practice portion control. Resist the urge to sit on the couch with a bag of chips in your lap. Instead, check the serving size and put that amount on a plate. You might be surprised at how satisfying just a taste can be.

If your daily diet needs an overhaul, NKCH’s registered dietitians offer outpatient nutrition counseling services. You’ll need a referral, so talk with your primary care doctor first.

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