How to Combat Stress Eating This Season

In this blog, Coach Julie shares the HALT method to manage emotional eating during stressful times. 

There are some days that really push us to our limits – we run late at work, we get a parking ticket, we have a misunderstanding with our partner. These tough situations can leave us feeling anxious, angry, or sad and in need of a boost. For many of us, this comes in the form of stress eating. 

I want to start off by saying that it’s perfectly normal and understandable when this happens. Food – especially those high in sugar, salt, and fat – can be an important part of our family rituals and are often coded as a source of comfort or love. These “comfort foods” increase serotonin in our brain, which can give us a temporary lift but don’t address the issue we’re dealing with. Often, these foods end up hurting our health in the long run. That’s why it’s important that we take a moment to be mindful when we feel stress eating coming on. One helpful way to do that is by using the HALT method:

H- Am I truly Hungry or has reaching for a snack become a Habit?

Often we can confuse the message, “Oh, that tastes good and I want some!” with “I’m hungry.” It’s important to take a moment and check in with how we’re feeling. We can get caught up in mindless eating when we’ve created habits or routines around eating that are not related to our body’s needs. If your stomach is growling, and you’ve determined that you are really hungry that’s OK! We don’t always need to feel full. However, if your next meal is not close by, you may want to consider a small, healthy snack.
 
Time to do an Attitude check
Stress eating can be triggered by many things but tends to come up most when we’re anxious or angry. It’s important to pay attention to see if a pattern emerges that triggers your snacking. Whatever the trigger, it’s helpful to find other ways to give yourself the comfort and control you seek. It might be connecting with a friend, writing in your journal, or making a plan to tackle the situation in the future. Physical activity can help too, but often, seeking rest and support can be the best ways to support yourself.
 
L- Are you feeling Lonely?
Too often people reach for food for companionship. If you’re feeling lonely, take steps to reach out to others for connection. That can include friends, family, neighbors, or even an online community. If those are not options, reach out to your community organizations to see if there are volunteer opportunities you can enjoy. Spending time with a pet is another great option.

T- Are you Tired? Thirsty?  
Finally, it’s important to check in on your other physiological needs – sleep and water. A lack of both can often be experienced in the body as hunger. Science has shown that a lack of quality sleep can increase our hunger hormone, ghrelin. This can have us reaching for those energy-dense snacks the next day. Similarly, our bodies can also interpret the signals for thirst as hunger. If you suspect that might be the case, drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes before reaching for the snack if you’re still hungry. 

In summary, staying present with our body and connecting with its needs can be a powerful way to cut back on stress eating. We lower our reliance on willpower and can give ourselves the comfort and support we truly crave. 

 

At Plantable we know that stress eating happens. That’s why we offer unlimited access to our coaches to support you during those moments you need a little extra support and accountability. Connect with one of our Plantable coaches coach@plantable.com or 646-974-8200 to learn more about how we can help you build healthy habits that last.