In this Food as Medicine episode, we explore the underlying stress that makes us want to use food as the antidote, and we dive into practical, proven ways to overcome stress eating.
If food becomes our only tool to manage stress, we find ourselves in big trouble – with resulting health and emotional issues.
Just as if we try to fix something using a hammer when the right tool is a wrench, we'd end up not getting the job done, and often having some clean up work to do from using the wrong tool.
Years of emotional eating to numb stress and pain or to avoid doing the things that truly feed us (often having nothing to do with food) require payback and healing.
The first step to overcoming this habit with grace is to bring awareness to it because we cannot improve that of which we are not aware.
Determine What Kind of Eater You Are
Most Americans (myself included) are fast eaters, and we really need to take a few deep breaths before eating to slow down our minds and prepare our bodies to consume a meal so that the body can digest and assimilate the nutrients we give it.
Know the Difference Between Mindful or Mindless Eating
Studies show that we eat 30% more when we're not paying attention to our food.
On average Americans spend 20 minutes a day eating ALL of their meals. Europeans average 2.5 hours a day on mealtimes. So, Americans have been shown to eat 30% more in those 20 minutes than a European eats in 2.5 hours at the table.
The moral of this story? Chew your food twenty times each bite. Put your fork down in between bites. Talk, breath, communicate, and enjoy during meal times.
As so many people are driven by productivity, we need these reminders all the time.
Implementing these three suggestions are what helped me and thousands of my clients improve their relationship with food and self to overcome stress eating. I sincerely hope they help you too.
1. Food Journal – Write it Down
Write down everything you eat for seven days to bring consciousness and awareness to your habits. Include the time it took to eat that meal and how you felt emotionally and physically before and after the meal.
Do not judge yourself, your eating habits, or your emotions, but rather be an objective observer there to help and see where upgrades can be made to improve your physical and emotional health with food.
2. Consume One Mindful Meal or Snack Daily
This means choosing complete presence with a meal. Your mind is focused on the food and the act of eating. You are not reading a magazine, browsing on your computer, or watching TV. You take three deep breaths before starting your meal, chew your food 20 times each bite, and put your fork down while food is in your mouth. You also pay close attention to the smell, taste, and texture of the food as you eat it, as well as to your level of satiation. You consume foods that are truly nourishing to your mind, body, and spirit instead of just serving a biological function, and you stop eating when you're 80% full.
3. Know Your Primary Foods and Load Up On Them
Understand that physical hunger strikes below the neck. When you feel like eating but know you are not physically hungry, explore what else your body, mind, or soul really want.
Would a walk out in nature provide the fresh air and perspective you're craving? How about a talk with a close friend or taking steps to build a deeper connection with your partner or spouse? Would a creative excursion or endeavor feed your soul in a way a gelato and croissant never could? How about fostering a deeper trust and faith in your higher power to be able to relax, let go, and take life a bit less seriously?
The above are your three steps to overcome stress eating and start enjoying your food and your life more.
Snacks mentioned in this blog:
Turmeric Paleo Wraps with almond butter or avocado
Trail mix with raw cacao nibs or stevia-sweetened chocolate chips, raw pumpkin seeds, and goji berries
Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe