We all race home and find the dog peed on the floor, the toddler’s finger painted all over your dining room table, and the traffic took twice the time as normal. What do most people do to cope? If you’re an American, you likely turn to food. Stress eating—taking the edge off of your day with some comforting albeit unhealthy food—is taking the country by storm. After a couple of years of this, the weight creeps up, the inflammation kicks in, and you’re in for a full body assault. It’s not good for the body or the mind—so why do we do it?
“We view food as a comfort,” says Dr. Heather Bartos, of be. Women’s Health & Wellness. “That pizza, those nachos, that ice cream play a biochemistry trick on our brain. But we can outthink it.”
To do so, Dr. Bartos suggests reframing how you view the food you eat.
Dr. Bartos recommends 5 ways to reframe how you look at food. You can implement these right now to break free from the stress eating. Get ready to jump back into the driver’s seat:
- Especially about how we’re feeling. Sometimes we feel icky or have a blah “off” day. We might be cranky and don’t know why. We don’t want to feel it. The first step is to say: “I’m feeling off. What is my body communicating to me?” A feeling is just a feeling, not good or bad. We can shift that feeling and say, “Huh. Is there something deep down that’s making me feel this way because I have a stressor that’s driving this behavior?” Take a moment each day and think before you reach for food-journaling. What was I craving? How was I feeling?
- How to manage the stress? Waiting until the end of the day to relieve our stress is a bad idea. Close your eyes, take deep breaths. Blow away all the stress after thinking about your happiest moment. Turn up the brightness in the picture. At the office? Hop into the restroom and take a calming moment for yourself. In other words, don’t want until later in the day!
- Limit distractions during Otherwise you’re 70% more likely to overeat. Eating in front of the TV is one of the worst things you can do. If you sit in the same place doing the same thing every night, your brain automatically associates sitting in front of the television with ice cream or whatever you eat there. You will be fighting within yourself because your brain already made that connection. That’s why it’s challenging to break the cycle, but it’s not difficult: move to another spot at your table, 2 chairs down to form a new connection in your brain. Be more mindful in your eating habits. It’s much better to eat at the table and not on your phone.
- Choose your words. Don’t say things like “I’m just fat,” “I’m just lazy,” or “I’m not motivated.” We are creators, and we create our reality through the things we say to ourselves. Did you know that our subconscious is 5-7 years old? Our core beliefs are driving us and when we embed negativity into those beliefs, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Be mindful of the way you speak to yourself. Use the phrase, “I choose…” when thinking about your habits. Remember: negative thinking is habitual. Instead of negative thoughts, try some of these on for size: “I am healthy.” “I am fit.” “I am strong.” “I am a loving person. I am attracting abundance.”
- Change the story about food. Change how you think about food by changing the names of things. Such as a Whopper with cheese, which might become a “sick-cheeseburger.” Shift your thinking about the foods you no longer want to eat to change the emotions around the food. For example, pizza might symbolize friends and fun and youth, but if it makes you feel bad, perhaps a better way to view it is in terms of a once-in-a-while treat or a food to avoid altogether. What would happen if you shifted your pizza thoughts?
“Each one of us has the power to shift the emotion with food,” says Dr. Bartos. “Rethinking how you will feel and understanding how your body processes the foods out there puts you back in control.”