Eating and Stress
Source: Linda Gilmour Kessler, RD
With our busy lives these days, many people struggle with stress eating and weight gain. Eating should be joyful and not a source of frustration and confusion. Craving food when you are feeling stressed instead of hungry is called emotional eating. To take the fight out of food, try the three-step approach of spotting the problem, getting reliable facts and seeking support from a registered dietitian.
Spot the Problem:
Many of us turn to food for comfort when we are stressed. This can cause even more stress and anxiety when we feel guilty for stress eating. Stress causes us to crave comfort foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar and salt instead of nutrient-dense foods. When we have too much stress, we also tend to come home from work with no plan for supper and we mindlessly grab whatever food is available.
Get the Facts:
Managing stress by doing something you enjoy and engaging in self care will help prevent stress eating. Listen to music, take a walk, read a book, talk to a friend or do some physical activity.
Choosing healthy foods is an important strategy to manage stress. Stress eating and choosing foods like chips, baked goods or foods with excess caffeine will deplete your energy level or give you a short-term boost followed by a crash. This ultimately leaves you feeling more stressed.
Planning a mid-late afternoon nutrient-dense snack that contains nutrient dense foods with some protein and fibre will help prevent you from coming home from work or school starving. Try a piece of fruit and a slice of cheese or some Greek yogurt with berries and ground flaxseed.
Planning for meals, especially supper, can alleviate weeknight stress and ensure that meals will be healthy. Prevent the after work or school stress eating binge by figuring out your supper meals a week in advance, purchasing the required groceries on the weekend. Cutting vegetables and preparing meals ahead of time is also a great strategy.
Learning to eat mindfully – when you pay attention to what you are eating and really see, smell and taste your food, you learn to manage your stress eating.
Registered dietitians are coaches who help people learn about how to manage stress eating, how to eat mindfully and how to eat healthy for a healthy weight. You can find a dietitian at www.dietitians.ca/find.
Adapted from Dietitians of Canada - Nutrition Month 2017