Just about anything can become a vice, and food is no exception. People can become dependent on food for their mental health , and this can actually be harmful in the long-run, despite the short-term positives that it can have on your mood.
Stress eating is consuming food in response to stress, especially when you are not hungry. Image/Shutterstock
Stress-eating, also known as comfort-eating, is a type of behavior that is centered around using food as a tool to cope with negative feelings and emotions.
In general, these “comfort foods” tend to be ones that are high in fats and sugars and are calorically-dense, and this can provide a sense of relief, not only because they taste good, but they can also cause a temporary energy boost, and this can lead to someone having a better mood.
This can sound great on paper, but there are a handful of problems that come from comfort eating.
The first one is that it’s a temporary sensation and that it’s not a practical or effective long-term solution for coping with stress , anxiety , depression , or other mental health issues .
People can become dependent on food because of the short-lived sense of relief that it can provide. Comfort foods have the potential to be addictive, and consequently, this can have adverse effects on your physical health .
Weight gain can be a common concern for people with mental health conditions, and being overweight or obese has a myriad of issues that come along with it, and therefore, healthier choices must be made to combat them.
Below you will learn ways to address maladaptive eating behaviors, like comfort eating, and overcome them.
At its core, stress-eating is a coping mechanism for negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and it indicates that the individual doesn’t have healthier and more effective coping skills to deal with them.
Therapy is designed to give you the tools to deal with the issues that you are experiencing, and there are several different methods that can help people who are feeling stressed out, such as cognitive behavior therapy, interpersonal therapy, and narrative therapy, which you can learn about here:
*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.
Finding ways to keep yourself busy and take things off your mind can be an essential part of breaking bad eating habits, like stress-eating.
This means that you should strive to find hobbies that can distract you from eating since many people eat while they are bored, and also give you a sense of fulfillment, so you don’t feel the need to indulge in food.
Getting a physical exercise is always a good option in this regard as it can reduce stress, burn excess calories and help you lose weight and get into better shape, which are tangible goals that can help boost your self-esteem.
Lastly, one of the most important parts of putting an end to stress eating is to replace the foods that encourage you to keep chasing that energy rush and inflated mood with healthier foods that give you a more consistent source of energy throughout the day.
If your energy levels are fluctuating, you’re not going to feel your best and this can affect your mood and productivity as you go about your business every day.
Making the switch to making more wholesome choices in your diet can have a very positive effect on your mindset and it can decrease the need to eat processed food and drink to feel better.
If you struggle with eating to cope with negativity in your life, you’re not alone, and there are ways to break out of the cycle. Hopefully, this article has given you some useful advice on how to get help with stress or comfort eating so that you can feel your best mentally and physically.
Sam Kramer is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, Six Sigma Green Belt Certified, and Certified Sports Nutritionis Read Full Bio