Five Strategies to Stop Emotional Eating

Standing at the freezer and sighing after a heated argument with your spouse, you look for ice cream. You sit on the couch and mindlessly munch through a whole bag of chips after a stressful day.

This is called emotional eating . You might have heard it called "stress eating," but "emotional" is more accurate, says registered dietitian Anna Kippen, MS, RDN, LD. Many negative emotions - including anger, sadness and stress - can trigger bad eating habits.

Problem is, the feel-good food you reach for may actually cause you to feel worse. There are solutions to make sure that emotions don't become diet-related damage over the long-term.

1. Get down to the root cause

Short-term problems can be a bad day at work, or an argument with a friend. Emotional eating may also be a result of more serious issues. You may also have long-term stress, anxiety , depression , and other issues. If these apply to you, you may benefit from counseling, stress management, exercise and other techniques.

These strategies can be helpful. However, it is important to address your true cause of emotional eating.

2. Ask Why You Eat

When walking towards the vending machines, refrigerators, and pantry doors, ask yourself this simple question: Am I truly hungry?

Kippen recommends rating your hunger using a 5-point scale. One is if you don't feel hungry, five means you are so hungry you could eat all the foods you dislike.

She says, "It is too easy to dive into mindless food, but if you ask yourself these questions, at least you will recognize your motivation."

You should eat healthy snacks within fifteen minutes or healthy meals within thirty minutes, if you have a hunger level of three or four. She recommends that you try a different activity such as going on a walk or drinking fruity herbal tea if your hunger levels are lower.

According to her, "Becoming aware of your hunger levels can help you curb excess snacking and make smarter choices."

3) Swap Out Your Worst Snacks

A large bag of greasy chips is not something you should have at all times. That's good, because overeating processed snacks can raise your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Stock popcorn with salt and oil for salty snacks. Whole grains are one of the best sources for the positive feel-good hormone, serotonin. It will provide you with antioxidants, which can help boost your immunity system. Also, it has far fewer calories that chips. You can also enjoy roasted chickpeas which provide protein and fiber, as well as a crunchy snack option.

If stress, anger or sadness trigger your sweet tooth, remember this: The sugar high comes with a low afterward. The low could lead to more cravings in the future. And, sweets and processed foods can even make certain mental concerns, including symptoms of depression, worse.

Kippen suggests keeping some sweet fruits out there as an alternate to your favourite candy or cake. Studies show that fruits and vegetables are more appealing when they're easily accessible.

She also suggests keeping frozen berries in your freezer that you can use to quickly make healthy sorbet.

4) Choose Foods That Fight Stress

Did you know that hot tea can be offered to people in difficult situations? There's more than just soothing steam in tea. Antioxidants are often found in tea. And green tea, matcha tea and white tea contain an amino acid called L-theanine that may help reduce stress levels.

Try dark cherries if you are someone who likes to snack at night . They are a delicious sweet treat that can also increase your natural levels of sleep-promoting melatonin. Salmon and other omega-3-fatty fish may also help you sleep.

There are many other foods that can help maintain a healthy mind, including dark chocolate (72% or more), whole grains and legumes as well as fruits and vegetables. "The key is stocking up on foods that help with your stress or emotions, and avoiding processed junk that might make you feel worse," Kippen says.

Make an Emergency Package

If you're prone to stress-related snacking, prepare for it.

Don't, for example, eat anything straight out of the box. Grabbing snacks straight from the packaging is a recipe to overindulge and binge eating.

Pre-portion snack items such as popcorn, nuts and sliced vegetables into bags or containers. You can use these as your emergency snack kits or your regular snack choices.

These tips are not enough. Ask for medical attention if you have any emotional problems. A doctor can help you tackle stress, depression, anger or any other negative emotions with a full treatment plan.