As a Nutritionist, a common complaint I hear is about stress eating. Which essentially means eating in response to stress and emotions.
Thankfully we can make certain food and lifestyle choices to help overcome stress eating and here I share my top tips on how to do so!
Identify your stressors
Working on the stressors in your life is a necessary first step when seeking to address stress eating.
I recommend taking the time to write down all of your stressors and putting a plan in place on how to either reduce stress (if possible) or how to be more resilient and be able to cope with stress better. This is where eating a nutritious, balanced diet and exercise come in handy, as they’re natural stress reducers.
Exercise is a fantastic outlet for stress and the best kind of exercise to lower stress is low intensity exercise, which focuses on the breath – for example yoga and Pilates. Try these stress busting yoga poses.
Similarly, taking a leisurely stroll outdoors in a green space, has been shown to lower our stress hormone cortisol (here are more benefits of getting outdoors). Prioritise you and schedule exercise into your daily routine, keep it achievable and fun so it doesn’t come second place to other commitments.
Eat adequate protein
Adequate protein is crucial for satiety and keeping blood sugar stable. This in turn helps us to overcome insatiable appetite and helps us eat according to hunger and less likely in response to stress.
Healthy protein options at enjoy at eat meal include eggs, cheese/yoghurt, nuts and seeds, lean chicken/fish/red meat, legumes and tofu.
For those who are busy, hemp seeds are a particularly good source of protein as hemp also contains fibre and essential fats. The seeds can be tossed into smoothies, sprinkled on salads or added to yoghurt/fruit as a quick snack.
Address any nutritional inadequacies
Being deficient in nutrients and minerals, which help with neurotransmitter synthesis and also our body’s ability to deal with stress can be a trigger for stress eating.
If you have eaten a restricted diet for years, including too much processed food or an unbalanced vegan diet, go to your GP for a blood test to check your levels and aim to get a variety of foods on a daily basis.
Skipping meals and running on empty takes a toll not only on physical health but also mental health and our ability to cope with stress.
If you are guilty of skipping meal, aim to eat every 3 hours. This will also help to stabilise blood sugar, support digestive and energy levels.
It’s important to not arrive at mealtime starving as you may be risk of overeating or eating past satiety, especially if in a stressed state.
Practice intuitive eating
Eating intuitively means eating with full appreciation and awareness of the food in front of you and according to natural hunger cues. If you regularly eat at your desk or on the run in-between meetings, the body is less likely to register you have eaten. Not to mention being distracted and stressed will impair digestion.
Prioritise your nutrition and step away from the office or any other commitment and allow yourself the time and space to eat in a relaxed environment.
Reach out and seek professional help
Finally, but very importantly, if stress eating starts to impact your daily life, whether you feel physically ill, depressed or start to isolate your self from others – it is time to get help. Seek help from a trained professional such as a GP, psychologist and/or Dietician/Nutritionist.
We all experience stress at different points. You’re not alone. The key is to find positive ways to manage that pressure that works well for you.
Zoe Bingley- Pullin is a celebrity chef and nutritionist who is also one of the experts on Channel 7’s House of Wellness. She is also the author of several successful cookbooks.