You’ve been putting in extra-long days at work. Your fiancé is really pissing you off. You have 500 things on your to-do list. So what do you do? You make a beeline to the fridge and stuff your face with sugary, carb-laden foods you know you’ll regret later. Stress eating is super common, but luckily, there are strategies to keep it at bay. Here are seven mindful eating techniques from chef, nutritionist and reiki master Serena Poon.
1. Check In with Your Hunger Level
“Are you eating because you are actually hungry? Or because of a habit or emotion?” Poon says that becoming aware of your body’s sensations is a great first step in empowered eating. The more in touch you are with why you’re actually reaching for that box of Oreos, the better you can control unhealthy eating habits.
2. Incorporate Meditation into Your Daily Routine
This one’s about being less stressed overall. “Meditation is an incredible tool that allows us to shift our state of mind,” Poon tells us. “In my experience, a daily meditation practice, even if only for a few minutes, can be very effective at reducing overall stress, keeping us focused and grounded, reducing stress-related eating habits.”
3. Take a Break
According to Poon, “If you start feeling the urge to eat away your stress, take a short break from what you are doing.” Go for a walk around the block, your house or your office. “Changing up our physiology can have an immediate effect on our thoughts. These practices take just a few minutes and can help you disconnect from the stress.”
4. Load Up on Plant-Based Foods
You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind”? Yeah, that goes for junk food too. During times of high stress, Poon recommends stocking your kitchen with foods like root veggies, nuts and avocados to keep your energy levels up.
5. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
“Eating habits tend to decline with disrupted sleep,” Poon warns. “When we don’t get enough sleep, our adrenals become imbalanced, our cortisol levels rise and we find ourselves wanting to indulge our cravings.” Getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night can help you manage stress eating.
6. Stay Hydrated
Drinking lots of water is always important, but even more so during times of high stress. Poon says that often, when think we’re hungry or tired, we’re actually dehydrated. “Instead of that sugary drink that we think will calm us down, reach for a glass of water, or if you prefer warm drinks, a cup of tea.”
7. Be Kind to Yourself
Stress eating happens, and it’s not the end of the world. The key, Poon stresses, is to remember that emotional eating is super common, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself and try not to beat yourself up too much about it.