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Do you stress eat?

If you have a tendency to eat when stressed, it can be helpful to explore where that habit started.

Many of our habits are learned, including our eating habits. If you’re currently struggling with changing your relationship with food, it’s worthwhile to spend some time thinking about how that relationship was formed.

Consider the following:

  • As a child, what were your caretakers' relationships with food like?

  • What types of meals did you typically eat together, and what occasions did you celebrate with food?

  • Were you encouraged to eat everything that was on your plate?

  • Were you shamed or made to feel guilty when you went back to get seconds?

  • Do you recall any moments or instances that might have shaped your current relationship with food, and the way you use food to cope with emotions?

Culturally, we think of food as a reward. We celebrate with ice cream as children, get a lollipop at the doctor’s office, and have pizza parties in school. These highly-palatable foods train us to associate happiness with high sugar content and simple carbs.

So, it's no wonder you’re reaching for sugar and carbs when you’re feeling low! The next time you’re about to reward yourself after a long day with a trip to the drive-thru, consider making dinner with a loved one instead. Spending time fueling your mental and social needs will benefit your overall health, and help you to reduce using food as a means to temporarily improve your mental state.

When it comes to any health concern, it's usually helpful to unpack your cognitive process. This can involve investigating your current habits and analyzing them. To explore emotional eating, start by keeping a log or journal of what you eat, and how you feel before and after you eat. Whenever you use food to cope with stress, add a note about how you felt. If there are negative thoughts running through your head as you decide what to eat, write those down too. Additionally, take note of how filling or satisfying the food is, and whether your choices influence your mood in any way.

The more information you collect, the better you’ll be able to understand your thought patterns, uncover habits, and make connections between your mood and your food.

If you'd like more tips on combating stress eating, let me know and I'll provide you with additional resources.

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