How to Eat Healthily During Stressful Situations
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sunita Pattani MNCS Dip. CP
27th September, 2012
Do you find yourself eating more when you are stressed? Or do you find it difficult to eat mindfully and healthily when life gets busy? Well, read on to find out how you can incorporate a piece of peace into your life, instead of a piece of cake…
“But Sunita, I just don’t get it. I can manage my eating when life is good, but as soon as I encounter stressful situations, I eat! Why can’t eating just be simple all the time?”
This is a common challenge that many of my clients face on a regular basis. The thing is, that many people have developed a pattern whereby they turn to food in order to numb themselves. They tend to use food as a coping mechanism and as a way of dealing with stressful situations. So what can you do if you find yourself in a similar situation?
1. Recognise that emotions are a part of life.
Quite often people turn to food because they don’t want to face the challenge or the uncomfortable experience that has come their way. The only issue with this strategy is that it is short lived, and most of the time unhealthy. Once the initial pleasure of the food has worn off, you are most likely to still be faced with the same challenging issue, as well as possibly some additional guilt about the food that you have just indulged in.
It’s important to realise that emotions are a part of life. We can’t guarantee what tomorrow will bring, but we can choose how to respond. So, the next time that you are faced with a challenge and find yourself reaching for the food, just stop for a moment and ask yourself whether you’re willing to face and experience the pain instead. A good thing to remember is that emotional discomfort is cyclic, which means that it doesn’t last forever!
2. Take some time as often as you can to eat mindfully.
No matter how stressful life becomes, it’s important for you to nourish yourself appropriately. If you’re able to, try and eat at least one meal a day mindfully. Take some time to prepare the meal, sit down and really enjoy it. Notice the colour, texture and aroma of the meal. How does the food taste and feel in your body?
Many of my clients tell me that sometimes they don’t realise that they are engaging in stressful eating until the experience is over. When you become more aware and connected to your eating experience, you’ll find that you’ll be able to recognise how, when and why you eat. When you are able to do this, then you are able to make a conscious choice of whether you wish to continue to eat emotionally during stressful situations.
The key thing to remember is that the way you eat is a direct reflection of the way that you live life. If you begin to reach for a piece of peace instead of a piece of cake, you’ll see a difference in the way in which you respond to food and stress.
3. Incorporate some relaxation time into your daily life.
It can be easy to get carried away with daily stresses, but it’s important for you to take some time out to nourish yourself appropriately. Taking up a regular form of relaxation, even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes each day will help you significantly when it comes to stressful eating.
Emotional eating is often an automatic reaction to a stressful situation. If you practice relaxation on a daily basis, you are more likely to start thinking about what you are doing when it comes to food. It’s the difference between making a decision to eat emotionally, or working through the emotion instead.
Related articles from our experts
- Why can't I stop worrying at night?
Anna Dallavalle, Fd Couns, Relate Cert, MBACP (Accred)17th January, 2017
- Exams and eating elephants
Julia Watson MBACP, Dip Ther Couns, BSc (Hons) Psych - ***New client offer8th January, 2017
- The vagus breath: Help yourself to relax and let go of negative thinking
Linda M Newbold MA (Psych & Healing), UKCP Reg'd, Dipl.Grp&Indiv Supervision2nd December, 2016
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.