Modern life has been gifting us with many conveniences and fantastic technologies, which seem to be able to solve any problem we could ever face. Most of us nowadays don’t run away from carnivores through woods and don’t know famine, thanks to globalization and urbanization. We’re safe. We’re satisfied.
But our nature still depends on stress, purely out of old habit, so we endlessly look for any possible reasons to be worried. Big cities’ constant noise, hectic roads, people everywhere – all that is more than enough to be pushed out of the comfort zone into the kingdom of cortisol, the main stress hormone.
Besides its main suppressing effects: ruining mood, motivation, and health, stress also provokes uncontrolled eating behavior
And here you are, finding yourself eating a tenth chocolate cookie at 3 AM in a violent attempt to make your anxiety disappear. Sometimes it seems that you can’t control yourself during anxiety attacks. The “dictate” of your cravings is too powerful to resist and consciously deny yourself an otherworldly pleasure of taking another cookie from an almost empty jar.
But if you know your enemy, you can win! So do your battle make-up and grab your gear – we’re starting to fight stress-caused binge eating.
1. Get rid of your sweet tooth
Don’t try to raise your mood with the help of seductive candies and sweets, promising heaven on Earth from the first bite. Sugar and high-fat products overload many organs, like the liver and pancreas, and force them to do their work too hard. And this overload can cause disorders in your organism. Remember that bloating feeling after a cookie eating session, making you feel like a birthday balloon? This is what I’m talking about.
Consume sugar and high-fat containing products moderately, in accordance with serving size, specified by a producer. This tactic will help you keep your eating behavior reasonable. But if you definitely know, that you can’t control your cravings, when stressed, just remove all the sweets for some time and replace them with fruits. You can eat a whole cookie package, but you can’t eat one kg of apples at once, believe me!
2. Stop increasing the portions
During periods of stress, your body tries to compensate for the lack of vitamins and macro- and micronutrients, forcing you to eat greater portions or more high-calorie products than usual. This is the simplest way for your body to get everything it needs right now, but don’t trust this primal instinct. The body wants to survive and enables very ancient mechanisms of “save and restore” behavior. Which, in the end, can present you with the need to buy a new pair of jeans.
Control your portions and contents of your plate consciously. When taking food, be as mindful and concentrated as possible. When you concentrate on a task to choose a better option to eat, it allows your brain to rewire its thinking and focus on good choices. Otherwise, its automatic functioning leads to the tendency to opt for the fastest and easiest way to solve the problem, hence, binge eating.
If you still want a greater portion even after “enabling” your mindfulness, opt for vegetables like broccoli, celery, or carrots. Allow them to fill your plate as snacks! They will give you great satisfaction with a minimum of calories – ideal for guilt-free munching!
3. Renounce the fridge as your savior
Have you noticed, that, when stressed, your fridge becomes your best friend, confessor, and savior? If so, stop giving it those fantastic super-powers. Because everything it can give you is just food, no help or treatment.
Before you go to see your ice-cold friend without any reason for the sixth time today, just try to pacify your anxiety in other ways. For example, find a comfortable and quiet space to sit down, close your eyes, and start to count your breath-ins and breath-outs. Try to do it from 3 up to 5 mins in a row. Don’t worry if you lose count, just start counting again.
This simple, but highly effective meditation can help you tame your anxiety by concentrating on one single thing. Remember, that concentration is our friend in fighting stress and binge eating. So use it as frequently as possible to get your brain sidetracked from compulsive decisions.
4. Stop unconscious overeating
Sometimes the best you can make to ease stress is to throw a Netflix-watching couch party for one. And that’s totally fine if you don’t take a bag of potato chips or a full bowl of salty peanuts along.
Here you are, settling on the couch, turning on the TV and opening up the pack of your favorite snack. It seems to be a moment ago, but after 3 hours of binge-watching, you find yourself surprised, where did all the snacks from the pack go. This is called “eating amnesia” and a lot of people suffer from the same condition from time to time. And it is dangerous for your weight and eating behavior because you have risks to convert it into a nasty habit.
In case of unconscious overeating, you can choose between two options.
The first one is switching your ordinary snacks for more “healthy” options, such as carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Slice the veggies and enjoy this guilt-free snack during your TV series marathon. Even if you eat more than a pound, you will still get a way fewer calories in comparison with one single bag of chips.
The second option is to deny eating while watching TV. The thing is that our brain loves to concentrate on one deed at a time – if you don’t believe this, just try to do a little experiment. Take a sheet of paper and a pen, and start writing a story about how you’ve spent this day. While writing, start to count backwards from 200 to 1 and do it out loud. The main task is to perform these tasks at the same time and not to do any mistakes. I bet the result will surprise you.
According to research, our brain can’t divide resources evenly to each task you do at the same time. So it just switches fast between processes, transferring all the power on a major task and turning on an “autopilot” mode for others
Going back to dealing with unconscious overeating, your main task is to concentrate on one thing at a time. If you want to snack, just do it, but eat, fully emerging into the process. Feel the taste, the texture, and the smell, and focus on emotions you get from this food. This way of concentrating is a widespread practice in cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and allows to be present in the moment. You will be amazed how it changes the way you eat.
5. Stop stuffing your stomach
A lot of people experience problems with “the feeling of fullness” – for some of us, one small bowl of soup is enough to be satisfied, while for others it is a question of consuming a whole L-size pizza. In addition to that, many people just don’t stop eating even if they feel that their stomachs are full.
It is not even worth mentioning, that almost all finger food, while modest in volumes, is extremely high in calories. And if you see a big assortment of dishes, you will definitely want to try them all (mostly unconsciously). And these circumstances provoke your binge eating again and again.
First of all, try to concentrate on one thing at a time. For example, if you want to eat something – eat it. If you want to chat with people at the party – just choose an interlocutor or join an interesting company. But don’t mix it together, because you will definitely miss one of two pleasures.
Secondly, control the portion and food you are going to eat mindfully. Opt for options, which are low-calorie, but high in volumes – vegetables are ideal candidates. High-protein food is good too, but be careful with BBQ and, especially, sauces – they are frequently too oversaturated with calories. Try to mix protein and veggies into one normal portion and eat it. After this “serious” intake, you can take veggies as a snack option.
Concentration is our choice when we deal with the environment, which is directly connected to binge eating
And thirdly, try to switch the attention from food to other types of activities. If this tendency follows you at home, make sure to try some new hobbies or exercises. This way you can kill two birds with one stone! On one hand, you will distract your brain from the dominant idea of eating more and more. On the other hand, some hobbies like needlework or woodworking are great tools to get your stress hormones low, because they require full concentration.
If you find yourself captured by anxiety at work, make an active pause – just stand up and go for a walk for 5-7 minutes. It is better to go outside to switch your attention to another “picture”, sounds, and smells. Small and pleasant exercises like stretching are also good. This way you can give your muscles a little bit of relaxation from the static condition and get a bonus as serotonin raise and increased mood.
Binge eating is a huge problem of modern stressogenic life and, no doubts, it will continue damaging people’s lives. But everyone has the power to avert its devastating influence and fight it with the greatest source a human ever had – the power of mindfulness. Whatever happens, just remember – concentration is our friend, making us thinking crystal clear and make decisions, which are really right for us, our psyche, and our health. So may the force be with you!