Prone to Stress Eating? Try Mindfulness!

how to stop stress and emotional eating

Stress-eating is a common coping mechanism many people use to suppress negative emotions like sadness, anger, fear, and boredom. Unfortunately, such a habit isn’t triggered by choice or hunger but by a hormone called cortisol. It’s a primary stress hormone that keeps the body alert after a stressful situation. However, it also increases a person’s appetite, driving them to eat without being mindful or unconsciously when stressed or emotional. For many people, stress or emotional eating is unavoidable and hard to stop.

Due to mindless eating, people become more prone to weight gain and obesity. Sadly, more than one billion people worldwide are obese. Unhealthy habits like stress-eating could be among the many causes of such issues.

Today, various practices can help alleviate stress and emotional eating. One of those is mindfulness meditation, an old Buddhist practice dating back to 2,500 years ago. Generally, mindfulness encourages physical and mental awareness to reduce stress. Through mindfulness, people can help avoid stress and emotional eating and achieve healthier well-being. 

Read below to learn more about how mindfulness can help stop stress eating. 

Benefits of Mindful Eating

Generally, people practice mindfulness meditation to reduce their stress. This meditation involves concentrating in silence and embracing every current thought, feeling, and sensation without judgment or interpretation. This method helps increase awareness and self-control. It also provides better concentration and emotional intelligence. 

Additionally, many utilize mindfulness as a therapy to help with different forms of addiction. For instance, smokers are encouraged to include mindfulness in their quitting journey

Meanwhile, mindful eating is an area that stems from the mindfulness philosophy. It follows the same in-the-moment awareness of the practice but uses food as a tool to achieve mindfulness. Furthermore, mindful eating involves slowing down and focusing on every bite, taste, mouthfeel, and other factors like food preparation. 

Mindless eating from many triggers and distractions makes a person consume more without realizing it. By practicing mindful emotional eating each meal, a person can take control of their food intake. Plus, controlled eating behavior helps prevent weight gain and reduces the risk of obesity. Because of this, mindful eating can also be an excellent addition to one’s diet plan.

How to Practice Mindfulness While Eating

Achieving mindfulness while eating takes time to develop. However, doing so is not entirely impossible. For beginners, it’s best to start by practicing mindfulness on one meal only.

The following are some of the basic steps to follow: 

Eliminate Distractions

A person can only achieve mindfulness by removing all distractions around them. Begin by setting up your meal in the dining room or anywhere quiet. Turn off the television and computer. If possible, turn off your smartphone too, or at least keep it silent. Clear your mind before sitting down for the meal. It will help you focus on all your thoughts while eating. 

Come With the Right Appetite

Never engage in mindful eating if you’re starving. When people eat in such a condition, the priority changes from enjoying the food to filling a void. The proper appetite should enable you to take your food slowly and savor every bite.

Appreciate Your Meal

Before starting, appreciate your food. Express gratitude for all the effort it took to bring your meal to the table. For instance, if you’re eating takeout food, pause for a minute and think about the people involved in preparing it. Concentrate on everyone, from the kitchen to delivery, and silently thank them. This can be a great way to stop stress eating if you can remember to implement it at mealtime.

Decodiva Dining Table by Koket

Slow Your Intake Down 

The key to achieving mindful eating is to take your meal slowly. Every bite must be small but not enough to diminish the taste. 

Plate size can also contribute to your eating pace. A smaller one can help limit the amount of food taken, which helps slow down the experience. Try to use a plate smaller than the standard ten inches in diameter.

Completely chew your food before taking another bite. Doing this will enable you to savor the following portions equally as the previous ones. 

Use All Your Senses

The main course, so to speak, of mindful eating is using all physical and emotional senses while eating. Observe every detail involved in cooking, preparing, serving, and eating your food.

Watch every color and texture, and feel every scent and sound included in the process. After every bite, use your taste buds to identify every flavor included in the meal. It might help to put down your utensils to focus on your food more. 

Acknowledging how the food makes you think and feel without acting on it increases your awareness. It’s the key to achieving mindfulness. Keep practicing until your mindfulness becomes more natural. 

Be Mindful When You Eat

Stress-eating is a habit that, while many consider helpful, brings various health risks to a person. For one, it distorts a person’s view of hunger, making them eat even on a full stomach. Stress-eating can lead to problems like obesity and even diabetes without a person even realizing that they are eating. 

Fortunately, a person can avert such problems and gain various health benefits through mindfulness. Mindful eating can help a person distinguish actual cravings from stress-triggered ones. It alleviates stress and enables better self-control. 

If you are constantly struggling with emotional or stress eating, long-term, you will want to get to the root cause of your stress and work through the underlying issues to change your mindset. Your mindset will greatly influence your emotions, so making deeper internal changes will allow you to have more power and control over both your choices and emotions around eating.

It’s important to know that everyone deals with stress and so your emotions will win out from time to time but do not beat yourself up, be kind and patient with yourself.

Feature Image by Icons8 Team

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