We have all been there…you start out the day with a grounding bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries and pumpkin seeds, lunch is butternut squash soup and avocado toast, and dinner is salmon with brown rice and sautéed spinach. Perhaps paired with a glass of Merlot? What a nutritional home run of a day! Then at 9:00pm the phone rings and your sister asks you to take your dad to the doctor in the morning because her son is sick with a stomach bug, which means you can no longer get your haircut or do your shift at the Book Fair, which your daughters are really counting on. And you took the day off work, JUST to get a haircut and volunteer at the school. But your dad needs to see the cardiologist and no longer drives, so what can you do?
Suddenly you are back in the kitchen, rifling through the cabinets taking handfuls of cereal and Teddy Grahams, chewing angrily, and fighting back tears. Then it’s on to the fridge…a few spoonfuls of peanut butter topped with dark chocolate chips, and no signs of slowing down. Suddenly you’ve eaten your son’s last ice cream sandwich, poured a second glass of wine and gone up to bed. What just happened?
We all eat for reasons OTHER than hunger, and feeling upset and stressed is certainly one of the most popular reasons I hear from people. The actual “binge” isn’t even the worst of it, but the remorse, shame, and guilt the next morning are…SO let’s come up with a plan to bypass the next bout of stress eating.
- Practice mindfulness first. After hanging up the phone with your sister, SLOW DOWN and take a couple breaths—it resets your nervous system—and allows you to make BETTER decisions.
- Don’t put yourself in tempting situations—your brain URGES you to eat when stressed, and your body follows its “orders”. It is a survival instinct you can learn to combat—remove temptation or remove yourself FROM temptation. Hang up the phone, tell your husband you need 10 minutes, grab your coat, and fast walk around the block…screaming and yelling is optional–and often helps.
- Make a mindful and DELIBERATE decision. Ask yourself, “Do I want this pint of Cherry Garcia (when I don’t even eat dairy)? Will I feel guilt after eating this? Will it make me feel ANY better after eating this?”
- Create a list of other options. What other activities will make me feel better that do NOT lead to guilt or shame? Maybe a fast walk to clear your head, or watch a funny on Jimmy Fallon with your favorite celebrity, take a drive and play your favorite new workout song over and over–REALLY loud, or call a friend and ask if they have 5 minutes for you to vent.
Finally, don’t punish yourself for a binge. We ALL let stress get the best of us at some time or another, so just forgive yourself–you are human. Have a big glass of water, go to bed, and hit reset in the morning. You’ve got this!