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5 ways to stop emotional eating

Limit stress to control cravings

We’ve all been there. After a stressful day at work, the only thing calling your name is cheesy pizza. Or maybe you’re nervous for a big presentation, and you can’t keep your hands out of the bag of chips. Going through a rough time with a family member? Grab the pint of ice cream. You get the point. When emotions take over, it’s easy to indulge in comfort foods.

So, why do we do this to ourselves? And how can you pump the breaks the next time you feel yourself start to eat emotionally?

Why we stress eat

When we are stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol External Site. This hormone can increase your appetite, especially your appetite for high-fat and high-sugar foods. There’s a reason junk food also goes by comfort food ― we use it to cope with high-stress situations. Over time, emotional eating can become a habit and lead to conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.

Anyone can suffer from emotional eating

Emotional eating can impact anyone. It's an issue that affects both males and females of any age. But, according to different studies, emotional eating is more common with women than with men External Site. Additionally, millennials, a notoriously stressed out generation according to a recent Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Health of America Report® External Site, are prone to emotional eating and the diseases it leads to more than other generations.

But, there’s hope. The next time you feel out of control and unable to stop munching, try a few — or all of these tips to get back on track.

5 ways to stop emotional eating

  1. Take a deep breath

    If you can give your brain a break and take a step back, you’ll be in a better position to make a healthy choice. Consider some quiet time or 20 minutes of meditation to reduce your overall stress levels.

  2. Address the problem

    Is something stressing you out? Use the time you’d spend eating junk food to make an action plan and tackle the problem head-on tomorrow.

  3. Go on a walk

    Sometimes removing yourself from the food source is your best bet. So head outside for a quick walk or take to the living room for a core workout. Bonus ― you’re getting some exercise in!

  4. Make a smart swap

    Are you diving into the chip bag? Give pretzels or air-popped popcorn a try. Need to satisfy your sweet tooth? Get baking with this recipe for healthier black bean brownies.

  5. Keep mindful portions

    Sometimes, it’s OK to give into that comfort food. Just do it mindfully. Fill a small bowl with your favorite chips instead of posting up on the couch with an entire bag. Serve yourself a few scoops of ice cream rather than finishing the whole pint.

Bonus tip! Ask yourself if you're actually hungry

Are you reaching into the refrigerator because of stress or because you're actually hungry? It's important to stop and think about your level of hunger. And, if those hunger pangs are real, go ahead and eat that healthy snack.

Not sure how to tell? There are some key questions you can ask yourself to be a more conscious eater.

Download this helpful worksheet to teach yourself how to be a more conscious eater

Still struggling with emotional eating? Help is available

Eventually, your body will thank you for making healthy choices and taking the time to curb your emotional eating. But, if you still find yourself struggling with overwhelming emotions or anxious eating, consider reaching out to your personal doctor to discuss any mental health questions or concerns you might have.

An easy way to find mental health help is through a virtual doctor. Virtual visits are a standard benefit for most Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield members when they use Doctor On Demand® External Site. To check your virtual visit benefits Secure Site, log in or register for myWellmark®.

Doctor On Demand physicians do not prescribe Drug Enforcement Administration-controlled substances, and may elect not to treat conditions or prescribe other medications based on what is clinically appropriate.

For plans that include benefits for mental health treatment, Doctor On Demand benefits may include treatment for certain psychological conditions, emotional issues and chemical dependency. Services performed by Doctor On Demand psychologists are covered. For more information, call Wellmark at the number on your ID card.

Doctor On Demand by Included Health is a separate company providing an online telehealth solution for Wellmark members. Doctor On Demand® is a registered mark of Doctor On Demand, Inc.