Basically, when my cortisol levels start to rise, so too does my appetite—and rarely do I go for the healthy option. Stress-eating is something that many people struggle with, but when I read that it’s also something INF / Network Member and nutritionist Jess Sepel also knows too well, I felt a little less guilty about my regular afternoon sugar hit. As always, what’s so good about Sepel’s advice for combating this habit, is that it’s practical. You can have your burger and eat it too, as long as you pair it with a more holistic approach to eating.
In fact, lowering your frequent stress-eating binges could come down to asking yourself some simple questions. Sepel explains: “The next time you sit down to eat a meal, do one thing for me: Come into your body and become aware of how you’re feeling. Are you feeling stressed or relaxed? Are you holding on? Is your stomach starting to clench? Are you feeling scattered/anxious? Is your heart racing? Or perhaps you feel calm and present?” But more than that, creating habits around how you eat can also benefit you in the long run. Below, Sepel shares the tips she uses to help combat her stress eating.
PRACTICE MINDFULNESS AT THE TABLE
Similar to starting a yoga class, Sepel suggests taking a few minutes to rest and relax before starting a meal. “Next time you sit down to a meal, take three long deep breaths and relax your entire body.”
REMOVE ALL JUDGEMENT FROM THE MEAL
While we have the best of intentions to try and eat healthy all the time, the reality of that is sometimes too hard to maintain. Sepel suggests that no matter what you’re eating in the moment, to embrace it, and remove the stress you are feeling around the meal. "Try your best to remove all judgement about what you are about to eat—instead focus on slowly enjoying each mouthful. Judgement around food causes stress which makes it actually harder to digest that food. Remember that 80 percent of the time your goal is to eat nourishing wholefoods and then there will be 20 percent of imperfect eating—that’s balance. So enjoy each meal—whether good or bad."
Ever been so hungry, you ate your meal too quickly and therefore became too full you could barely breathe? Same. Sepel suggests slowing down, and paying attention to how your body is feeling. That way if you’re getting full, you’re more likely to realise it. "Pay attention and enjoy...eating is such a pleasurable experience. Enjoy it, Don’t rush it! Listen to your body and eat what your body needs. When you start to become a conscious eater you learn the art of moderation—you become aware of when you are full. This is the healthiest way to eat."
SET THE SCENE
If dinner often consists of you eating while also scrolling on your phone, Sepel suggests making dinner a pleasurable event and not a mundane ritual. "Commit to making each meal pleasurable. Make sure to be sitting in a peaceful environment (away from phone/computers/TV) to do this. Being on social media while you eating leaves you feel unsatisfied."
Read on for more of Sepel's stress-eating tips.