4-Step Plan to Manage Stress and Control Emotional Eating

Take these practical suggestions from STACK Expert Kait Fortunato to manage stress and control emotional eating.

Emotional Eating

Stress and a busy schedule can derail the healthiest of eating regimens. You may start with great intentions, but when the unexpected happens they get pushed aside, often without a second thought. Unfortunately, you can't control what life throws at you, but properly managing your emotions, stress and time can help you stay on track even during difficult situations

. (See How to Form Healthy Eating Habits.)

Plan Your Days

It's harder to get off track when you can plan exercise and meals around your work and family schedule. Set appointments in your calendar for specific times and the type of exercise you plan to do. Pack your lunch the night before, have healthy snacks at your desk and plan a couple meals out for the week ahead.

Generate a Stress Strategy 

Try to come up with three things you can easily do when you are feeling stressed instead of turning to food. These could be as simple as reading a magazine, taking a five-minute walk, calling a good friend, or reading your favorite quote. Having these simple things in place will help you when you are not feeling your best. (See also The Low-Stress Diet Game Plan.)

Rate Your Hunger

It's more than okay to have a small snack when you're hungry. The idea is to know whether you are truly hungry or if you are feeling hungry from stress. An easy way to determine this is to rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being so hungry your stomach is growling and 10 being uncomfortably full. When you feel the hunger pang, take a minute to rate your hunger and be an intuitive eater. This can help you move forward. Another good question to ask yourself is: "Would carrots satisfy my hunger?" If the answer is yes, you're probably pretty hungry; if not you may just want something sweet.

Don't Ignore Your Cravings

Sometimes ignoring a craving can cause you to overeat because you won't feel satisfied. Instead, try to incorporate the craving in a healthy way: mix a small handful of dark chocolate chips with some almonds, use chocolate protein powder to make a healthy smoothie, or roast some chickpeas with olive oil and salt to satisfy the salty, crunchy cravings.

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