Life looks a lot different right now.

Feeling anxious and trapped at home, almost got me head deep into a box of cookies the other night. The Coronavirus Pandemic is also bringing the stress eating pandemic. Let’s be real – when you start having cravings and are stressed out- it’s usually not salmon and broccoli you’re craving.

When stress strikes, we often find ourselves unexpectedly craving something delicious and unhealthy- like a warm chocolate chip cookie or we take that Pringles slogan a little too serious: “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop”.

This is a time of worry and confusion, and many people are feeling stressed, anxious, irritable, bored, and the list goes on.

I feel you. I am also trying to fight off this emotional eating and here’s how:

Remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with you and be kinder to yourself.

Many people are left scratching their head at their body’s response to stress, but don’t know or forget that there is actually a science to stress eating.

The stress hormone

Your adrenal glands, which are small glands that look like small baseball caps on your kidneys release a hormone called cortisol, which is a stress hormone. This hormone triggers a flood of glucose (a simple sugar) that supplies an immediate energy source to your body.

This stress hormone shouldn’t be viewed as bad though. Cortisol has so many positive effects on the body. It’s when normal cortisol levels are thrown off when we experience the negative side effects of it.

So, this stress hormone is good for ramping up your motivation with energy to get out bed in the morning and be productive, but it likes to really give you motivation to run to that fridge more often when mental stress spikes up your cortisol levels.

Is your body Craving Cookies, Chips, or Cheese?

One of the way our bodies respond to stress is by yelling at the brain “I need energy” to fight off whatever is causing that feeling. So we tend to look for foods high in sugar or fat, because they provide plenty of that quick energy that we do crave. When you eat them, the sugar and fat tell your brain, “Okay here’s your energy to deal with the problem“. So understanding what stress eating actually is doing to your body is essential. When you don’t understand it, you tend to be harder on yourself bringing more of that negative energy to your mind and feelings of self-sabotage and judgement.

How do I reduce stress eating?

  1. Stick to your normal food routines as if you were still going to work on your average day. Start each day with your go-to breakfast or look up some new breakfast recipe ideas to switch up your routine a little. Think of that time you would spend in traffic or driving as now time you can use to actually cook or spend a few minutes on Pinterest, YouTube, or Facebook looking up healthy recipes.
  2. Make snack trays for your day and portion out your snacks instead of just going for that big bag of chips. In the act of planning out your snacks, you’ll be able to really see how much you’re eating. You can label your box “Monday Snacks” and put that on your counter. Let’s face it, you don’t want your box empty by 1pm. So, most likely by looking at what you have for the day, helps space out your snacks a little more.
  3. You can also turn this into a craft. If you have kids, color or paint your boxes, put stickers, or anything that makes them happy or for the adults taping some motivational quotes and friendly reminders for our bodies.
  4. Keep a food journal. Aim for at least a 5-day journal. Now with more time at home, you can actually write down what you’re eating, and this will create a visual for you and also help you plan out that following week if you ate less fruits/veggies that week. Keep it simple or make this food journal into a craft for stress therapy. You can label a page with your food and make it into a journal entry too. How did it make you feel? or why you’re grateful for that specific food encourage positive talk instead of negative self-talk from food.
  5. Go for a walk or move your body. Distracting the mind from what is going on really helps. You might not feel like it, but you just have to take that first step. Putting your shoes is the hardest part. Follow Latinas Running on IG/FB if you need some motivation to get started.