A bad day can drive a lot of us to scoop out a huge bowl of ice cream – or more realistically, eat it straight from the container. We tend to “eat our feelings” because eating stimulates the brain’s reward centers, especially when we eat really sweet, rich, savory foods like cheeseburgers or cake, which obviously aren’t very healthy. But we almost always end up feeling guilty afterward, and maybe worse about ourselves the next day.
For a lot of us stress-eating is a natural reaction that can be really difficult to overcome. So instead of putting a padlock on your fridge, try reaching for something different the next time you need some stress food.
Healthy food can actually provide the same relief as junk food, since your brain is mostly just enjoying the act of eating. Eating occupies and distracts your mind, and leaves you feeling full and content afterward. And a healthy-food binge won’t make you feel lethargic or fat afterward, in a lot of cases, you’ll actually feel lighter and more energized.
In the worst case scenario, if you’re a terribly picky eater or a junk-food addict, only giving yourself healthy options to eat when you’re stressed might lead to you not eating anything, instead. But you have to hold yourself to that ultimatum! It’s good food or nothing, and if you’re only eating to feel better, you don’t actually need to eat right then, anyway.
What to Eat with Your Feelings
• Vegetables – This one’s obvious, veggies are light and healthy and the dark, leafy kind produce chemicals that keep you relaxed and calm.
• Healthy carbs – No not a loaf of French bread or a bowl of mac & cheese. Healthy carbs are the kind you find in whole grain pasta and brown rice.
• Yogurt – Next best thing to a bowl of ice cream, and you can top it with your favorite granola for a healthy bonus. Yogurt keeps your gut bacteria happy, which keeps your brain happy too.
• Fish – Try to stay away from the deep-fried stuff here. A filet of fresh salmon can actually give you a serotonin boost, and won’t weigh you down like a steak or a cheeseburger.
• Warm milk – Milk can be filling by itself, and we all know that warm milk is calming since it’s sometimes recommended before bedtime.
As you start to make a habit of eating foods like those listed above, you’ll actually find that you’re less stressed on a daily basis. Our diet has a major impact on our feelings and our mood, since a healthy body is a happy body.
Eating your feelings with healthy food is a really good way to get used to eating healthy food even when you’re not stressed. Changing your diet can be difficult, and is easier to do in baby steps. Pick up a few of the above items to keep in your fridge, try them out next time you find yourself raiding it for a snack. Or if you’re out and about, stop off somewhere you can find something on the above list, instead of the nearest fast food stop.
And if you need more nutritional advice, call our office! We have trained nutritionists ready to help you eat and feel better, sooner than you’d think.