How to Break the Stress Eating Cycle

Like many other moms, I can watch what I eat perfectly during the day until my kids go to bed. But something about finally getting to sit down and relax in silence makes me crave carbs and sugar like crazy. With the TV remote in one hand and a bag of chips in the other – a small bowl of dip balanced on my lap – I will plow through a million calories before I call it a night. And sometimes I do this when I’m not even hungry.  I was a hardcore stress eater until I made a few of these tweaks to my routine. Here’s how to keep the mindless eating to a minimum:

Write it all down

The best way to get a full grasp on how much I was stress eating was to see it in black and white – literally. So, for a full week, I wrote down everything I ate and at what time. I saw some interesting patterns emerge. My eating habits during the day tended to be healthy and moderately portioned. But without fail. After 8:00 pm, those portions ballooned and my food choices looked more like a ravenous kindergartner was let loose in the snack aisle at the grocery store.

Stretch it out

After a week at tracking my food, I made a commitment to move my body during the time of day when I stress ate the most. For me, that was after my kids went to bed. Instead of reaching for a brownie, I forced myself to reach for my yoga mat and spend at least 20 minutes stretching out the stress from my day. I found that my munchies totally went away.

Fasting like a boss

Another strategy that I tried a few times was Intermittent Fasting. Since keeping that food journal, I knew the times of day when my terrible eating habits got the best of me. So, I downloaded an app called Fast Habit and I set up a plan to do a daily 16 hours fast that began conveniently right after my dinnertime. Instead of eating my way through my favorite TV shows, I sipped tea or sparkling water.

If you must snack, make it healthy

Honestly, some days, I really didn’t give a crap about curbing my snacking. You know those days when you’re dead tired and you feel like only a slice of cake can fix it? Yeah, those days. I made a deal with myself that during times when I caved into the munchies that I would be allowed to do it as long as I ate something healthy and limited my portions. Which brings me to the next strategy…

Meal planning

I’ve seen meal planning on Pinterest hundreds of times but never tried it. I grabbed a few plastic take-out containers (I knew saving those suckers would come in handy!) and I portioned out my daily meals the night before I would eat them. This included any snacks for the evening if I thought I would want or need one.

The most important part of killing my chronic stress eating habit was owning that I had a snacking problem and trying to focus on positive ways to end it. I didn’t bother myself with guilt or shame and I didn’t give myself a deadline or hard rules to follow. I just looked at my habit and made a few tweaks to my daily routine. I’m happy to report that I don’t stress eat at night anymore.

 

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