Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychological conditions. The World Health Organization estimates that 264 million individuals worldwide are currently living with an anxiety disorder.
One of the most common ways that anxiety presents itself is through overeating. But why do people compulsively grab a snack when they become nervous about something?
Continue reading to discover the connection between anxiety and overeating. You'll also find some ways to help you avoid overeating during the holidays.
Why Do We Overeat When Stressed?
When people become stressed, they tend to eat high-fat, sugary foods to help them cope. However, eating to satisfy an emotional need, only provides temporary relief. Physiologically speaking, stress causes your adrenal glands to secrete cortisol. As a result, you may feel hungry and crave sugary, salty, or fatty foods.
Emotional Overeating is using food to soothe stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness or loneliness. Many people create patterns of behavior unconsciously, so emotional eaters may impulsively begin eating out of habit without being aware of what they are doing or even getting any enjoyment out of it.
An empty stomach isn't the cause of this urge to eat. Instead, your brain is telling you to eat in anticipation of a potentially harmful event.
Understanding Where Anxiety Comes From
Before you can take control of your overeating habits, you must learn what triggers you to eat. Being aware of your emotional eating triggers can help you control your overeating habits. Stopping stress-eating begins with discovering what causes you to reach for food during stressful situations.
Checking in with yourself is the first step. Next, you should ask yourself if you eat to satisfy your hunger or if you're doing so in response to something else.
Make a note each time this happens and discover what it is you are responding to. By doing so, you will become more aware of when stress eating happens. One of the best ways to keep track of your eating habits is by downloading an app on your phone, you can get updates to remind yourself of your goals.
Overeating During the Holidays
According to a survey, 88% of Americans surveyed reported that the holidays were the most stressful time of the year. Traveling through crowded airports and congested highways, budgeting for gifts and unexpected expenses, and interacting with family members can leave a person feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
At the same time, many holiday gatherings center around tables laden with tempting snacks, large meals, and decadent desserts. So it's not surprising that many people overindulge during the holidays. How can you stop this from happening? The next section will let you know how you can keep from overeating during the holiday season.
How to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays
1. Make Time For Yourself
As they say, everything in moderation. Unfortunately, over the holidays, we tend to enjoy too much of a good thing. Although stress is an essential element of our survival and enjoyment of life, too much stress can adversely affect our physical and mental health.
Participating in too many holiday activities can leave you feeling frazzled and unfulfilled. Being able to decline social obligations can be a huge stress reliever. This is the core of my “rule of awesome”. If it isn't awesome, DON'T do it. During the holidays, carving out time to be alone or focus on your own mental wellness can be a huge benefit in keeping you centered and aligned with your goals.
2. Plan Ahead of Family Gatherings
Leading up to whatever event you are attending, make sure you strategize and optimize your meals alone with energizing foods that are “as close to the tree” as possible. Allowing space for “social foods'' not only gives you permission to enjoy your holiday but sets your body up for success.
While at the event focus less on what you are eating and more on how much you are eating. As long as you are not overloading yourself, you can absolutely eat rich foods at family gatherings in small portions. If you stop eating at satisfaction, which is a few bites before flat out full, you’ll get to enjoy all the fun foods of the season without it affecting your waistline.
If you are attending a gathering where you can bring something the AND/life app is your best friend. Bring one of the simple recipes found on the AND/life App to help you sneak superfood nutrition into family events where you are going to be offered things that won’t leave you feeling your best.
3. Watch Your Caloric Drinks
It’s important to remember that portions don't just apply to your food. If you want to have a drink, by all means, enjoy that drink! You need to know what 8oz of your drink of choice looks like and focus on keeping that to under 2 a day.
Make sure to stay hydrated with water and aim to drink 8-10 glasses. Water also slows you down between drinks.
4. Practice Mindful Eating
Getting distracted by watching TV or getting lost in conversation is a sure-fire way to unintentionally overeat. Taking a moment to center yourself before digging in can make a big difference.
Try eating more slowly to give your body the time to tell your brain that it is full. Put your plate down if you are standing at a holiday party, or put your utensil down if you're at the table. This can give you a moment to pause before compulsively going back for another bite.
5. Don’t Skip Breakfast Before Holiday Meals
Don't wait until holiday dinner is ready before you eat. This is a mistake that many people make. By doing so, you're setting yourself up to get uncomfortably full.
People who skip breakfast tend to consume more calories during the day. Skipping breakfast can also cause you to have low energy throughout the day, making it hard to concentrate and setting you up to become more easily frustrated.
Attempt to eat something light in the morning to kickstart your metabolism, even if you aren't hungry. Eating a small breakfast can prevent you from overeating later in the day.
Don’t Wait Until the New Year to Focus on Your Health
The biggest mistake many people often make is by waiting until the new year to work on themselves. Going into the holiday season with a basic exercise routine and nutrition goals can help you avoid the cycle of overeating and crash dieting.
Consistency is what makes the difference in fitness. So rather than hold yourself to getting to the gym during the holidays, just rely on walks throughout the day and plain-clothes workouts at your desk or the kitchen counter. Check out Connect video library on andlife.com for great short workout videos that fit within your busy day.