April is Stress Awareness Month, so it’s a really good time for some real talk about stress. It’s actually one of my favorite topics to discuss because how we approach it can make such a big difference in our overall wellness. I mean, I did write a book about how to manage the stress and anxiety that often get in our way of making progress towards our goals. I don’t know about you, but I tend to roll my eyes when I read or hear someone telling me to reduce my stress levels. There are always going to be stressors in our life—what matters is how we approach them and respond to them.
There are many different types of stress. Toxic work environments, hectic schedules, illness, relationship worries, family drama, money problems—there are tons of things that can stress us out. Good stress can affect us too—maybe that’s a new relationship, a new puppy, taking on new responsibilities at work, preparing for a vacation.
Stress impacts our sleep, mood, and digestion, which can all contribute to changes in our eating. This is why I ask my clients about what stress they have in their life. Understanding what’s tripping your wires and identifying areas where you need to make a plan to help yourself stay on track. Here are some ways stress can show up in our eating.
5 Ways Stress Can Impact our Eating
Many people find they eat more when they’re stressed out. They may feel out of tune with hunger and fullness cues or turn to comfort foods to soothe their distress. If this sounds like you, check in with yourself before eating. “Am I actually hungry?” I like to use the Michael Pollan line, “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re probably not actually hungry.” Make sure you’re feeding yourself balanced, nourishing meals that provide a grounding mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrate and that you’re including nutrient-packed veggies. Need some inspiration? Try these easy stress-fighting recipes.
Some people find they eat less when they’re stressed. This could be due to distraction or even physical feelings of nausea or digestive discomfort making it uncomfortable to eat. If you feel like forgetting to eat is your problem, set alerts on your phone or arrange to eat with others if that helps. Keeping food that makes you feel nourished in an easily accessible place or bringing food to work if you feel like you have no time to go out and grab something can also help. If physical difficulty is more your issue, have smaller, more frequent meals to avoid your blood sugar and energy dipping too low or unintentionally losing weight.
Feeling Like You Can’t Be Consistent
Forgetting to bring that healthy lunch you packed? Can’t seem to remember your go-to recipes? Feeling too overwhelmed too think ahead? Cognitive overload can trickle in to our eating this way. This could be a good time to rely in a meal kits, or healthy meals that are ready to go when you are. Keeping a list on your phone or your meal plan or getting your family to help can also make a difference. Weekend meal prep, cliched as it sounds, can also be super-helpful here.
Getting Stuck In A Food Rut
Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed by things going on in our life, we become creatures of habit with our food. This one happens to me when I’m stressed—if you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed a lot of What I Ate Wednesdays that look similar. After my dad died, I just had zero motivation to try new recipes or explore new restaurants. As with the other issues, acknowledge it’s happening and gently push yourself to introduce new things into the mix again.
Intense Food Cravings
Food cravings come up a LOT when we’re stressed out. Tuning in to what our cravings may be telling us can help us deal with them. For example, is it a physical craving (needing energy because we haven’t slept well so craving carbs or high-fat foods) or emotional (daydreaming about ice cream because it reminds you of simpler times)? Getting curious instead of critical can make a big difference here in helping you respond to those cravings.
When you sign up for my list you can get my short and sweet free guide to handling food cravings. Grab yours here.
Need help coming up with a doable healthy lifestyle plan to help you reach your goals even when you’re stressed? Book a complimentary consult call with me to learn more about my 1:1 coaching to offer the education, support, and accountability you need.