Between work commitments, family drama, social obligations, and the pressure we place on ourselves to be the perfect member of society, life can get a little stressful. And every so often, we feel the need to escape.

Whether it’sΒ finding comfort in a long run, a tough workout, a bottle of wine, or a tub of ice cream, we’ve all turned to something to help us escape at one point or another.

Now obviously taking the “fight” approach to stress as opposed to the “flight” approach is more productive in the long-run – hiding from our problems only makes them disappear temporarily.

But we’re all human, and eventually things can just become too much.

Saying I struggle with stress is an understatement. I spent many years hiding from my problems by drinking myself into an oblivion and never really learning how to deal with things.

When I stopped drinking and lost that coping mechanism, I often found myself wanting to dive head first into a tub of ice cream or a bag of chips at the thought of a stressful situation.

And while I consider myself to be at least a little bit better able to handle my stress these days, I still often find myself craving the ability to escape by going for a run, losing myself in my work, or going for a nap.

And occasionally, eating far too much.

stress eating

My instances of stress eating are becoming fewer and farer between. But I’m human, and every so often it happens.

Sunday was one of those days. After a great afternoon at the BMO Marathon Relay, I came home shortly after 4 and returned to reality.

I had a messy apartment. A kitchen full of dishes. Meals that needed to be prepped for the week. Work that needed to be caught up on before the week started. And a couch that was just screaming my name for at least an hour of relaxation before beginning another 70 hour work week.

stress eating

Testing out the new selfie stick to show just a fraction of the chaos I live and work in

My running high disappeared pretty quickly πŸ˜‰

As I was making my energy balls I found myself adding a spoonful of peanut butter to the mixing bowl, and then a spoonful to my mouth. A spoonful of chocolate chips for the mixing bowl, a spoonful for myself. I eventually gave up any attempt at fooling myself into thinking I wasn’t gonna go to town on the contents of the bowl and just started eating it by the handful.

This is unfortunate because A) these balls can get expensive when you’re making them on a weekly basis, B) I now have to buy more nut butter if I want to share my next batch of balls with anyone, and C) I had made a commitment to myself to tighten things up nutrition-wise in preparation for my upcoming trip to Maui next week.

stress eating

I KNEW that mindlessly eating these balls after having just come home from a late lunch served me no purpose whatsoever. And I KNEW I was going to feel like crap afterwards.

But my willpower was at 0 and I just thought “screw it”. So I continued to eat far too many energy balls and chocolate chips and spoonfuls of nut butter.

Now in previous occasions, one of two things would usually happen.

1 – I would either let the “What the Hell Effect” take over and eat the rest of the food in my kitchen. “I already ate way too much today so my healthy eating is shot. I might as well just keep it up and start fresh tomorrow.”

Or 2 – I would try to “make up for it” during my workout the following day, either by pushing myself incredibly hard or training fasted, thinking that my body would know to use that extra food I ate as fuel.

Both of which are not healthy options and definitely not indicative of a healthy relationship with food.

But this time I managed to take control of the situation. Yeah, I ate way too much chocolate and nut butter. But it stopped there.

I allowed myself to be human, but I also reminded myself that continuing this food fest (or binge, whatever you want to call it – I just can’t stand that word πŸ˜‰ ) would only make me feel worse in the long run.

It’s not an easy thing to do – when you’re feeding yourself these high-fat and high-sugar foods during stressful times, your brain takes it as a reward. It triggers a release of dopamine which tells the brain “this feels good!”

stress eatingSource

So telling it to stop when you’re in a fragile state can be tough.

But I’ve discovered the same tactic I used to turn down alcohol in my early sober days has helped in these situations as well.

“I don’t have to turn down all that extra food next time. But today, right here, right now – I’m going to stop. We can deal with next time when next time happens.”

Trying to break unhealthy habits is just as stressful as the situations that lead us to those habits. And when we’re in the middle of them, thinking about having to put a stop to these self-destructive behaviours for the rest of our lives beginning RIGHT NOW is enough to send us into a downward spiral of stress.

So the next time you find yourself doing something you knowΒ does not serve you well for the long-term but makes you feel better right now, try to put a stop to it, just for today. Don’t worry about next time, or the time after that. One day at a time.

Don't stress about the future - just focus on your behaviours right here, right now. #StressManagement Click To Tweet

Since I’ve been super open and honest here πŸ˜‰ I’d like to invite you to do the same! How do you cope with stressful situations? Do you ever find yourself engaging in self-destructive behaviour? And if so, how do you pull yourself out of it?

Showing 38 comments
  • Sam @ PancakeWarriors
    Reply

    I’ve recently come to grips with the same thing. I have just started walking away from the kitchen and realize by the time I return, I don’t have to eat all the food right away. Why is nut butter so addicting though – I blame it πŸ™‚

    • Ariana
      Reply

      That’s a great tactic! Good job for finding something that works πŸ˜€ And yes…there’s definitely something about nut butter that makes it so difficult to put down! πŸ˜‰

  • Savvy Sandwicher
    Reply

    I LOVE this! β€œI don’t have to turn down all that extra food next time. But today, right here, right now – I’m going to stop. We can deal with next time when next time happens.” My next post in a series I’m writing is going to be about healthy eating and making good choices. I have the fitness part but the eating is soooooo tough for me. Trying to not reward myself with food and breaking the emotional eating habits is TOUGH. Thanks for your honesty!

    • Ariana
      Reply

      You’re so welcome! It definitely is tough, and I think it’s something that more of us struggle with than we care to admit. Working out is the fun part, it’s the nutrition that’s tough πŸ˜‰ Good luck with your journey!

  • Heather Serra
    Reply

    I am a huge offender of stress eating. Whenever I sit at my desk to work on a task, my body recognises the mental stress and physical stress and tries to compensate by giving me the mad munchies. I usually keep carrot sticks and celery around. Giving up alcohol is definitely a good idea too. I like to have a cocktail on really stressful days and that just lowers my ambitions. I’ll eat just about anything when I’m drinking. I really like this post. Good insight. I’ll think back to this next time I want to cave in.

    • Ariana
      Reply

      I’m happy to hear you found it helpful, Heather! Sounds like you’ve got a great strategy by keeping some fresh veggies on hand. Show that body who’s boss! πŸ˜‰ And I totally feel you on eating anything when you’re drinking – it used to be bags of potato chips and hot dogs the night of and a big greasy breakfast the morning after! Our poor bodies haha.

  • Jaime
    Reply

    Ugh, I stress eat a lot, thanks to having a toddler. =) I’ve gotten a lot better now that I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I just try to tell myself that being fit feels better than gorging on these chocolate chips.

    • Ariana
      Reply

      That’s a great reminder! I can imagine that raising a toddler on top of everything else is stressful, so kudos to you for keeping things in check! πŸ™‚

  • Farrah
    Reply

    I’m better with not stress-eating now, but…my current preceptor loves food (possibly even more than I do!?), so he loves people who also eat a lot, and I gotta do him proud! :O! (Damage control is probably gonna happen next month.)

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Hahaha. You can also make him proud by showing him what a BOSS you are with your willpower πŸ˜‰ But with your crazy-busy schedule I have to give you a huge high-five for staying in control of your stress eating!

  • Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs
    Reply

    One day at a time, yep, that does work. I rarely keep snacky food in my house, so when the urge comes up my only choice is almonds or snap peas πŸ™‚

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Good idea! However I could easily eat a bag of almonds in one sitting haha. I do love some snap peas though!

  • Tianna
    Reply

    stress eating is a thing, but I try to keep my life organized and things under wraps that way the urge doesn’t happen as much. Also, stocking healthy foods helps so I feel less horrible if it happens lol

    stop by and chat β™₯ http://storybookapothecary.com

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Good for you for staying prepared and working to reduce those stresses in your life! <3

  • Reply

    I have gone through phases of doing this stress eating myself. The fact that you are so aware of it is going to really help you. One day at a time right? I try to find other ways to distract myself like walk upstairs to go get something or take the trash out. Anything to get away from the place where the food is.

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Those are some great tips! Sometimes all it takes is just a couple minutes away from the food to make those feelings go away.

  • Nicole @ Fitful Focus
    Reply

    I’m so glad I’m not alone in this! I am a stress eater and I’m also a bored-eater. If I have nothing to do, I’ll eat. I started trying to keep myself busy with fun, creative things, like designing or coloring (adult coloring books are a huge trend now!). Having something to keep my mind busy keeps me from diving into the nut butter jar.

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Those damn nut butter jars!!! I’m so lucky there isn’t a Trader Joe’s here πŸ˜‰

      I’m with you on the bored-eating. We must be sisters from different misters because I’m totally on the adult colouring book train right now as well!

  • Resa
    Reply

    This is SO HARD TO DO. Just knowing what I’m doing makes a difference, but when the happy chemicals start flowing, it is REALLY easy to just let the reward center take over. Thanks for sharing your tips & experience.

    • Ariana
      Reply

      You’re welcome! It can definitely be a challenge, but the benefits that come from facing those challenges are so worth it!

  • Marcia
    Reply

    The Halloween candy laying around here really brought out the habitual boredom eater in me. It DOES make me feel SO gross! I’m 5 days candy-free now and feeling so much better!

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Congrats on your candy-avoidance!

  • Jenn
    Reply

    :hug:

    I think we all do something destructive or unproductive from time to time. I’ll have days where I will try to skate by on way less food than I need to fuel, and I’ll also have days where I will make some ridiculously bad choices and eat things that will leave me feeling miserable. We are all human.

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Yes, it can be easy to get caught up in missteps like this and feel like you’re the only person going through it!

  • Reply

    I am not a stress eater, but I can see how it could happen. When I’m having a bad day at work, my coworkers are always pressing chocolate on me. Actually, when I am stressed, my appetite goes away…

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Ah yes I know that is a fairly common one as well. I wish that happened to me haha.

  • Natalie
    Reply

    When I am stressed, taking a series of deep breaths and allowing myself to try and block negative thoughts seems to help.
    Thank you for sharing this and bringing a very important issue to light.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Those are great tips! I’ll give those a shot next time I feel the stress taking over πŸ™‚

  • jill conyers
    Reply

    Stress eating is such a big thing for so many people. It’s tough to break old habits but as you know there are so many other ways to handle stress. Have a great weekend!

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Yes, thanks Jill!

  • Kathryn @ Dancing to Running
    Reply

    Its definitely easier to focus on taking things one day at a time. Hopefully good habits for one day will lead to two days of good habits and so on.

    • Ariana
      Reply

      I agree!

  • Celia at Chicago Jogger
    Reply

    I completely fall in this trap sometimes too… I agree it often happens to me when I’m tired / overwhelmed / stressed. You make very good points πŸ™‚

    • Ariana
      Reply

      I think it’s a pretty common one. If only we could find ways to not be tired/overwhelmed/stressed! πŸ˜‰

  • Sandra Laflamme
    Reply

    My go to is the ice cream. As long as I keep it in short supply I am good.

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Oh man I don’t need to be stressed to make it through a tub of ice cream hahah. I just love the stuff, so I don’t ever keep it around.

  • Ariana
    Reply

    Thanks so much for including me! You are so right in that it’s important to stay healthy not only for ourselves, but also those we take care of!

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] Stop the Cycle of Stress Eating (Evolution by Ariana): Stress eating is one of my biggest vices, and lately I know that’s what has stifled me losing the remaining baby weight. The crazy mornings, boring workdays, and then the harried evenings with the baby mean it’s hard to eat healthy for me some times. And I know a lot of it is lack of willpower, but sometimes you just say “F– it” and shovel those animal crackers in your mouth as you prepare a bottle for your crying baby. It’s important to just take a moment and think for yourself–you want you be healthy not only for yourself, but for your baby. […]

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