[Everyone’s got a vice, a bad habit, something they know they need to change. Unfortunately, everyone also has a million excuses why they just can’t do it. Not anymore. Every month we will be following a different CollegeCandy writer as she takes on a personal challenge. Last month, Khalea gave up fried food. This month, Michelle is going to come face to face with stress eating. Can she stop the emotional ice cream binges? We’ll find out….]
Stress eating – who doesn’t do it? Comfort foods have come to define college life. Macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, peanut butter anything… And honestly, how can you not like comfort food? I mean, it’s called ‘comfort’ food for a reason. When you’re stuck at home studying for a test and it’s 2am, mashed potatoes and gravy with a side of ice cream tastes delicious. Stress eating can take its toll though – digestive problems, weight gain, lowered self-esteem… It’s not good for anybody.
For the month of June, I’m going to try to stop stress eating. You know what that means? No chocolate chip cookie at 2pm when I’m feeling drained (but not hungry). No candy snack at the check-out in the grocery store. No crunchy potato chips when I’m browsing Craiglist at night and wondering what I’m going to do with my life. No eating when I feel an unpleasant emotion… I guess I’ll just have to, you know, feel it.
This week, we’ll look at what stress eating actually is and what steps I’m going to take to curb my stress eating. Anyone who wants to can take this challenge with me, but you are free to choose your own methods and goals. I will be completely honest for the next month: when I’ve succeeded, when I’ve failed, and most of all, what I’ve felt along the way.
What is Stress Eating?
Stress eating is sometimes called emotional eating. Stress or emotional eating is the way that some people deal with “heavy” emotions – especially stress and anxiety, depression, grief, etc. Stress eaters typically crave rich foods – carbohydrates, sweets, “comfort foods.” Craving these kinds of foods, for some people, is a way to stop the cycle of unrelenting emotions. However, rarely does this kind of eating actually work to stop feelings. In fact, it can sometimes make them worse.
What Stresses YOU Out?
What exactly do college students have to be stressed about?
I started stress eating in high school… which, looking back at it, I don’t know what I was so stressed about. College, on the other hand, is where my anxiety levels really went through the roof. Between schoolwork, friend drama, and dealing with sometimes frustrating bureaucratic issues, it sometimes feels like college is just a series of stressful situations that we’re supposed to know how to navigate. Is college supposed to be some kind of emotional obstacle course? Because, if so, it is doing a great job.
The combination of stress, low funds, and late hours means that college students like us tend to be major stress eaters. That feeling you get when you’re writing a paper and you just need, absolutely need, a milkshake … but you’re not really hungry… that’s stress eating.
Methods & Goals
What am I going to do to stop stress eating this month? Here are a few little things I’ll be adding to my day-to-day life to avoid the vicious cycle of stress-binge-stress.
1. Yoga every morning. I know I’m jumping on a very crowded bandwagon by mentioning yoga, but last summer, I had extremely bad anxiety and practicing yoga for just twenty minutes a day really helped.
2. Keep a food and emotion diary. By identifying when I feel really hungry versus when I just feel an emotion will help me to know what triggers my stress eating.
3. Take on projects to avoid boredom. You know what I do when I’m bored? Compulsively Google things I’m worried about, like the mole on my shoulder. Instead, I’m going to scrapbook, write, or go for a walk.
4. Sleep. A huge part of stress is not getting enough sleep. Going to bed at 3:30am and waking up at 7:00am puts a huge physical stress on your body, which in turn really stresses you out mentally and emotionally.
My goal at the end of this month is to determine what triggers my stress eating patterns and to effectively stop stress eating.
Do you want to join me?
Want to join me in my effort to stop stress eating? Figure out what you need to do to stop the cycle and together, we’ll stop raiding the pantry and start, you know, feeling.
Need help getting started? Check out Dietician Melanie Jatsek’s tips for avoiding eating your emotions!