Breaking the Eating-While-Stressed Cycle

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On this web site, we talk a lot about eating real food, being mindful of what substances we put into our bodies, and how it affects us. But it’s also important to remember to slow down and stop to eat a nourishing meal, without stress.

Stress can affect us in so many negative ways, more than most of us realize. Even if you are eating a healthy meal, if you are anxious or preoccupied and trying to do something else, your digestion can be negatively impacted and you may not receive the full benefit of your meal.

Thanks to Elizabeth Walling from Living the Nourished Life for this great post. I know I’m guilty of doing this, so it’s a good reminder to take a break, sit down, and really focus on and savor my meal.

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The good news is that habits are broken the same way they’re made. You can remove one brick at a time from this wall and rewire your brain chemistry one step at a time by making a few simple changes:

  1. Be aware of how you feel when you eat. You may or may not be eating in direct response to stress, but are you generally stressed when you eat? If you’re not sure, try answering these questions:
  2. - Do you multitask while you eat? That is, are you making phone calls, typing emails, writing your shopping list, driving to an appointment or cleaning the kitchen while you’re eating?

    - Do your mealtimes typically occur right after a stressful period, like a morning business meeting or a long day of work? (Yes, chasing a toddler around all day counts!)

    If this rings a bell, you may have a habit of eating when you’re stressed. If you’re still not sure, simply start making a mental note of your meal timing and see what you find out. You might be eating while stressed more than you realized!

  3. Now that you have an idea of how often you’re eating while stressed, it’s time to take a few simple action steps. I don’t expect you to change your life schedule so that every mealtime occurs in a complete haven of peaceful bliss, but you can reduce your level of stress directly before a meal:
  4. - First, pause before you eat and give yourself a moment to relax. Take a few deep, slow breaths. Feel your heart rate normalize and allow yourself to take a break from your day. If you don’t have a lot of time, even 30 seconds of relaxation before a meal can make a world of difference. If you don’t believe me, try it. You’ll be surprised.

    - Next, eat slowly and mindfully. Enjoy your food and your mealtime. Eating slowly and stopping when you’re satisfied allows your body to have a normal neurological response to your meal. Eating too quickly and overeating exaggerates the biochemical response and sets up a roller coaster ride of extremes.

Now, keep in mind you don’t have to do this perfectly every time you eat. Remember the brick wall: we’re not trying to plow a wrecking ball through it; we’re just trying to take down one brick at a time. The body tends to respond more positively to slow but consistent change, and that’s generally how healthy habits are made (and kept!). So next time you eat, simply be aware and try to make the best out of it. It makes more of a difference than you’d think.
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Elizabeth Walling is an independent health researcher and freelance writer. She is the creator of Living The Nourished Life, a source of information for others who are also interested in improving their health and well-being the natural way.  She lives with her husband of seven years and two children in the beautiful mountains of northern Alabama (along with a general menagerie of farm animals). Their family drinks raw milk, unschools, and basically enjoys living outside of the box.

This post is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival.


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