I know people who are stress eaters and have difficulty staying on a restrictive diet like Whole30. I understand completely why stress eating happens, and how difficult it is to get past these cravings. While it’s not something I have to deal with, I live with someone who does, and I have learned a lot by watching them and seeing them deal with it.
Employing the same strategies I’ve talked about before regarding regular cravings does work for stress eating. However, while you may not be able to eliminate the source of your stress, you need to find ways to channel that stress into something more productive and less food-related.
Hobbies are a great source of stress relief for me. I can get lost for hours in my hobbies, and at times I find myself feeling like I need to munch on something when I know well and good I’m not really hungry, I will find something hobby-related to take my mind off my stomach.
Chores are another great thing. I know; nobody likes chores. I’m at the top of the list of people who hate doing chores. But, the honest truth is that sometimes buckling down and tackling something like taking out the trash, sweeping or mopping, or cleaning up a closet are projects that don’t take a lot of work, but can be just enough to get one past a craving.
Exercise is a great one. I find myself getting hungry sometimes before dinner, but my wife often comes home between an hour to two hours after me. That’s part of the reason I schedule my runs (exercise) for after work. As soon as I get down to do my push ups, I’ve already forgotten about the craving.
Reading is something I do almost daily, especially on my rest days (when I don’t run/exercise). I will sit on the back or front porch with a cup of coffee or tea and read something, whether it’s a book, studying for a Ham license (which is what I did for a few weeks back in November and passed my exam, btw!), or just reading Facebook on my iPad.
Water or food. Note that this is the very last suggestion, and for good reason. I will try to do anything I can to keep me from caving in to a craving. If I find that I am still thinking about food, it can only mean one of two things: Either I’m honestly hungry from not eating enough at my previous meal, or I spent more calories than normal and need to augment my energy with some fuel. In those cases, I’ll try water first. If after 10-15 minutes after drinking some water I’m still hungry, I’ll get a handful of nuts. By handful, I am talking about 8-15 nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, or walnuts are my favorites). I’ve been known to also eat an apple or pear, some freeze-dried blueberries (the same amount as the aforementioned nuts), or even a slice of bacon.
Stress eating is an emotional issue, and while I’m not able to offer good advice on how to relieve stress outside of what you can find on a Google search, when it comes to cravings, I have had a lot of success with the list above. There is one final thing that keeps me from eating when I shouldn’t, and it’s my Jedi mind trick: I DO NOT ACCEPT SABOTAGE.
I believe that there’s no such thing as cheating on a diet. Never. I won’t do it, and I do not accept any reason or excuse for it. Anytime you are on a restriction diet or trying to lose weight or get healthy and you are not yet in maintenance, any non-compliant eating is sabotage, plain and simple. Why jeopardize the hard work and effort you’ve put into changing your lifestyle by eating something that could lead you to falling off the wagon? It’s just not worth it to me, and you need to adopt the same mindset. We all want to succeed. We want to win. Cheating won’t get you there. If anything, it leads to disgrace and failure. Do it right and do not accept anything that gets in your way.