You may be familiar with food cravings for physical reasons such as dehydration or going too long in between meals, but did you know that cravings can also stem from emotions? We all experience stress, and we all eat due to our emotions sometimes. Our relationship with stress and mood can influence our eating habits.
If you’re looking to improve your eating habits, you can do this by learning the root cause of your habit and use that information to help you move towards change.
Here’s an activity you can do on your own to begin reflecting on how your food and mood are connected.
- First, think of a time recently that you used food or eating behaviors to help cope with stress. What was the stressor? What emotions were triggered?
- Secondly, how did you react to the stressor, or what behaviors came after? Perhaps you mindlessly walked to your pantry for a snack, or maybe you decided to skip a meal.
- Next, note any physical symptoms that you felt during or after the experience. This may include feeling full after stress eating, feeling a quick burst of energy followed by a crash, or having a headache after skipping a meal.
- Lastly, reflect on any emotions or thoughts you had after the experience. Were those thoughts and emotions helpful, or harmful? How so?
Over time and with reflection, you may start to notice patterns in how your mood affects your food choices. For most of us, we have “default” ways of using food to cope with stress. Luckily, once we notice the patterns, we can use that as information to help us move toward greater health and happiness.