Cravings, Comfort Foods and Emotional Eating…

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By Melanie Stewart

Melanie Stewart

I was recently asked a great question: how to handle stress or emotional eating.  Much can be revealed from the connection between what we crave and the emotional, mental and physical state that is driving that desire. True hunger is always a request from your body for nutrients.  We honor that request by choosing a balance of nutrient dense foods which satisfy, rather than choosing nutrient free processed, packaged, high sugar, junk foods and fast foods that leave our bodies effectively starving. However, emotional or stress eating generally has nothing to do with hunger. The first step is to pause and ask a simple question:  What am I feeling?

  • Cravings for something sugary could be a request for energy or a desire for more sweetness in your life. You can meet that request with sweet and delicious fruit rather than indulging in cookies, cakes or candy.
  • Craving something salty? Ask yourself if you’re harboring any negative or bitter thoughts that need to be acknowledged.  Conversely, a craving for salt, which helps your body retain water, may be a sign of dehydration or excessive water loss through perspiration.  After a nice big glass of water, there are some great sources of healthy fats including olives, sardines, hummus or salted nuts that could satisfy.
  • When we crave crunchy foods it could be from stress or from stuffing emotions. Crunching can help relieve stress or drown out intense feelings. In either case, try grabbing some carrots and/or celery with hummus.  And then talk it out!
  • Cravings for something eaten with a spoon can indicate a need for self care or comfort.  After the breast or bottle, our first foods were served to us on a spoon. That’s why ice cream, soups, and cereal are popular choices when we’re feeling down or in need of soothing. Even a plain broth can be enough to reset that emotional state.
  • If you find yourself craving something healthy, a salad for instance, you are either in true need of nutritional support or you are actually in balance. So, go ahead and enjoy!

There is also the physiology of the body to be considered.  For example, the hormone ghrelin, produced in the stomach lining, when released signals hunger.  Unfortunately, stress can also trigger its release creating the urge to snack. If you’re feeling stressed, try taking a short walk in the sun, meditating for a few minutes or doing a deep breathing exercise before you cave to the craving. Then make your best choice! Even if you choose something unhealthy, include something healthy as well.  By eating the healthy item first, you can stop or at least deter the strong urge for the unhealthy. For example, include guacamole, carrots and celery with your chips and salsa. The healthy fat from the avocado helps to slow the release and absorption of carbohydrate sugars. The fiber from the veggies will help fill you up faster while blocking the absorption of some of the calories from the chips. Other tips that might help include: staying hydrated, getting proper exercise, and prioritizing sleep.

I want to hear from you! If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see covered in this column, email me at melanie@yumtumnutrition.com.  While I cannot give individual medical advice, I would love to address your areas of interest!

Melanie Stewart has written 2 books for children (Yum Tum, Good Food is Fun! and Yum Tum, We Get it Done!) and one for adults (Yum Tum For Everyone!) all available on Amazon or at: https://www.yumtumnutrition.com/ All content is commentary or opinion and is protected under Free Speech laws. It’s not meant to give individual medical advice or to make any health claims on the prevention or curing of diseases.