Healthy Eating

How to Fight Food Cravings When You Are Stressed

Noticing an increase in cravings during this time? It’s not just you!

By: Emmy Schneider-Green

Along with the “new normal” of social distancing life, we’re all experiencing a plethora of new, stressful, and downright scary emotions.

And if you’re noticing an increase in cravings during this time, it’s not just you! In fact, science shows it’s literally human nature to gravitate towards comforting food in times of stress. Excess levels of cortisol are to blame, and whether you’re on the frontlines or just cooped up at home, you can be sure your body’s overloaded with the stress hormone right now.

Also worth noting? Loneliness can increase and trigger food cravings. (A hungry and lonely brain looks strikingly similar when monitored in studies.) The result is our stressed out, lonely bodies looking to get a hit of those happiness hormones however it can, often leaving you craving the donuts and salty chips.

You’re totally normal if you have to fight food cravings while stressed. Here are some ways to help keep them at bay while giving your body the nourishment and comfort it actually needs.

8 Ways to Fight Food Cravings Even When Stressed

#1 Reorganize for Success

Know the term “out of sight, out of mind?” The opposite is also true. Take an afternoon and kill some time while setting your fridge up for success. Put healthy items like fruit and veggies, hummus, and anything else you want to eat more of in your line of sight. It sounds simple, but if your fruit is all hiding out in a crisper drawer, you’re a lot less likely to grab it when you open the fridge and browse for a snack.  

#2 Prep Ahead of Time

When you find yourself with time on your hands (um, often!) use it to meal prep — your future self will thank you. If you don’t feel like prepping a whole meal simply batch cook ingredients like healthy protein sources, grains, and veggies. 

#3 Sip a Smoothie 

Smoothies have always been a fave healthy choice of ours, but they’re extra convenient right now as a way to sneak in lots of superfood ingredients in one fell swoop. You can pre-freeze smoothie ingredients in a baggie like bananas, berries, spinach, etc. and then just dump in the blender. 

#4 Stay Well-Fed

Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of going too long without eating. This will only lead to overeating and more intense cravings later on. Keep your metabolism and digestion happy and cravings at bay by staying well-fed with three square meals a day and a snack or two. It’s easy to lose all sense of time during self-isolation, so if it helps, set recurring reminders in your phone for meal breaks. 

#5 Use Social Media Wisely 

You might be scrolling your phone quite a bit more than usual while cooped up. Use your scroll time for good! Follow some inspiring healthy food accounts of your favorite food bloggers or food magazines and give your mind a break from negative news while getting ideas for healthy recipe ideas. 

#6 Make it a Social Event 

It’s no secret we’re pretty starved for human interaction during these days of quarantine. Since loneliness and emotional stress can directly lead to junk food cravings, do what you can to get some virtual interaction! Make mealtime into a social event, via Zoom or Facetime with a friend. 

Some ideas: pick a recipe to cook at the same time as a loved one, host a virtual dinner party or dessert and cocktail hour, or get dressed up for a video dinner date.

#7 Allow Yourself Some Treats

Not to sound like a broken record, but deprivation never works for long. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you try to keep your cravings at bay by denying yourself entirely. Instead, account for treats, in moderation. Pick one dessert to make each week, or allow yourself 1-2 “fun” items on your grocery run or delivery. We’re not suggesting daily dessert or constant junk food, but having what you’re craving now and again will keep your urges in check so you won’t feel the need to go overboard when you do have it.  

#8 Comfort Yourself in Other Ways

Of course, many cravings are not signaled by true hunger, but by emotional duress, loneliness, or plain old boredom. When you feel a craving strike, do your best to identify if it’s true hunger or something else. Just had a meal and know you’re not truly hungry? Then try having a glass of water, getting up and doing some physical activity, calling a friend, or comforting yourself with a hobby that brings you peace. 

You Got This!

We’re all in this together, and while stress levels are high worldwide now, this too shall pass. Embrace this opportunity as a chance to pick up new healthy habits for dealing with tough emotions. And remember to have that occasional glass of wine or dark chocolate you’re craving — just enjoy responsibly and wisely.