By Jenna Hanington
Your boyfriend or girlfriend just broke up with you, you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for on that math test, or you didn’t make the team that you just tried out for. What do you do to try to make yourself feel better? Many of us turn to food for that “feel better” fix.
Most of the time, it doesn’t even matter what kind of food it is – even just the act of eating feels good. When I was getting ready for all of my AP exams in high school, the stress of studying started to make a lot of junk foods look really, really good. AP Calculus test tomorrow? Maybe a chocolate bar will make me feel better. AP Spanish exam, too? How about another bag of popcorn? It was only a few stomach aches later that I realized that emotional eating wasn’t the way to go.
Do you ever turn to food when you’re upset or stressed out? Does a bad break-up or a week full of tests make you want to crawl into bed with a gallon of ice cream? If so, here are a few examples of things that helped me to stay away from unhealthy, emotional eating:
- Get out and do something when you’re feeling down. Lying around only gives you more time to think about the things that are stressing you out. And, if you’re exercising or hanging out with friends, chances are you’re not eating. And another bonus—moving your body releases some ‘feel good’ chemicals, which will make you feel better and more energized
- Put some healthy snacks in a bowl before you start studying and keep them near you. When I used to start feeling tempted to drown those pre-test sorrows in junk food, I would turn to the closest thing to me. Trust me, if there’s already food within reach, the desire to get up and find more food miraculously goes away.
- Chew gum. This one is probably the easiest. If you’re upset and you feel the urge to get out that gallon of ice cream, pop in a piece of gum. You still get some flavor and the feeling that you’re chewing something without all of the unhealthy calories. I used to keep a variety pack around so that I wouldn’t get bored with one flavor.
- Talk to your friends or family. The cool thing about talking is that you can’t really eat at the same time. Talking through your problems can often make them seem a lot less daunting. This used to help me a lot, and still does today.
Try a few of these out and see what happens. Then, come up with few of your own ideas. Challenge yourself. If you find that steps you’re taking on your own aren’t working for you, try talking to a parent or counselor about it. Sometimes, emotional eating can be bigger than just you and me.
Jenna Hanington is a student at Georgia Tech studying Communications and Literature. She loves being physically active and spending time outdoors.