Election week stress eating? Dietitian shares healthy coping mechanisms

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WILMINGTON NC (WWAY) — Have you found yourself reaching for some extra snacks as your try to digest this election week? You may not be alone.

A registered dietitian at New Hanover Regional Medical Center explains where the urge to stress eat comes from, and how to fight it on a long-term level.

“Between the pandemic and the election and just all the unprecedented times we’re in, I think i see a lot higher need for self care and focusing on nutrition and fitness than i ever have before,” NHRMC Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Program Coordinator Ana Evans said.

Evans says stress eating is normal and actually pretty common. Between the pandemic and now the election, she says stress eating is a common coping mechanism.

“Identifying if your hunger is coming from your head or your belly,” she said. “And a good way to recognize that is, I tell people if you’re really hungry in your body and you need nutrition, you’re probably going to go for something fresh and something that really has nutrition.”

Evans says a sign you might be stress eating is if you’re reaching for the sugar, salty snacks or junk food.

“It really involves hormone levels being elevated that cause you to crave more refined carbohydrates,” she said. “Foods that kind of fuel that fight or flight mechanism.”

Evans says around eight out of 10 of her patients have stress or emotional eating concerns.

“A lot of times, we just go right to food, and we think that’s the answer, and it gives us that immediate gratification,” Evans said. “But if we slow down and take a ‘get a grip moment’, like I call it, we can get a little bit more in touch with what we really need.”

From setting aside time for a walk, yoga, listening to a calming video or just lighting some candles, Evans says there are simple and long-term changes you can make to help you suppress some impulsive urges to snack.

“Meal planning for your week, so you have a little bit more time, and you’re less stressed, or something as simple as shopping in the store, to using an online app to save yourself some time,” she said.

Evans also encourages people to keep the phones or electronics out of the bedroom. She recommends using the Calm app or similar meditation apps to help relax.

She says trying some of these things could be the key to keep from diving into the pantry or refrigerator for that quick fix.

Evans says it also helps to stay on a schedule, and to eat every three or four hours. When you start skipping meals, she says that’s when you start to overeat or binge eat.

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