According to a study in 2015 by the World Health Organisation, the UAE is the fifth most obese country in the world, and the average BMI of an Emirati is 25.6, meaning that the average person in the UAE is overweight. This alarming statistic should not be taken lightly as being overweight and obese can lead to a whole array of health complications. Stress eating and bad diets are one of the main culprits we need to address if we are to stay healthy and lead a good example for future generations to come. 

What is Stress Eating?

Stress Eating

Stress eating is literally what the name entails. This is when people consume large amounts of food and are taking in excessive calories as a result of stressful thoughts and feelings. Stress eating is a compulsive disorder where people believe that eating excessive foods or indulging in favourites that may not be healthy will help to offset feelings of stress, anger, shame, and or depression. People who stress eat have no regard for their physical health and end up packing on excessive weight. 

Ways to Prevent Stress Eating

  • Don’t skip breakfast

A healthy breakfast that is high in fibre, minerals and a little bit of protein will kick start your metabolism for the day and help regulate hunger. A healthy breakfast with an average of 250 calories is enough to help you feel full, energized and enhance your mood in the mornings, so you don’t eat as soon as you feel stressed.

  • Listen to what your body tells you

If your body is telling you that it is full or isn’t hungry, then you should listen to it. Only eat when your body needs it. If you have a craving or feel like eating to counteract your stress or bad mood, but your body doesn’t need it, then avoid eating at all costs. By listening to what your body says, you’ll be able to differentiate normal eating habits and stress eating better. 

  • Stay hydrated throughout the day

People often confuse hunger with dehydration. When the body and brain are dehydrated, it isn’t able to process thoughts and signals from the body and will often mistake thirst for hunger. Along with stress, this can lead to overeating. By drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Your body and mind can operate at its best and differentiate between hunger and thirst. Drinking plenty of water is also good at helping you feel full.

  • Focus on getting proteins

Animal-based proteins are good for managing a healthy weight, sticking to your calorie goals and most importantly, keeping you feeling full so you don’t overeat. Not only do meals with protein keep your appetite satisfied, but they also help you build up strength and size in your muscles and can help you to burn fat faster. 

  • Ditch restrictive diets

If you are someone who likes to eat when they’re stressed, don’t make your condition worse by sticking to restrictive diets that you can’t stick to. This can result in an even increased level of stress and overeating. Set yourself realistic goals and a dieting plan that is manageable for you. Give yourself the chance to indulge in your favourite junk foods every once in a while without overeating. This will keep your body and mind happy without going overboard with excess calories.

  • Aim for a healthy and maintainable weight

Identify what a healthy and manageable weight is for you and stick to it. This is the best way to know your limits and how much calories you should be eating in a day. Aiming for a healthy weight or daily caloric intake objectives, even if you do end up stress eating, you’ll be able to counteract it with the rest of your eating habits throughout the day. Having a goal or objective will also help you to stop stress eating subconsciously.

  • Find alternatives to dealing with stress

Find out other ways that can help you to manage or regulate stress and anger. Perhaps exercise meditation or a new hobby. Try all the different means of relaxation, and once you find what works for you, your urges to stress, eat will significantly lessen.

Do You Need Help?

Whether you’re just overeating or notice your mental health is creating stumbling blocks in your life, it may be wise to seek professional help. If you have tried all of the above steps, but none of them seems to help your stress eating, speaking with a psychologist or your doctor may be the best way for you to beat your food eating habits as well as improving your mental health. It’s also important to know that you’re not alone. Many people in the UAE suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression. There’s nothing wrong with seeking out professional help or joining a support group of people going through a similar case like yours.

Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.