For some of us, eating is not just fuel for our body; for some of us, it’s a tool to help us feel better when we’re feeling down or anxious. Stress eating can really affect your health and weight, and you’ll probably feel worse after eating something you know wasn’t good for you.

Stress eating is often not about physical hunger and more about satisfying a craving. It tends to be high-fat, high-sugar and high-calorie foods that we crave when feeling the urge to stress eat, and it’s these foods that release high levels of dopamine; the same chemical your brain releases when you’re in love.

So how do you recognise when you are stress eating?

Do you tend to eat more when you’re stressed? Do you eat if you’re bored? Do you eat even when you’re not hungry? Do you eat even though you’re full? Do you reward yourself with food? Do you crave foods that are bad for you e.g. high fat/sugar?

If you feel like the answer is yes to some or all of these questions you might be a stress eater. But don’t worry! We’ve put together some tips to help you overcome this.

Replace eating with something productive

If you’re eating because you’re bored, why not try doing something like reading a book or another hobby you enjoy? If you’re eating because you’re stressed or upset, try calling a friend who makes you feel happy or go for a relaxing walk, or even try mindfulness or meditation. Having something else in place of eating that you enjoy will encourage you to ignore the cravings and do something productive.

Eat more slowly

Eating more slowly may help you to think about what you’re eating, and therefore not eat an unnecessary amount. Eating slower could also help you to savour your food and enjoy it more – you’d be surprised at what flavours you might notice when you’re really thinking about what you’re eating and chewing more thoroughly.

Eat regular meals

Having a regular meal plan with times allocated for eating could help you to get into a routine, where your mind and body get used to eating at those times. This may help you to feel less hungry outside of those times and also make sure that you’re not overeating.

Find the source of the stress

Ultimately, food is just a distraction from whatever is the real issue. Finding the source of whatever is stressing you out or causing you upset is the key to ending stress eating.