Stress is one of the most common triggers for emotional eating. When we feel anxious and under pressure, sometimes it seems like the easiest way to get relief is to reach for the nearest nosh. Studies have shown that when we’re stress eating, we’re more likely to go for unhealthy choices like potato chips or ice cream which means that we’re getting hit from all sides – the stress hormones can cause us to gain weight, the bad food we eat can cause us to gain weight, plus that bad food causes more cravings for bad food AND usually messes with our blood sugar and makes us feel even worse – and more stressed. It’s a perfect recipe for disaster. So what’s a body to do? Registered Dietician, Allison Knott gives this advice:
- Establish a routine: Put together a precise plan for when you’ll exercise, when you’ll sleep and even when and what you’ll eat. You will be less easily stressed out because you will feel more organized and will have clear action steps to follow when stress does strike. Even better, try planning regular meals in enjoyable settings, like breakfast on the patio in the morning sunshine or dinner with friends. This will help you de-stress without stress-eating.
- Be mindful: remove all distractions like the TV or computer when you’re eating. It’s common to want to shut down and zone out when you’re stressed, but focusing on your food lets you really taste it and will leave you more satisfied. You will also be able to pay better attention to when you’re full so that you don’t end up overeating.
- Don’t fret over slip-ups: Every single person in the entire history of the universe makes mistakes every once in awhile – even you and me – and that’s totally ok. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and don’t let them get you down. If you accidentally eat too many fries with lunch or you cave and stop for that triple venti caramel macchiato on the way home from work, it’s really not the end of the world. Stressing out about it will only make you more stressed, clearly. Just be aware of why the slip-up happened so you can understand your stress-eating trigger and you can try to do better next time.
- Put tempting food out of sight (or don’t buy it at all): If Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food isn’t in your freezer, it’s not going to be so easy to give in and eat the whole pint. Do yourself a favor when you shop for groceries; make a healthy, reasonable list, stick to it and don’t go to the market when you’re hungry. Planning for what kinds of food you’ll allow in your house sets you up for easy success by removing the stress that comes with having to decide: cake or carrots?
- Find a healthy outlet for stress: while it’s important to learn how to avoid NOT dealing with stress by eating, it’s necessary to find another way to deal with that stress. It’s not acceptable to just stuff it away somewhere and try to ignore it – that can contribute to obesity, heart disease and other negative effects on your overall health. Try yoga, journaling, meditation or running. Find something you love to do that melts away the pressure, releases endorphins and makes you feel good.
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.
Image Credit: Stress by Alan Cleaver. Used under creative commons license.
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