Break the Stress Eating Cycle
Picture yourself in a stressful situation or after a long day of fast-paced work, do you unwind with food? Stressed out? Overeating? These two behaviors often go hand in hand and people may not realize they’re stress eating until they’ve packed on extra pounds. Stress eating can increase the risk of obesity, negatively affect type 2 diabetes, and cause other metabolic irregularities.
When people stress eat, they typically choose high fat and high sugar foods and it becomes a normal behavior. So every time you’re stressed you fall into the trap and make unhealthful food choices as a way to decompress. Later on, you may feel guilty about your choices, which can lead to more stress eating.
Make a commitment now to eat healthy with a focus on your health, not your weight. This will help curb stress eating – because it helps you avoid the diet mentality which can lead to the up and down weight cycle that corresponds with your mood and outlook.
Let it go
One of the first steps to overcoming emotional or stress eating is to recognize that you do it, and forgive yourself for it. Letting go of the guilt will enable you to grow from the experience. Turning your focus from feeling bad or guilty about it to creating ways to dealing with it will help you start to break the cycle.
When you reach for food you need to check in with your body to see if you are actually hungry or if there is something emotional going on. Ask yourself when is the last time you ate, is your stomach rumbling, and have you had any water lately? If you have had a meal or snack in the last couple of hours you are not truly hungry. Imagine eating an apple or a bag of chips. If only the chips seem appealing to you then you’re not truly hungry. Avoid eating as an emotional response and reach for a glass of tea or water. Often thirst is mistaken for hunger.
When you want to reach for food and you know you’re not truly hungry but just overwhelmed take a moment to redirect your thoughts. Head in the opposite direction of the food. Instead take a walk outside, get some fresh air, meditate, stretch or call a friend.
Exercise and stress have an inverse relationship - high stress lifestyles often provide an obstacle to being more physically active. But just like you schedule appointments you need to schedule your work-outs. Exercise can make you feel happier and healthier and improve your overall mood. It helps you let go and unwind before the stress gets to you. Take charge of your exercise routine, don’t just put exercise on your to-do list, schedule time in your day each week specifically for working out. Go for a run, pop in an aerobics video, or keep a set of weights under your desk. Get back into an exercise routine that works for you!
Get a hobby
When people get busy in their everyday lives with family, work, obligations and errands they tend to push their hobbies to the wayside. Hobbies you look forward to can help greatly reduce stress. Start scheduling in time for personal hobbies and stick to it, if you only have 10 minutes make them count. Ten minutes of doing a jigsaw puzzle, word game, drawing, or playing a card game can help you decompress and start fresh when you return to your obligations.
Turn off the TV when eating
Make it a house rule –no food in front of the TV ever! Research clearly shows you eat more food while watching TV –so don’t think you can beat the statistics on this one! TV can be a way to unwind at the end of a long day, but it may also contribute to weight gain. The more time you spend in front of a TV the less time you are being active, planning healthy meals, and thinking about how to better manage your stress. Make it a new rule to do sit-ups, jumping jacks or stretch during TV. Even folding laundry counts –just avoid being a couch potato.
If all else fails, stop and take 5 deep breaths in and out. Try breathing in for 5 seconds and exhaling slowly for 7 seconds. It will clear your mind and give your body a chance to calm down. Breathing deeply is important to reel in all your thoughts and be able to think more clearly about them.
Do not let your stress take over your life and hinder your weight loss goals, take charge by recognizing your emotional eating and using these tips to work through it and get back on track. Start now with 5 deep breaths!
How stressed out do you feel today?