In a recent blog, I wrote about the prevalence of stress in today’s world, and offered 10 tips to manage stress. (If you missed it, click here to read Ten Tips to Manage Stress.) The reality is that if we do not learn to effectively manage our stress, we may instead find ourselves managing a whole host of other undesirables. To reiterate, the failure to manage stress can result in anxiety, depression, insomnia, premature aging, mood disorders, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. On top of all those serious health concerns, failure to manage stress can also result in weight gain, and over time, obesity, stemming from poor food choices made while under stress. I am referring to what is commonly called “stress eating” and nothing can take a woman off track with weight loss faster than a high stress day and the stress eating that somehow gets her through it.
The challenge, of course, is that those urges to stress eat strike when we are at a particularly vulnerable point emotionally. Those of us who stress eat seek solace in “comfort foods”, which are typically packed full of sugar, flour and calories. Those comfort foods provide an extra dose of dopamine to make us feel better, at least temporarily, which is one of the reasons we crave them. Dopamine is known as the “feel-good hormone” because it provides feelings of euphoria and bliss. No matter how much better your body may feel after eating “comfort food”, the body will still be at risk for the undesirables referenced above, and you certainly won’t be any closer to the your weight loss goals, especially if your stress eating occurs with any regularity. In addition to the ten tips provided in the prior blog, which are more of a proactive and overall approach to stress management, below are some techniques you can use “in the moment” to avoid stress eating in the midst of your stressful day.
If you are in the habit of experiencing stressful days because of your job or relationships, then it makes sense to plan in advance for a healthy interruption that you will implement when stress arises. I encourage you to have at least five healthy interruption techniques at the ready. Below I offer a few ideas to get you started, but ultimately you will want to develop techniques that are meaningful to your particular circumstances. Tell yourself in advance that the stress may be coming, and if it does, you are prepared and will employ one of your techniques before you resort to stress eating. Nine times out of ten your stress will dissipate without the need for food, and your body and brain will eventually become conditioned to the fact that food is no longer your answer to stress relief:
1. Have a safe space designated within your office or home (wherever you find yourself encountering stress, to the extent practical) where you can go light a candle or incense, close the blinds or drapes, and exercise some deep inhalations and exhalations. Even five minutes of respite can bring about a shift in your stress level and allow you to push the reset button simply with space and breath, and not food.
2. Another option to deep inhalations and exhalations in your safe space would be to listen to a quick guided meditation.
3 3. Grab a bottle of water and go for a quick walk outside. The water will help your body to feel as if it is being satiated, the walk will get your body moving and your blood flowing, and the fresh air will prompt you to breathe. The whole experience will give you a fresh perspective.
4. Have an understanding with a friend or family member that you will each provide each other with support in stressful times where either of you might otherwise feel tempted to stress eat. Place a time limit on the phone call. Even five minutes on the phone with a friend who understands what you are trying to accomplish with weight loss and the stressors of your life can quickly bring you back into perspective while allowing the food urge to pass unsatisfied.
To get started on a deeper dive into stress management and permanent weight loss, click on the calendar below to schedule a FREE mini-session with me. What do you have to lose but some weight??