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Finally Take Control of Your Stress Eating

With such a busy schedule most of us face a multitude of stressful situations. With long hours at work or simply running a household, we often turn to food to soothe away the annoyances of problematic days. Let’s face it; after a full day of dropping off and picking up the kids, getting reports in on time, and battling traffic just in time to have 5 minutes of relaxation, nothing sounds better than our favorite snacks.

“After all that I deserve something delicious” sounds like an extremely prevalent mantra. Don’t get me wrong indulgence on occasion can boost anyone’s spirit! Our parents have enforced this our entire lives with one of the most famous parenting lines “You need to finish all your vegetables, and then you can have dessert!” In the attempt to teach the importance of a healthier diet, our parents have equated “comfort” and “reward” with food.

stressful

If you are good you get a reward, dessert, and feel comforted, unfortunately, this and number of other food-rewarding situations have perpetually influenced what, when, and why we eat. Now as adults with increasingly stressful lives what do we all do to comfort ourselves? That’s right; all too often, we turn to food to relieve stress. And it’s not usually so-called “healthy” and low-calorie foods we want. We want rich, creamy, salty, fattening, “comfort” foods.

However, before you start blaming good old mom and dad, there is scientific evidence that most of us who eat in response to stress are simply falling victim to heightened biochemical responses to comfort food. Those who are dieting, for example, tend to have lower levels of serotonin in their brains, that reported “low” feeling; experiencing a high-fat, high sugar, high calorie “sugar rush” raises serotonin levels, and can actually leave individuals susceptible to physical cravings for comfort foods.

This type of behavior is a self-supported physical addiction to certain foods. That is, some individuals may actually have a propensity to overeat in the same way someone addicted to smoking needs a cigarette in order to stay feeling “normal.”

What happens with stress eating?

For many people, the normal response to stress actually involved a shutting down of the appetite. However, in today’s fast-paced lifestyles, when we don’t get enough sleep and are under too much stress, this raises cortisol levels, which in turn raises our desires for fatty, salty, sweet foods that are not good for us. Unfortunately, this is a cycle that just won’t quit.

The response to stress, and the aftermath

When we’re stressed, we are more inclined to feast upon refined carbohydrate, fat, salty, sweet foods that are devoid of nutritional value, and for some people these types of foods are as addictive as nicotine. Because when you eat these foods your brain is flooded with serotonin however, this “feel good” rush of does not last long. Soon after stuffing our faces, guilt sets in and we feel terrible that we have consumed these empty calories that collect on our waistline, exactly where we don’t want them. Sometimes, the guilt and weight gain can lead to a poor body image, which can only exacerbate our stress and comfort food consumption. Again, another empty cycle of addiction that only leads you to feel pretty terrible about yourself.

Solution?

Your solution begins with a change in attitude. Realize that stress eating is a form of addictive behavior and that simple “willpower” is usually not enough to change it for long. You are going to have to work on changing your lifestyle, and it may very well be that you’ll experience very real “withdrawal” symptoms when you quit eating your junk food, much like a cigarette addict experiences when he or she quits smoking. It can be very, very uncomfortable to go through this withdrawal, but it is necessary to begin breaking away from stress eating.

Therefore, the solution to resolving your stress eating issues is something that has to happen on several levels. First of all, realize that stress eating isn’t just about willpower. If you know this, you can help assuage guilt you have about “giving in” to temptation. If you know it’s not just about your willpower or lack thereof, you can quit feeling so badly about yourself and maybe let that go as a past behavior that doesn’t have to continue.

The second part of the solution to resolving stress eating issues is that you have to find other, healthier ways to deal with the stress. For example, when you feel tempted to eat in response to stress, stop. Ask yourself if you’re feeling stressed, and if the answer is yes, do something else. Take a walk outside and breathe in the cool air or pick up the phone and call your best friend. Do whatever you have to do to distract yourself from the feeling that you want to eat just because you’re feeling stressed.

Old addictions are hard to break and you are going to have cravings for your comfort foods for quite some time until your body quits expecting them. And it should be noted that it may very well be possible for you to occasionally have a bite or two of your comfort foods just because you want them, for example as a treat once or twice a week. What you can never return to again is a mindless binge on your old favorites as you once did.

What’s important to note, too, is that as your stress levels decrease, you are less likely to reach for your old standby comfort foods to satisfy you. In the event you do get the urge to “munch,” and if you can’t stop it, opt for healthy choices like raw cut veggies (celery, carrots, snap peas, green pepper) or a healthy choice like air popped popcorn.

One final note: If you do fall off the wagon and have a “stress eating binge” on comfort foods, don’t let that stop you from climbing right back on the next day and continuing with your new and healthier lifestyle. Let it go and move on to the next day; your new healthier lifestyle will make you feel so much better you won’t want your “comfort food” except as an occasional treat before long.

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6 Tips to Cope with Stress Eating

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Stress eating can lead you to depend heavily on comfort foods; foods that are laden with calories, sugar and salt. Stress eating therefore leads to sudden weight gains and health problems. Also, stress eating is addictive and once a person is used to munching their way through stress, they find it difficult to stop.

Here are some effective tips to cope with stress eating:

Stress eating

Understand your problem

This is the first tip. Stress eating is often mistaken for needful eating because stress saps you of energy, makes you feel listless and empty. Therefore, victims have to develop a super sensitive antenna to detect stress eating and recognize it for what it is.

Relax

People turn to comfort foods during stress so they can help the body unwind and get some comfort. It is more productive to look for healthy ways of de-stressing. Deep breathing, yoga, music or exercises can help you relax.

Postpone

Postpone the act of eating for 10-20 minutes. Actual hunger tolerates delay. By postponing the act of eating, you can control the urge to eat junk food. Besides, postponing the urge may get rid of the food craving altogether. This is one of the most effective tips to fight stress eating.

Exercise

Daily exercise is a natural stress fighter. More importantly, it can help you overcome the bad effects of stress eating. Exercise need not be rigorous. Even light exercise will do. But commit to 15-20 minutes of exercise every day.

Portion control

If you are used to stress eating, there may be times when you cannot deny yourself the pleasure of food. In such cases, simply indulge yourself. But, instead of gobbling the entire cake, eat a thin sliver. Enjoy the taste and savor the flavor.

Try, try, try again

Don’t give up on yourself. It is not as hard as it seems. Small steps will lead you to success ultimately. Slowly but surely, you will succeed in breaking the unholy nexus between mood and food!

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Avoid Stress Eating with These Dieters Tips

Wondering how stress affects your resolve to lose weight? A new survey finds that if you’re a frequent dieter, you’re more likely to indulge in stress eating. What’s more, those who indulge during stressful times tend to pig out on calorie filled, fat laden junk foods.

Researchers suggested some dieters tips, including indulging in the occasional slice of cake might just make you less likely to binge on cake during a stressful time.

dieters tips

The thing is, if you’re always dieting, you might just give up when you’re feeling stressed – eating what you want, when you want it. It’s human nature, after all, to want to feel good, or avoid feeling bad. Food does this for many of us, and over time the association of food with love and good feelings grows so strong that it fuels cravings for years to come. Soon it feels unnatural not to eat as a response to stress.

Chronic stress keeps the body’s natural systems on high alert, ramping up the production of stress hormone cortisol, and one of the responses to long term stress is to search out very pleasurable foods… high energy choices with lots of fat and sugar. These foods help your body maintain its reserves and cope, and eventually dampen down the output of the stress system.

Earlier research has found that stress does cause biological as well as psychological changes that impact the kind of foods we crave and what we eat.

To understand more about food consumption and stress, the research team recruited 158 adult subjects to complete a question survey that uncovered some interesting things about stress eating.

Everyone in the survey who ate under stress also reported that they chose foods that were more calorific and were higher in fat, salt, carbs and sugar during these times.

Other findings of the survey include…

  • Just 20% of respondents said they followed the same eating pattern whether stressed or not, about 40% ate less when stressed, 40% ate more.

  • Stress overeaters had a much higher chance of being on a diet lasting at least 2 weeks, and yet they had wider waistlines, bigger hips and were heavier, on average, compared with those who didn’t eat under stress.

  • Stress overeaters eat even unhealthier foods than those who don’t eat when stressed… the overeaters under stress preferred chocolate, candy or another sweets when stressed.

  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, 40% of people who eat less under stress craved fruits, veggies and cheese during a stressful time.

In the long run, when it comes to stress eating and your weight loss goals, one of the best dieters tips is to figure how to manage the inevitable upheaval and tension with things other than food… exercise, deep breathing, a walk outside, time with a pet… whatever works for you.

It also helps to make the effort to learn about your feelings and what might be triggering them. Negative emotions, despite what you’ve been told, or told yourself, aren’t bad. They’re simply giving you a message that something isn’t right… what’s stressing you out or what needs to change. Ignoring the problem only makes things worse.

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Tips to Stress Eating

Stress is one of the most common causes of overeating and weight gain. Can you relate? Your day gets busy, life feels overwhelming, and you find yourself (without much thought) inhaling a sugary fatty “treat” because you think it’s going to make you feel better – and it does for about a minute. Maybe you turn to junk food to “boost energy” or to help you deal with your feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger, or sadness. All the while you’re gaining weight and feeling worse instead of better.

As much as you want to stop stress eating, it’s hard to control because (ironically) it happens when you’re stressed. It’s not enough to just tell yourself not to do it. In fact, trying NOT to stress eat can actually intensify stress and make you want to eat more. It is possible however, to break the cycle of stress – stress eating – more stress with the right plan.

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A plan to successfully control stress eating is not just about food. In fact, it doesn’t start with food at all. A few non-food strategies and a bit of practice can make a huge difference. It takes persistence and creative ways to calm and successfully soothe yourself. The goal is to rewire your brain to identify certain non-eating behaviors as comforting, and to use those behaviors when things start to feel stressful. These three stress busting strategies can help you to calm down and take control.

STRESS BUSTING TIP 1: Be Aware and Take Care

Much of stress eating is so unconscious that it happens automatically and you may not even realize it. Before you can make changes in your behavior, you need to be aware of what you are doing. Keeping a journal can help. Write down where and when you stress eat. Was it during work or late at night when you are alone? Do you notice any patterns? Try to determine whether or not you were physically hungry. At first you may be journaling after the fact, but eventually you’re awareness will increase and you will catch yourself before you stress eat. This is the goal; and then you can decide to NOT stress eat and do something else to cope.

STRESS BUSTING TIP 2: Stop – N – Swap

If you remove stress eating from your life, you have to replace it with something. Write down a concrete list of all the healthy, non-food related activities that give you a quick pick-me-up on a tough day. Here a few simple examples.

STRESS BUSTING TIP 3: Practice Yourself Calm

In addition to the techniques mentioned above there are many other ways to calm yourself without eating, such as journaling, meditation, connecting with others, distraction, guided imagery, aroma therapy and other ways to pamper your senses. Try out these techniques when you aren’t craving food so you know exactly what to do before you really need them.

Now, let’s talk about a few stress-busting foods. There are certain foods that have calming properties based on how their specific nutrients are used by the body. Here are a few you can try:

Tea. Green, black, and white teas are packed with flavonoids; natural antioxidants that may help blood vessels relax and lower blood pressure. If you are sensitive to caffeine, go for decaffeinated varieties. And be sure not to add sugar or an artificial sweetener to your tea. Dark chocolate, red peppers, citrus fruits and berries are other flavonoid-rich foods.

Dark green vegetables. Veggies such as broccoli, spinach, kale and other greens are high in B vitamins, which can help fight anxiety. Research suggests people with low levels of these vitamins are more likely to have depression than those with normal levels.

Nuts. Almonds and cashews are rich sources of magnesium, a mineral involved in production of serotonin – a chemical produced by the body to help it relax. Like dark green veggies, nuts are high in B vitamins. They are also packed with healthy fat and some protein to reduce cravings and keep hunger at bay.

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How to Stop Stress Eating

When stressed out do you engage in healthy ways to cope with stress or self-destructive ones as stress eating. However, many women I work with admit that during stressful times healthy lifestyle and healthy stress management habits go out of a window.

It is much easier to reach for food as a source of comfort and sooth yourself with food. Over time you may have developed this particular coping habit and when stress and uncertainty increase, you turn to what you know, especially if it has associations of a simpler and safer time in your lives.

stress eating

In a crisis, we call friends and family members. Just the sound of a loved one’s voice can be soothing. In the everyday crises of our lives, it’s easy to come home after a long day and turn to something we know – food.

This is known as emotional eating, or “stress eating,” or other terms that all refer to the consumption of food for reasons other than physical hunger and need for energy. Unfortunately, the ultimate comfort eating foods are often loaded with carbohydrates and fat — and come with strings attached — stress fat.

And if you continue to use stress eating to comfort, the kilos keep adding on and then you need more comforting because now you have additional stress – necessity to deal with an extra weight.

Most women would prefer to be managing stress in healthier ways, but when stress levels are high, many of us find it much more tempting to indulge in something delicious and easier than exercising or meditating.

Where to start to break that vicious comfort eating cycle?

Start by bringing more awareness to when and how you comfort yourself.

Have a range of soothing activities available to you, so that you feel like you have a choice. You may be in the habit of grabbing food on the way or as soon as you walk in the door.

Try to break that self-destructive habit by developing a new healthy habit.

When ever you feel an urge to eat, and you are not psychically hungry do something totally different to redirect your attention – it doesn’t matter what it is (drink a glass of water, walk a dog, paint, or knit, do a puzzle or crosswords ) as long as it is completely different from your usual routine. Eating in response to your triggers is a habit; choosing to do something else breaks the cycle.

Make a list of activities that soothe you before you need them and start doing them on a regular basis. You can overcome emotional eating through dozens of mindful activities that are healthy for both body and mind.

Write down both simple and more complicated ideas; be sure to include a few that don’t require any preparation or equipment. You may have different ideas for home, work, and other settings. Add new activities to your list as you think of them.

Having a variety of ideas ensures that you’ll come up with something that fits your mood or situation. That will help you build a new healthy habit of using other ways to soothe yourself besides eating.

Reach for your list instead of the refrigerator next time you feel the urge to snack. And remember, you’re redirecting your attention away from food because you don’t need it yet, not because you’re depriving yourself. Remind yourself that you’ll eat when you’re hungry.

Start small. Call a friend. Take a few deep breaths.Try mindfulness activity called blank mind exercise.

Small things can make a big difference.

Identify those times of the day that are most difficult for you and have your list handy.

For most women transition times from and to work and mid-afternoons are particularly hard. These are times of the day when your stress hormone cortisol level drops and your energy needs a boost and all women are in danger to fall into stress-induced eating trap.

Our lives are busy, often difficult and out of balance. In order to stay slim, calm and balanced you need to be proactive and find the ways to sooth yourself without food in a healthy way.