Many of us are under a lot of stress. Stress can lead to over-eating, especially over-eating foods that are high in fat and sugar. Stress also can lead to drinking more alcohol, exercising less, and having a hard time sleeping. If you are experiencing stress, there are some ways to cope that are healthier and may help you avoid weight gain.
Be aware of what triggers your emotional eating.
If it’s boredom, try to find something to do instead. It may be tidying or cleaning up or another chore that gives you a sense of satisfaction and completion. Or you may want to work on a hobby that you enjoy.
Sometimes if we are tired, we may think that we need fuel. If you tend to go a long time without eating, plan a healthy snack you can grab. But if it’s energy you lack, food – especially high fat and sugar foods – are not the answer. Sometimes that lack of energy may be due to your stress or the way you handle stress, rather than being due to a lack of fuel. Over-eating high fat or high sugar foods may actually make you feel worse rather than better.
Exercise is another way to reduce stress. If you are not exercising now, this is a good habit to start. There are barriers initially, for some of us. Try to identify what yours are and strategize to overcome them. If time is an issue, start with five or ten minutes a day. Plan for when the best time for you would be and consider it like an appointment that you are committed to. Put it on your calendar. If it’s cold or rainy or dark or you can’t leave the kids alone, you can access “Walk Away the Pounds” for free. Consider recording an exercise program to do at your convenience or buy a DVD. Trying different things can keep it interesting. Find what works for you. Just make it a habit and add time every other week or so. You’ll probably see progress in your stamina and find that your mood improves if you keep it up. Yoga and tai chi offer benefits of exercise and meditation. Including family members or others you are spending time with can make it more fun. Remember, that playing tag or Frisbee or other games are exercise, too.
Keeping a food diary is a helpful tool you can use to gain insight into why you eat. You can track food and drinks and/or how hungry you are when you eat (1 – 10 scale is one way to do this). You can include how you are feeling and what you are doing at the time. Seeing patterns in eating behavior can help us identify things we may want to work on changing.
While now may not be the best time to be with friends or family in person, keep in touch with people you are close to. A zoom chat, FaceTime, or just a phone call will keep you connected.
Meditation may help you become more mindful of your food choices. In addition, studies have shown that it can help control blood pressure and heart disease. There are apps to help you learn to meditate if you have not done it before. Some are free, for instance, Headspace, Calm, Aura, Stop, Breathe and Think, and Insight.
But if you are experiencing stress that is not helped by any of these, reach out to your doctor to set up an appointment to talk to a counselor.
If you are having problems with stress eating, you can contact one of our doctors, one of our dieticians, or our psychologist. Any of them would be happy to help you address this problem.
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us your question. We are here to help.
Sydney Rephan, RD, LD