When we become anxious, angry, or overwhelmed, a desire to eat or overeat can take over.
When it comes to managing weight, stress can be a killer, often sabotaging the best-laid plans. For instance, if the choice is between curbing the immediate impulse to eat or keeping your sanity, weight management plans can be pushed to the side.
Emotional eating is eating when you’re not hungry. And when we become anxious, angry, or overwhelmed, a desire to eat or overeat can take over. Yet, what your body may really need is a break, not a snack. The next time you feel your stress level rising, try taking a different approach. In ten minutes or less, the following tips can help you to reduce eating impulses by giving your body a chance to relax.
Draw - drawing can have a calming effect and help to reduce stress. If you’re not comfortable starting with a blank page, try using an adult coloring book. That’s right, what used to be just for kids, is now available to adults! Adult coloring books have become such a trend they are now topping bestseller lists.
Walk - motion reduces stress and walking is meditation in motion. Focusing on this single task can help you to calm and clear your mind.
Read - in as little as 6 minutes reading can slow down your heart rate, ease muscle tension, and reduce stress levels by 68%. Next time you’re feeling stressed try opening a book instead of the refrigerator.
Breathe - relieve stress with just a breath. According to The American Institute of Stress, to effectively reduce stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. Focused, deep breathing helps activate that response by increasing oxygen to the brain, promoting a state of calmness.
Face massage - stress isn’t always in the mind, your body can hold tension too. A face massage can be an effective way to stretch out more than 50 muscles. Performing circular motions around the eyes and jawline can help to increase blood flow and relax muscles.
Pets - there’s a reason pets are used in hospitals and clinics. They have a calming effect on patients. Numerous studies have shown that spending time with pets, either playing or just snuggling, can help reduce tension and anxiety.
Humor - Laughter is a great way to manage stress, and reading or telling a joke can be the perfect way to begin. Don’t know any? Here’s one to help you get started: “A man walks into a doctor’s office. He has a carrot up his nose, a tomato in his left ear and a banana in his right. ‘What’s the matter with me?’ he asks. The doctor replies, ‘You’re not eating right.’”
According to recent reports, stress can affect short-term memory, particularly in older adults. So don’t be surprised if a wave of stress makes you forget how it feels to be calm—and how to achieve that calm. Making stress-reducers a part of your daily routine can help you avoid the problem. For instance, scheduling 10 minute daily walks on your calendar, keeping books near at hand, or setting an alarm on your phone to remember to do deep breathing exercises, can serve as reminders.
Stress is a natural part of life but it doesn’t need to lead to mindless eating. The next time you’re ready to raid the kitchen cabinets because of stress, take a break. Ask yourself, “What am I really hungry for”? There’s a chance your mind and body may be craving something other than food.
Sean Bridges is Health Educator for the Delaware and Ottawa County Health Departments.