That Donut is NOT a Therapist!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kathy Redlinger, Registered DietitianBy Kathy Redlinger, MS, RD, CDE
Women’s Heart Secrets Program Registered Dietitian

Stress eating — it happens to the best of us. Work piling up, kids to take care of, not getting enough sleep, maybe some financial pressures — it’s all enough to stress out even the strongest person. Many women, when those pressures get to be too much, turn to food as a coping mechanism. Many times this “coping food” is something sweet, fatty or both. Overeating only exacerbates stress, though. Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to ward off those unhealthy cravings.

  1. Tame The Stress
    If stress is the root of your emotional eating, then it only makes sense to tackle that first. There are several stress management techniques that work wonders such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation. Better yet, physical activity is an excellent stress reliever. Making a conscious effort to get enough sleep will also help you deal with daily stresses more successfully.
  2. Wait It Out
    Sometimes it can be difficult to decipher actual hunger pangs from an emotional craving. If you recently ate when a craving attacks, that’s a clear sign your desire to eat is emotional, not physical. If you force yourself to wait a little while, the craving should subside on its own.
  3. Remove The Temptation
    This is probably the easiest step you can take. If you know you’re prone to using certain unhealthy food to cope with stress, simply don’t buy it in the first place. If it’s not in the house, you’re far less likely to eat it. These types of emotional cravings are typically impulsive urges and by the time it would take you to get your purse, get into your car and drive to the grocery store, they will have waned.
  4. Seek Support
    Without a strong support network, you’re more likely to seek refuge in food. Talk with friends or family or join a support group. If those don’t work, you could consider consulting with a therapist. A professional can help you get to the root of your stress eating and work through ways to overcome it. Knowing what’s causing the problem is the first step in solving it.
  5. Don’t Go Cold Turkey
    If you are dieting with a specific weight-loss goal in mind, completely cutting out all the treats you enjoy will only serve to make your cravings more frequent and ferocious. If you let yourself enjoy the occasional treat in moderation, you won’t resort to overindulging when stress challenges you.

Finally, if despite your best efforts you overindulge, forgive yourself and work to eat healthier the next day. Tomorrow is another day and, even if your healthy eating crashes and burns one day, by sticking with your plan and not becoming completely derailed you will reach your health and fitness goals. Good luck!

View all entries in the Heart Secrets blog.


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