Admit it – when you’re stressed out, tired, sad, or in a bad mood, you eat. You reach for those snacks stashed away in the back of your cupboard for times like this. The fattier and more sugar laden, the better.
Eating junk at the low points in our lives is only natural. After all, stress makes the body release cortisol, a hormone that stimulates the metabolism of fat and carbs for energy, promotes the release of insulin and maintains blood sugar levels. By doing all of this, it tells our brains that we’re hungry, and only fatty and sweet food that is calorically rich will satiate our appetite. Cortisol is also nicknamed the stress hormone, and with a name like that, it’s no wonder that everybody is inherently programmed to eat when they’re down, and gain weight since the number of calories coming in aren’t being balanced out with the number burned for energy. Researchers have proven time and time again that people gain weight more easily when they’re stressed, but we know scientific studies are unnecessary to support this well known fact.
To avoid stress eating and maintain your weight loss efforts, you can do four things.
1. Clean out your cupboards and secret hiding spots and replace all of that junk with healthier alternatives. Vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grain cereals with little or no added sweeteners are great snacks. When it’s time to eat, you’ll have no choice but to munch away on those. While you’re eating, chew slowly.
2. Add more protein to your daily meals. True hunger can aggravate mood swings, and the long lasting energy protein provides can help fight hunger. Low fat protein, like skinless chicken breast, is your best source.
3. Exercise, or at least take a walk. Stressful situations will only get worse if you can’t immediately address the cause, so before it builds up and explodes, get away. Take a break by walking around the block, running up a flight of stairs, or stretching. Moving your body does wonders for tension. And while we’re talking about exercise, follow a fitness training regimen more regularly since it can positively affect how your body deals with stress and is a natural anti-depressant.
4. Concentrate. If you must eat, then do it but with the concentration it deserves. Don’t mindlessly shove food into your mouth – pick up each piece, place it into your mouth and concentrate on chewing and swallowing. You’ll find that taking time to savour each bite will slow you down. You’ll probably also find that you’ll eat less.