Stress is an inevitable part of life. It is never going to go away and when we accept that and figure out how to manage it, we make better choices.
Did you know that stress actually releases a hormone that can cause us to crave food? Cortisol is released when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed and we get the euphoric feeling after eating salty, sugary or high-fat foods. The problem is that after we come down from that feeling of euphoria, the same stress is still there. And so the cycle continues.
Not only does cortisol lead us to make unhealthy food choices, it can also lead to increased blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and a number of other health issues (including weight gain).
If you tend to eat when you are stressed, here are some tips to help you make a better choice:
- Take 5 minutes to focus on breathing. Sit somewhere quiet. Close your eyes. Listen to your breath and feel your chest and belly rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Breath “between the eyes”.
- If it helps and you are able to do so, try some gentle yoga positions such as downdog or child’s pose.
- Write about your stress and determine if there is a way you can reduce the amount of stress in your life. Remember… STRESS IS A PART OF LIFE!! There is no way to get rid of it completely. So finding an alternative to emotional eating that works for you is key to success.
- Go for a walk or find some form of exercise. Regular exercise helps keep those cortisol levels down, as well.
- Turn on some music and, if you wish, dance! Listening to your favorite music lowers cortisol. Let the music fit your mood. Cry if you need to!
- Call a friend. Talking to others helps reduce our stress level. It also gives you a chance to move away from the food scene and get out your frustrations.
- Write a letter. This one I have found to be extremely beneficial when I’m upset with someone. I can write whatever feelings down that I am experiencing without having guilt attached to it. I don’t send the letter… it just allows me to get the emotions on paper so I can visually see what is going on. I frequently have had clients do this and they find it extremely cathartic. You may be surprised to find there is more going on than you thought.
- Ask for help. Tough sometimes; but if you need help, get it.
The next time you find yourself at the fridge or snack cabinet, take some time to journal, breath and explore your true emotions. Figure out what is going on and what your alternative to food is.