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Combat poor food choices when stressed?

Combat poor food choices or overeating when stressed or busy.

Ever had a super busy or stressful day, week, month or months?  Yes, my hand is also in the air.

I have 4 questions for you:

  1. Did it undermine your good intentions to make healthy food choices?
  2. Did you instead find yourself craving or seeking out comfort (aka energy dense unhealthy) food?
  3. Did you find yourself inhaling your food at a rapid rate?
  4. Did you eat something before you were aware you had it in your hand?

Unresolved stress and food choices

A 2013 study found unresolved stress can change the brain’s response to food, that stress can increase the risk of a person making poor eating habits.  And if the stress goes unresolved it can increase their risk of being overweight or obese. (1)

In black and white this means, stress particularly ongoing unresolved stress can and does make healthy eating more challenging.

But you probably did not need me to tell you that, did you?  If you have or are experiencing ongoing stress and/or busyness, particularly that you find overwhelming or tiring, you know first hand what can happen.

You also know it can spiral out of control.  That you can end up feeling like there is no longer a point to trying to eat healthy, that you may as well give up all attempts to eat healthy today, tomorrow and possibly for the rest of the week.

Strategies to prevent over-eating or eating unhealthy foods

1.  Remove the stress from you life.

  • It is not always possible however practical remove unnecessary sources of stress.
  • Redirect your effort from trying to deal with the busyness or stress to finding ways of reducing or removing it.

2.  Include strategies to help you better manage stress. 

Things that will get you out of stress mode and into a calmer state of mind and body.

It will help you feel more prepared to deal with stress.  Ideas include:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep
  2. Get active
  3. Consider guided meditation
  4. Read a book
  5. Book a baby sitter
  6. Use day care
  7. Have a bath
  8. Write a list of all of the great things in your life
  9. Chat to a friend
  10. Write in a journal

3.  Adopt the the 10minute rule.

  • Take a deep breathe.
  • Place all actions on pause before you open the cupboard or head to the shop.
  • Ask yourself am I hungry?  Or am I stressed?
  • Ask yourself, will eating resolved my stress?  Or will I only feel better for 60seconds.
  • Take 3-4 slow breathes.
  • Remind yourself this feeling of stress will pass.
  • Remind yourself that you can and will deal with the stress.
  • If 10minutes seems to long, start with 5 minutes.

4.  Moderate the portion or amount you eat.

  • If you think you can have a small amount of that comfort food and stop, do so.
  • If you are more of an all or nothing type of person, avoid keeping unhealthy tempting foods at hand.
  • Your first step to comfort eating, may be to keep healthier options on hand.

5.  Become aware.

Did you know our perception of the severity of the stress can influence the physiological impact?

  • Find out what is driving your busyness or stress?
  • Does your reaction feel automatic?
  • Is it a habit you use to comfort yourself, to avoid something, to shut down or to cope?

6.  Adopt an eating plan that mitigates the impact of stress on your body

What you eat is an important as other stress management strategies.

Do you need help to understand the type of eating plan you need to mitigate the impact of stress on your body.

I can help you with this so I encourage you to make contact.

  • Do you understand how to adopt an energy promoting eating plan?
  • Do you know what nutrients stress can depletes in your body?
  • Is your eating plan one that builds and promotes immunity?

Stress is a normal part of life

As I often say stress can trigger positive and negative and negative habits.

The first step to changing food choices and habits being driven by stress and/or busyness is being aware of them.

Awareness provides us with the ability to make a choice, to continue what we are doing or to start taking steps to change.

take care

ciao Jan

(1) Tryon, MS, Carter, CS, Decant, R, Laugero, KD. (2013).  Chronic stress exposure may affect the brain’s response to high calorie food cues and predispose to obesogenic eating habits. Physiol Behav. 2013 Aug 15;120:233-42.