How often do you eat in response to stress? It might happen more often than you think. Mindless eating often happens when we are anxious or nervous. The excess calories you consume during these episodes can easily undo your best weight loss efforts and even cause weight gain.
Recognize Signs of Stress
The best way to curb stress-related snacking is to recognize the signs and develop alternative ways to manage your feelings. Use old school methods or new technology to help identify emotional eating.
Listen to your language. If you head to the vending machine or the refrigerator telling yourself that you "deserve" a treat, chances are good that you're not really hungry, but rather eating to soothe stress-related feelings.
Monitor your heart rate. Some fitness trackers provide heart rate data that can help you to identify stress. Your heart rate is usually higher when you are anxious. Of course, there are other reasons that your heart rate might spike. But if you notice that you often eat when your heart rate is elevated, you might want to examine your feelings.
There are also devices that are specifically designed to identify stress. The WellBe bracelet (shown) monitors your heart rate and uses a unique algorithm to determine your stress and calmness levels based on time, location and people you meet throughout your day.
Evaluate your food choices. Craving starchy carbs? When you are feeling strong and balanced, you're more likely to make good food choices. But for most of us, when we feel down, we usually crave baked goods, sweets, salty crunchy snacks and other processed foods.
Keeping a food journal will help you to notice patterns of stress-related eating so that you can determine the situations (or people) that are likely to trigger unhealthy snacking.
Release Stress to Lose Weight
After you identify stress-related eating, you can take steps to make healthier choices. Give yourself a dose of calm (rather than food) to give your body and your brain what it needs.
Take a break. Before you dive into a snack that you know your body doesn't need, take a 10 minute break to go for a walk, practice deep breathing, talk to a friend, or simply close your eyes and relax. Many times the urge to eat goes away.
Stretch. Simple flexibility exercises increase circulation, improve blood flow to your brain and increase range of motion in your joints. The result? An instant dose of release and relaxation.
Aromatherapy. Scents like lavender, sandalwood and jasmine have calming benefits. Keep a small bottle of essential oils nearby to provide relief when you need it. It's an easy calorie-free way to destress.
Talk to a friend. A support system is key when you are trying to slim down. Before you indulge in high-calorie junk food, call or text a friend.
Do you have a way to relieve stress and avoid mindless eating? Post it in a comment below.