Are you a stress eater? Here's how to conquer those empty caloriesStop reaching for that piece of chocolate every time work gets tough. Here are experts tricks and tips on how to beat stress eating.
You just ate lunch. So why are you eating three back-to-back fun size Twix without batting an eyelash? Just putting it out there: You're stress eating.
But if you notice you're prone to grabbing an extra pastry when things get tough, know that you're not alone. Eating your feelings is unfortunately common.
"Stress eating is when people lose focus of the moment, the concept of mindful eating, and they go for food and it becomes a pattern or behavior," says Keri Glassman, a registered dietician and the author of The New You and Improved Diet.
But don't blame that extra deadline for not fitting into your new skirt: Exercise physiologist Anna Renderer and Glassman have smarts tips for curbing your stress eating.
Identify The Trigger
"Relationships, a fight with a girlfriend, a boss, finances, getting married, trying to get pregnant—all of these things cause stress for women," says Glassman. Identifying what's at the root of your stress eating and taking a step back may keep you from nose-diving into a pint of ice cream.
But why do women tend to eat more when things go haywire in their lives?
"Stress also causes a lot of vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) in the body (especially in the head) and that will increase blood pressure and will make people more inclined to eat to relieve that stress and tension in the body," explains Renderer.
Blame Your Mom
"It's a psychological aspect that food gives us a certain amount of pleasure; that's just physiology. But then of course, habits are learned from parents," explains Glassman. "If you see a parent getting stressed and going out for a walk, that's just good learning." Reversely, if a parent, role model, or close friend stress eats, this could be a habit a woman picks up over time.
Why That Pizza Looks So Good
Comfort food got its name for a reason. Rich fare that's heavy in fat and loaded with calories actually releases sertonin, a feel-good hormone. That's why women who are stress eating "go for ice cream and mac and cheese," Glassman says. But after binging on these rich foods that at first give you a hormonal up, you'll crash and burn, "making you feel worse that you've overindulged," she notes.
How To Break The Cycle
"If you're stressed, just really be in tune with your body," advises Glassman. "As you're going to grab something, take your other hand and pull the other hand back. And if you're truly hungry, find a controlled food. So if you go for a chocolate chip cookie, find a piece of dark chocolate with a cup of green tea, so that way you're finding something that's satisfying the craving."
Also consider this novel idea: Food isn't the only way to deal with your stress. "Maybe it's calling a certain friend, or reading something from a spiritual book or taking a walk or doing push-ups. Whatever works for you."
Speaking of which, hitting the gym is actually one of the best stress relievers in the book, and can mimic the relief you can find in food.
Food "makes your mind wander away from your stress and you naturally relax. It also causes blood flow to your stomach for digestion and makes you feel less tension from your blood pressure," insists Renderer. "It's important for women to resort to a form of cardiovascular exercise that causes vasodilation (opening of the blood vessels), which also decreases blood pressure and releases endorphins."
What's Best to Beat The Stress?
"The best modes of exercise are running, swimming, cycling, elliptical training, or even walking. Go out for about 30 to 60 minutes and you will alleviate your stress, feel better, and make healthier choices when eating," says Renderer. But when it comes to alleviating a whole bunch of tension that has been piling up, she knows sometimes kicking your butt with regular cardio just doesn't cut it—you need to get your mind involved, too.
"Workouts and activities that overall decrease stress include things like hiking; being out in nature can surely decrease stress and get you in touch with your inner peace. It's also excellent overall conditioning that will release endorphins and decrease blood pressure," advises Renderer. "Other modes of exercise like yoga are amazing due to the connection of breath and movement. When you work on deep breathing it relaxes the body and decreases stress. There is nothing more powerful than breathing to decrease stress because it brings so much more oxygen to the body and helps calm your mind."
So next time you're stressed, take a deep breath, put down the candy, strap on your sneaks, and go for a hike.
Want more stories from Carson? Follow her on Twitter.
More from MSN Healthy Living:
- 6 bad excuses for overeating
- Weight-loss products you don’t need
- Stop your biggest diet derailers
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