It’s another crazy day at work. The phone is ringing off the hook, yet another co-worker needs your attention, and your boss is anxious for the report that was due yesterday. So you do what anyone would do in this situation—you grab some chocolate or a bag of chips to help you deal with the stress. But then, instead of feeling better, you just feel guilty on top of it all.|
If people only ate when they were genuinely hungry, most of us would never have weight problems. Unfortunately, emotions drive us to eat more often than actual hunger pangs. Whether we feel stress, boredom, loneliness, anger or sadness, we often turn to food to feel better. And while that may work in the short term, soothing yourself with high-calorie, high-fat goodies usually makes you feel worse in the long run—the emotions will still be there, along with ten or twenty extra pounds.
Instead of reaching for food the next time high emotions hit, try these coping ideas. In the end, your mind will feel better by resolving your feelings, and your body will thank you for not filling it with more food than it needs.
All Stressed Out
While it’s tempting to deal with stress by eating, there are many healthier ways to relieve the pressure. Exercise may be the best way to reduce stress levels. Instead of reaching for a snack when you feel ready to explode, take a quick walk outside or better yet, hit the gym for a vigorous workout. Any moderate to intense physical activity will lower your stress levels and help you deal with your problems more effectively. Try running, shadow boxing or even gardening, as many people find working with the earth to be soothing.
By exercising regularly, you can also help prevent stress from building up to unmanageable levels in the first place. Meditation, yoga and visualization will also help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Bored Out of Your Mind
If your weeknights are filled with TV watching, and every Saturday night brings the same old video and a pizza routine, it’s time to break out of your rut. Many times we eat out of habit without even thinking about what we’re doing, especially when we're mindlessly munching while watching the tube.
If you're eating to prevent boredom, then get off the sofa and try a new activity. Go dancing, bowling or skating for an inexpensive night out that doesn’t revolve around food. Mix up your routine as much as possible—if you usually talk to your friends on the phone, drop by for a face-to-face visit. You can’t eat if your hands are busy, so try painting, knitting or playing an instrument to keep your hands occupied. If you have free time, find an organization that needs volunteers and help out. Many people associate home with food and don’t eat if they’re not in their regular surroundings, so spending time out of the house keeps them from munching.