Stress eating can be disastrous for your weight loss or wellness efforts. Many of us turn to food as comfort during stressful times. And it should go without saying that ‘comfort food’ is more likely to be ice cream or french fries than it is to be green beans or kale smoothies! But putting specific foods aside, stress can lead to weight gain on a chemical level. Stress can slow your metabolism and trigger cravings for sweet, salty, or fatty foods.
It’s that last bit – the chemical part – that matters here. Managing stress eating isn’t just about ignoring cravings. It’s about dealing with stress in other ways, so that you break the habit of turning to food. So keeping that in mind, here are a few general stress management tips that can occupy your mind and keep you from turning to food as a calming factor:
1) Try Yoga
Exercise is an excellent way to relieve stress. There are chemical reactions to this effect, and it’s also just a smart thing to do, since it takes your mind off of negativity and pressure. One excellent version of exercise is yoga – something that gives you all the benefits of many other exercises without requiring a high level of energetic output. Yoga is calming, centering, and tremendously positive. If you start turning to yoga instead of unhealthy snacks, you might just find that it becomes a vital (and healthier) part of your day!
2) Less Caffeine
Avoid (or at least reduce) your consumption of any drinks containing caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it.
Swap caffeinated drinks for water or herbal teas. This will keep you hydrated and will enable your body to cope better with stress.
3) Keep Away From Sugar
You should also aim to avoid or reduce your intake of refined sugars. Sugar surges will cause energy crashes, which will lead you to feeling tired and irritable. It’s too easy to grab junk food as a distraction when you’re feeling stressed. Make sure that you don’t keep sugar handy in the house, or at work. Don’t make temptations easy!
4) Keep Your Brain Focused With Gaming
There’s always been some debate over the idea, but science actually shows that gaming can relieve stress. And you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a high-end console and $60 video games either. You can usually accomplish the goal of stress relief with a simpler game you find in your browser or on a mobile device. Typically something repetitive will do the trick, as it can have a mesmerizing effect. Online casino platforms can work nicely, particularly given that slots have become the backbone of the modern site (and are repetitive and, in a soothing way, mindless). On the app front, you might try something like an endless runner (think Temple Run) or an atmospheric puzzler (like Monument Valley) to lull yourself into a sense of calm.
5) Music plus Tea
Music is known to be an extremely effective stress reduction tool, and should always be a go-to for anyone living a stressful lifestyle. Whether you need to zone out for 10 minutes at your desk at work, calm yourself at the end of the day, or even get yourself in the right mindset in the morning, running through a few songs, a strategic playlist, or even a favorite album can work wonders. It shuts the world out, in a way, and allows you to simply bask in something you enjoy. Incidentally, black tea is also known to be useful for reducing stress, and is a nice healthy treat to pair with a music listening session, so you might as well double up!
6) Focus On Your Breathing
Holding your breath can exacerbate anxiety and fear. Any time you notice that you’re feeling stressed out, take 10 seconds to focus on six deep breaths. Be sure to open your diaphragm (belly breathing) instead of raising your shoulders when you inhale. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, then slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8.