The holidays are upon us! Holiday stress is also upon us. You may feel that you have too much to handle, you are overwhelmed, and everything seems to be going wrong. You reach for the candy bars or chips as a way to relieve your stress. It may work for the very short time, but soon you will experience a crash and will feel worse than before.
Side effects of stress eating:
— Candy, chips and cookies are a fast track to happiness through the load of simple carbohydrates which results in a “sugar high.” But, after the high comes the low. The load of simple carbohydrates leaves you feeling sluggish, tired, and even suppresses the immune system for hours after intake.
— Caffeine is no help either. When you are anxious or stressed, your body is already stimulated. Add caffeine, a stimulant, and you are setting yourself to crash even more a few hours later. Caffeine is also a dehydrator – being dehydrated makes you feel even more fatigued and stressed.
— Weight gain. Stress eaters gain weight more often than non stress eaters.
— Your brain becomes conditioned to want the cookies, candy, chips, etc. It becomes an automatic response where you reach for the food without even thinking about it.
Break the stress eating cycle with these 10 healthy alternatives:
1.Build a good nutrition foundation: prepare your brain and body in advance and you will be more equipped to handle stress when it arises. Eat a balanced diet and eat regularly, about every 4-6 hours.
2.Enjoy complex carbohydrates: complex carbs (oatmeal, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, etc) will give you the same good-mood feelings without the crash later.
3. Recognize what’s happening: stop and think – are you really hungry? when did you eat last? Stopping and thinking may give you a chance to make a healthier decision.
4. Try a little mindfulness: stop your automatic response by paying attention to your eating habits. Slow down, enjoy your food, and listen to your body. Become aware of your fullness and hunger cues.
5. Have a plan B… and C: stress eating urges hit very suddenly. Keep healthy snacks within reach to help prevent you from indulging in a higher calorie snack.
6. Fool yourself: Crave crunchy? Fool yourself and grab fresh veggies, baked chips, nuts, or pretzels. Crave sweet? Fool yourself and grab fruit, a small piece of dark chocolate, low-fat yogurt, or trail mix.
7. Out of sight, out of mind: hide the foods you tend to indulge in behind healthier alternatives or behind a stack of dishes. If you can’t see it, you won’t be as tempted!
8. Find a substitute: keep your hands and/or mind busy by going on a walk, listening to music, starting a craft, reading a book, or calling a family member or friend to chat.
9. Try some natural remedies: yoga, meditation, regular exercise, and adequate sleep have all been shown to help relieve stress.
10. Increase your vitamin C intake: vitamin C helps to reduce stress hormone levels and well as boost the immune system (which is often compromised during times of stress).
Don’t let the food stress you out! If you indulge, enjoy the food and eat it slowly and mindfully. Don’t let the guilt take over. Remember to relax and enjoy the holidays – you don’t have to eat healthy 100% of the time! Tomorrow is a new day.
See a previous post, Food & Your Mood, for more information on how food affects your mood.