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14 May 2007

Beating stress eating

Many people turn to comfort foods when they are under stress. This can make the kilo’s pile on, adding to the stress you are already under.

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Many people turn to comfort foods when they are under stress. This can make the kilo’s pile on, adding to the stress you are already under.

Reaching for the kind of foods that were given to you when you were a crying toddler, is a natural response when seeking comfort, says Cape Town psychologist, Ilse Terblanche.

“We associate foods like cookies and chocolates with safety and feelings of security. It is a natural response to turn to these in times of stress”, adds Terblanche.

So what can you do to combat this vicious cycle?

Face the facts. The first major step is admitting that you are stress eating. Acknowledging that you are responding to your stressful situation in this manner, is already a step in the right direction.

So what is stressing you out? Identify what exactly is making you feel anxious. Is it work, your relationship, finances, family problems? Once you have identified the source of your stress, it is always easier to face it. Counselling is always a good idea. You don’t have to walk this road alone.

Relax, relax, relax. Find out what relaxes you. It may be a session at the gym, a long walk, aromatherapy, meditation, a massage or time with your partner. Make a plan to fit this activity into your busy schedule.

Creating calm. Make your home a soothing environment. Play soothing music, lie down for a while or take a long candlelit bath. You may have to farm your children out for an hour or two, because naps and long baths do not happen if there are toddlers around.

Learn to switch off. Mulling endlessly over things that might happen is a useless exercise. Sometimes things are out of your hands and agonizing over them serves no purpose at all.

Give yourself a prize. Many people eat when they are stressed, but they also reward themselves with foods like chips and chocolate cake. Be aware that you are doing this and find an alternative way to reward yourself, such as buying yourself a nice magazine or going to a movie.

Get that heart beating. Regular exercise controls your blood sugar levels and therefore has a tendency to reduce your appetite. So next time you want to reach for the chips, put on your walking shoes.

Don’t deprive yourself. If you are craving something, have it. Depriving yourself will only make you binge on that particular item if you wait three days. Just eat what you feel like in reasonable quantities. If you crave something once in three weeks, it isn’t a problem, but eat salami sandwiches every day and you will watch the kilo’s pile on.

Plan ahead. Have healthy and tasty snacks available at home. Fresh fruit, eggs, crackers, cottage cheese, whole-wheat bread and low-fat yoghurt are always good. Sometimes people eat too much, because they have been hungry for too long. Remember that it takes twenty minutes for the brain to get the message that your stomach is full. Eating a snack before a meal can therefore be a good idea.

Get to the basics. Many people eat to comfort themselves because of feelings of inadequacy, a lack of confidence, a low self-image, anxiety, emotional pain or sadness. Get to the bottom of what is causing you to do this. Go for counselling and you might watch those kilo’s disappear. - (Susan Erasmus, Health24)

Read more:
9 things you should really worry about
All stressed out and nowhere to go

 
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