Stress Eating- Part ONE:
I’m certain a LOT of people can identify with this situation: A stressor of some sort has worked you up into a frenzy and now you’re seeking something to comfort you. Where do you go? The kitchen. Why? Perhaps, a memory of childhood makes it a relaxing place. So, you open the fridge or freezer for your favorite snack. Only you serve yourself an extra heaping serving because well… you’re gonna need it. At least that’s the way you feel. So you indulge, you feel relief from your stress, then you go about your business or maybe to bed since it’s that time. BUT the next morning you regret having over indulged.
Now freeze! Rewind. You CAN avoid that trap! There are foods that help alleviate the body’s stress response. You can reach for those foods instead at moments like the example above, or you can add them to your everyday diet to help your body fight stress regularly. There’s a great little book on the subject which I found extremely helpful called Stress Eater Diet by Robert B. Posner, M.D. and Linda Hlivka.
Now I realize that the cover of the book says, “A Simple Guide for Women Who Want to Stress Less, Lose More and Look Fabulous!”, but the information can be applied to men as well. Granted, men and women respond to stress differently and carry their excess weight in different ways, but the foods which help reduce stress don’t care what gender you are since they will work just as well either way. 🙂
I’ll cover how to identify a stress eater, the stress alleviating foods, sugars, fat facts, how to tell the difference between true hunger and the emotionally driven sort, and tricks to reduce hunger if you are trying to lose weight and don’t want stress eating to derail your progress, plus a conclusion. I promise to try not going off on too many tangents, if it can be helped. 😉
Moving on: How does one know if they are a stress eater?
If you aren’t fully certain if you are a stress eater, Posner and Hlivka included a short 10 question quiz in the book, which I have transcribed below (pgs. 16-19).
You will answer with one of the four following answers:
a. All of the time (4pts).
b. Part of the time (3pts).
c. Some of the time (2pts).
d. Little to none of the time (0pts).
Note: Keep a tally of your points for the results.
When I am stressed, I eat without thinking.
I have cravings for carbohydrates including sweets, chips, breads, rice and pasta when I’m upset or stressed.
I experience difficulty in controlling my eating when I feel stressed.
I find myself thinking about food when I’m stressed.
After a bad day, I just open up the refrigerator or pantry and eat whatever I find.
When I am upset or stressed, I don’t think about eating a balanced diet.
I allow myself to eat what I want when I’m stressed.
After a stressful day, I feel better after eating carbs.
I feel stressed every day.
As soon as I feel stressed, I will reach for food although I’m not hungry.
0-6 pts.= You are not a stress eater. Stress does not interfere in your eating patterns.
7-12 pts.= You are a moderate stress eater. Stress does affect your eating patterns causing you to lose control of your diet at times.
13-18 pts.= You are a consistent stress eater. Stress guides your eating patterns and food choices which can be detrimental (harmful) with regard to weight control issues.
19 pts. and Over= You are an extreme stress eater. Stress controls your eating patterns causing you to lose constant control of your diet.
Sadly, the first time I took this quiz a few years ago, my point total was well above 20! I’m embarrassed by the number to be honest. But now, I’m between the 13-18 point mark, so I’ve progressed. Just last night, I experienced a major stressor thanks to one of my final classes and found myself wanting to gorge myself on chocolate and chips. But I told myself “NO!” and opted to look for foods that would reduce my stress and not the work I’ve put in to losing some excess weight. Since whole grains, though not necessarily in the form of breads, is on the list of stress reducing foods, I used rolled oats to make some oatmeal which I added chopped walnuts (also, on the list) and fresh blueberries, as well as a little brown sugar (not on the list, but since it was a little I didn’t figure it’d hurt me too much) to the pot as it cooked. Afterward, I stirred in some ground flax seeds since it’s supposed to be heart healthy. 😀 Within minutes, I felt immensely better and I wasn’t overcome with guilt over what I’d consumed either.
Part Two (A and B): Stress Relieving Foods
Part Three: Sugars and Their Impact
Part Four: Surprising Fat Facts
Part Five: Physical Hunger Vs. Emotional Hunger
Part Six: Tricks to Reducing Hunger and Cravings
Part Seven: Conclusion
Note: I decided to break this one into “bite sized” chunks because I tend to get super excited and talk a lot about this subject as it’s one of my passions. Hopefully, I will be able to post once a week now for a while. 🙂