Stress Eating~ PART Six

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for not posting more regularly, but it would seem that my internet connection options here in the Rocky Mountains are not always reliable. 😦 Secondly, I hope you’re still hanging in there for the remainder of this series.

So far, we’ve covered what stress eating is, foods to reduce stress, facts on sugars and fats, and the differences between physical and emotional hunger. In this installment I’d like to focus a little bit on ways to reduce hunger and cravings.

Ways to Reduce Compulsive Eating:

Eat Breakfast

Breakfast in a Pan2

Believe it or not, but breakfast really is an important component of a person’s day. According to Posner and Hlivka, “eating protein in the morning stimulates the metabolism and helps the body burn calories at a faster rate” (78). Yep, that’s right! A breakfast containing protein will give the body an added boost which carbs alone cannot. Some studies have shown that weight loss is increased in sedentary, obese women by consuming a big breakfast that contains protein. Even a small breakfast with a little protein is more filling and satisfying than a large carb-filled breakfast… I speak from experience just this week. One morning we had a bowl of cold cereal, fruit, and pancakes. I walked away still hungering for more and ended up eating a lot at lunchtime. Thankfully lunch was something light (grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and fresh fruit and veggies). This morning, since it’s my day off, I slept til well after breakfast was served and dipped into my food stock in the reach-in cooler. My breakfast this morning was a bowl of coco-krispies, 3 turkey sausage links, a smallish cinnamon roll, and a cup of hot herbal tea. To me this smaller breakfast felt far more substantial and filling than the other breakfast of carbs.

I think I’ll take this moment to reiterate something from when I covered fats. Fats help to signal our brains and thereby our bodies when we are full. It takes more carbs to reach satiety than fats and possibly more calories in the process. But what happens after the meal?

Because carbohydrates are a simpler (easier to break down) food component, our bodies go through the supply of energy it provides rather quickly, especially if you are active. Fats and proteins, on the other hand, take longer because they are more complex (take longer for the body to break down into usable energy). So a meal that incorporates each of these macronutrients is best for not only feeling fuller longer (therefore curbing the urge to munch), but also for maintaining steady blood-sugar levels without the highs and lows the body often experiences on an all carb (or mainly) diet. According to my old doctor, the reason I was experiencing the peaks and valleys in my blood-sugar levels was because when I would digest carbohydrates my pancreas would overreact with too much insulin and then I’d crash without the stair step that fats and proteins provide. So instead of having the sudden drop off after my body processed the carbs, the fats and proteins would cushion and sustain me to where I could function even after the energy produced by the digestion of carbohydrates was depleted. This is because in the background of body processes those fatty acid chains and amino acid chains were going through a breakdown of their own to make them ready for use while I was using up the energy created by the simpler structures of the carbohydrates. {Now I’ll admit, the above description is majorly simplified as the actual explanation and processes are way more detailed and complex. But I’ve found trying to describe it in more scientific terms often creates confusion, so I typically stick with the simple explanation from my doctor.}

Eat at Regular Intervals (Don’t Skip/ Miss Meals)

Don't Skip Meals

Okay, I know when I covered Physical Vs. Emotional Eating I said not to eat just because the clock says to do so. The basis and reasoning for eating regularly is simply to provide your body with a steady intake of nutrients to keep it running smoothly without any lags due to a pause in energy production. The main thought behind this particular point is that if you only eat one or two meals a day you’re actually slowing down your metabolism and conditioning your body to be in starvation mode (telling it to store fat as a back up reserve in case there comes a day with even less or no food) which is not good. Eating regularly is actually an extension of the first point of eating breakfast since it states specifically not to miss meals.

Now the case the authors (Posner and Hlivka) are making for this point is that “[w]hen you get in the habit of eating smaller meals, your metabolism kick-starts itself and adapts to a regular schedule of small but steady calorie input” (80). So try eating 4-6 small meals a day or three regular meals and two snacks per day to see if it will make a difference in your metabolism. Being hypoglycemic, as I am, one of the main components of the diet I should follow is that I eat about five small meals a day which has always translated into breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-day snack, and dinner. Though sometimes one of the snacks wouldn’t happen til evening before bed because it’s good to have a dose of protein before bed to stave off any nausea in the morning upon waking.

My Tips for Gaining Control:

In addition to eating breakfast and eating regularly:

Veggies2 Veggies1

  1. Eat more whole foods! That is, eat foods which are closer to their original form and minimally processed. These foods will help to keep you fuller longer and if you choose them for snacks instead of the highly processed junk food options out there, your body will thank you.

  2. Eat more consciously. Think about what you’re eating when you’re eating it. Think about what nutrition it is fueling your body with and what benefit it provides.

  3. Eat casually and with purpose. Sit down at the table with your family (if you live with family) and have your meals without the distraction of the television. Talk, laugh, and enjoy a relaxed meal with loved ones.

  4. Eat visually appealing meals. Create a visually pleasing plate, no matter what your meal. If your plate is pretty, you’ll look forward to eating and enjoying it.

  5. Eat with thanksgiving in your heart. Thank the preparer of your food if you did not make the meal for yourself. If you did, thank yourself for creating such a wonderfully, delicious meal.

  6. Eat only when you are actually hungry. If you aren’t hungry, say so. Don’t eat to be polite or because it is the prescribed meal time. If you’re only a little hungry, eat only a small portion of the foods being offered. Over stuffing yourself only hurts you, so take care of yourself.

  7. Eating to live is the way we should be, not live to eat. So, put food in its proper place!


Other Tips for Control:

The other book I picked up, Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, has some common sense, practical advice for curbing excessive eating though, of course, this is more relative to mealtimes than the snacking a lot of us do under stress or intense emotions.

  1. Be very sure that you are hungry before you begin eating” (53).

  2. Satisfaction is relative to your moods, your emotional needs, your physiological well-being” (54).

  3. When you are about to eat, ask yourself if you are hungry” (56).

  4. Pay close attention to what feels like ‘enough’ to you over a period of a few weeks” (56).

  5. Listen for the small quiet voice that says, ‘I’ve had enough’” (57).

The main thing is to listen to and know your body’s cues and signals. Once those signals are learned and we begin to obey them, there will be a shift in our the way we feel not just about ourselves, but also about food in general. At this point in the journey, you’ll find it easier to relearn how to eat. What do I mean by that? Well…

Do you say yes to every treat offered to you? Do you clear your plate because it would be wasteful not to because of one of many reasons parents give their children to finish their plateful? Do you eat because you’re bored? Do you eat because you’re sitting on the sofa watching television?

If you said yes to any of the above questions, then you are eating out of ingrained habits and not out of actual hunger.

It’s okay to say “No, thank you!” to the person offering you something when you are not hungry.

It’s okay not to finish what is on your plate if you are indeed full. Geneen Roth puts it this way, “When you finish all your food all the time without regard to your body, which is, after all, what you are feeding, that’s compulsive. Compulsive is when you are driven to do something that is out of touch with the present situation. You give up choice. And then you relinquish responsibility for your weight because you eat more than your body needs; it’s like squandering, it turns the food to fat. Fat is excess. And isn’t that,… waste?” (62).

It’s better to go outside or engage yourself in some other activity to cure boredom than to eat simply because you feel you have nothing better to do. Find a hobby or craft, sport or other activity to do. Learn to play an instrument. Something!

It’s better to crochet or draw or something while sitting on the couch watching TV.

Habits are difficult to break, especially if they have been formed from childhood. But, just because it is difficult does not mean it’s impossible. Every day is made up of choices, big and small. So start choosing to be cognizant of your body’s needs and when your body is not in need of nourishment (food), don’t force yourself to eat something anyway!

 Eating Colors

Next time, we’ll finally reach our conclusion to this series on Stress Eating! Sorry it’s taken so long to get here. See you next time!

Important Note about this blog’s author:

While I do, indeed, have my Associate Degree in Health & Wellness since May 2013, I am not a doctor, nor am I aware of your medical issues. The health, nutrition, and wellness statements made in this blog should be taken in conjunction with advice from your healthcare professional. This is especially important if you are under constant supervision by a physician for a chronic health condition.

So again, if you have any food sensitivities or allergies, please avoid those foods which you already know to cause you issues. There should be plenty of options to select from each category that Posner and Hlivka cited in their book, which I have taken verbatim from the pages of Stress Eater Diet.


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