I found this quote in a book several years ago – “Stress will kill you, but first it will make you fat”. The vast majority of people understand the connection between high levels of stress and certain physical conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. However, most of us tend to ignore the ongoing effects of what we consider to be mild or moderate levels of stress that have become part of our everyday lives. Being ‘on guard’ 24/7 is exhausting for you in so many ways. In light of the changes in our economy and the job market over the past few months, people are feeling like they are on overload because of the higher levels of stress in their daily lives.
Stress can disrupt your sleep, increase your appetite for unhealthy foods, negatively impact relationships, and fuel your anger. The stress hormone cortisol has been a popular topic in many articles because it is a major factor in weight gain. This becomes an issue because many of us use food as a stress management tool. Unfortunately, this is not a good tactic and we usually end up feeling more stress because of what or how much we ate.
If you are one of those people who typically turn to comfort foods when you’ve reached your limit with job, bills, loved ones, consider using the good old HALT technique.
Ask yourself: Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? The odds are good that there is something other than food that could be a better means of stress reduction.
• If you are really hungry, go ahead and eat something. But if you are hungry, a crisp apple will do the trick. If it has to be chocolate then you’re probably not hungry.
• Angry? Has someone been pushing your buttons all day? Count to ten, take several deep breathes. Consider what is bothering you and how to address it.
• Lonely? Been working too many extra hours lately? Missing time with your family or friends? Acknowledge that life has to be more than just work and plan something fun!
• Tired? This one’s easy. Remember kindergarten – schedule a break in your day for 20 minutes and take a nap. You’ll be refreshed and better able to handle the rest of the day. Also, try to get to bed at a regular time every night to improve your sleep.
By checking in with yourself, you’ll be more aware of what you are really feeling and less likely to use food for emotional reasons.