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  • Writer's pictureSandy Jolles

Mind Over Munch

Picture this:

 

You’ve had a crazy day, and suddenly you find yourself devouring a whole bag of chips. Can you relate? 

 

Well, that pesky stress is sneakily messing with your cravings. 

 

The good news? You’re not alone, and there’s plenty you can do about it. 

 

 

The Twisted Relationship: Stress and Your Appetite

 

Stress pushes your body into survival mode, causing it to produce stress hormones, including cortisol. This hormone can increase hunger and cravings, particularly sugar cravings, because the body is seeking energy to fight the perceived danger or to run away. As such, many people find themselves stress eating as a consequence of chronic stress.

 

Comfort foods do feel good in the moment, but the longer you do it, the more your brain starts thinking, “Hey, this is a neat way to feel better!” And, voilà - the next time you’re feeling down or stressed, your brain nudges you to reach for a bag of cookies

 

Now, let’s talk about the consequences. Regular stress eating isn’t just bad news for your well-being; it can be a wrecking ball for your health. Too much junk food can contribute to issues like heart disease and diabetes.

 

Plus, using food as an emotional band-aid can leave you feeling even more stressed or guilty later. Not to mention, it doesn't solve the issue that caused the stress––it just gives it a cookie to keep it quiet for a while.

 

What you can do to Manage Stress and Curb Stress Eating

 

1. Engage Your Senses, Not Your Fridge

 

Picture this:

 You’ve had a stressful day and are now salivating at the idea of a big, calorie-rich snack. Before raiding your fridge, pause for a moment and engage your senses. Take a deep breath. Pause. Exhale slowly. 

 

Relaxing, isn’t it? 

 

Now, look around you. Consider everything in sight: colors, textures, furniture - take them in. Do you have a plant or a pet? Draw your attention to these things that bring you comfort. Next up, listen to some music. Play a song you like. Move your body to the rhythm a bit. 

 

Still want to eat something, then why not reach for a healthy alternative, such as a crunchy fruit or vegetable? Savor the natural taste and eat it slowly, chewing each bite at least ten times.

 

2. Breathe Away Cravings (The Art of Deep Breathing)

Although most people don’t realize it, breathing has a significant positive impact on nervous system activity and promotes calmness.


The next time you feel overwhelmed and think a candy bar is the only way to push these negative feelings away, stop and breathe for a while. Here is a simple exercise you can try:


Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it in for 7 seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat several times.  This is actually called “combat breathing,” or “box breathing” – Navy Seals are taught to do this when they’re under stress.

 You can do box breathing as often as you need during the day.

 

3. Beating Stress with Movement

 

Physical activity is one of the best natural mood lifters. Even moderately intense activity for 15 to 20 minutes can cause your body to release endorphins. 

Although these opioid-like hormones can suppress pain, they can also contribute to euphoria, promoting a good mood.


The best part is that you don’t have to become a marathon runner or bodybuilder to reap the benefits. Short and sustainable exercise sessions several times a week can help you deal with stress, feel calmer, and be less inclined to reach for the treats.

 

 

Conclusion 

But remember: while effective, these tactics can only work if you’re willing to try. There will be challenging times and temptations along the way. Your job is to resist them and remind yourself of what the ultimate goal is.

 

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