If you’re someone who looks for calm and comfort at the bottom of a pint of ice cream, you’re not alone. A recent Stress in America survey found more than one in three adults reporting overeating, or unhealthful eating, in response to stress over the course of a month. Nearly half of that group admitted that stress eating was a weekly occurrence, or even more frequent. Those who regularly overindulge face increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems.
Adding inches to injury, your body stores more fat when you’re stressed than when you’re relaxed. To manage stress, rather than feed it, try these strategies:
Eat crunchy raw veggies.
These are a great first defense against stress, because they’re low in calories and high in vitamins, making overindulgence nearly impossible. If you’re craving sweets, go for fresh fruit, but watch your amounts. Plus, some fruits and veggies come with extra stress-fighting properties built in.
Don’t skip meals.
If you’re fighting to control your weight, you might be tempted to skip a meal to cut calories. But this can slow your metabolism and lead to overcompensating later. And make sure to eat breakfast, even if you’re busy.
Drink water throughout the day.
Proper hydration keeps you cool, flushes out toxins, and gets your body working its best. How do you know you’re getting enough? If you’re thirsty, or your urine is dark in color, you may be dehydrated.
Get plenty of sleep.
Healthy sleep is essential for both mental and physical health. And lack of sleep has been linked to overeating, especially unhealthy foods. Most adults need between seven and nine hours. And most children need even more.
Be with family and friends.
A good social support network is essential to strong mental health. Friends and family, as well as other networks like churches and clubs, help you feel less isolated and offer you more options when the going gets tough.
Limit alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar, and sodium.
In moderate amounts, each of these can be fine. Consumed in excess, they make your body work harder and throw off its balance, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
If worry or anxiousness sparks stress eating, develop an inner calm using mindfulness techniques such as meditation or deep breathing.
Physical activity of any form boosts your body’s natural stress-fighting endorphins, helps you work out frustrations, relaxes your body, and improves your sleep. From aerobics to Zumba, an easy walk to a strenuous hike, just find something that you enjoy. When it comes to the stress-relief benefits of exercise, it’s all good.
So next time you feel stressed, instead of reaching for that pint of ice cream, consider opting for one of the above options instead.