Have you ever turned to food for comfort when you’re feeling stressed? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), about thirty-eight percent of us have engaged in emotional eating, by either overeating or consuming unhealthy foods. Whether or not that percentage is just coincidental with our nation’s thirty-six percent obesity rate is unclear, but it is certain that there is a strong link between the two. If you classify yourself as a “stress eater,” here are some tips on where you can find some comfort without food.
Exercise. A study by the American Psychological Association found that the negative health impact of stressful life events declined as exercise levels increased. This doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon to lower your stress. It can be as simple as walking the dog, going for a stroll in the park, or cleaning your house or yard. The extra physical activity will also increase the number of calories burned, aiding weight-loss goals.
Meditation. Meditation is a great way to reduce the stress of daily life. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that meditation can be help people become more conscious of food choices. Practicing meditation can increase self-awareness and help you focus on the present. Better awareness of the urge to grab fatty and sugary comfort foods goes along way in making smart food choices.
Build a Support System. Numerous studies have shown that having social support is essential for maintaining physical and psychological health. Research suggests that positive social support of high quality can help build resilience to stress. Where can you find social support? You might want to first turn to the people who may know you best – family and friends, members of your religious community, or even your medical providers. There are also community support groups for just about every stress a person can face in life with people willing to listen, talk to, and find comfort.
Have a Good Laugh. The cliche, “laughter is the best medicine” holds true when it comes to stress relief. Laughing helps your body take in more oxygen-rich air, stimulates major organs and muscles, and increases endorphins released by your brain. Laughing helps lower tension by improving circulation and muscle relaxation. When you laugh, positive thoughts release neuropeptides that fight stress and other illnesses. Whether it’s taking a trip to a comedy club or hanging out with friends, find things that will make you laugh. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
Get More Sleep. Research by the University of Pennsylvania found that people who were limited to four and a half hours of sleep felt more stressed, sad, and mentally exhausted. This led to increased consumption of unhealthy foods. Subjects reported a dramatic improvement in mood when they resumed normal sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep consistently can help bring down your stress and even aid in weight loss.