With the hectic holiday season behind us, has the progress with your New Year's resolutions started to slow down? For many folks, their commitment to getting fit and healthy starts to ebb by mid-February as the stressors in their lives begin to take precedence over their well-meant objectives.
And for many of us, emotional eating habits can become a way to subdue our stress. Despite our best intentions, a lot of us are masters at the art of self-sabotage -- especially when it comes to diet and exercise.
We rationalize that whatever is stressing us needs to be managed before our workout, before we take the time to fix a healthy snack rather than grab some refined, sugary carbs from the cupboard.
Stress can come in many forms. From conflicts, pain, anxiety, and anger, to boredom and apathy, it can have a deleterious effect on us emotionally. And, one of the ways we often handle it is to turn to food for comfort.
We sometimes forget that our stress isn't assuaged by putting our physiological needs on the back burner. In fact, stress-management requires paying attention to the body's necessities first and foremost.
It's like placing the oxygen mask on yourself during an in-flight emergency before helping fellow passengers. If you don't meet your own body's requirements, you'll be no good to anyone else, much less yourself.
If you suspect you fall into the emotional eating category to deal with stress, take heart! Just having this awareness about yourself is the first step to change.
Because emotional eating isn't about food itself, or even about feeling hungry, it's always best to become mindful of your thoughts and feelings before you choose to eat something. It also helps to be aware of your habitual routines (like turning on the TV after a hard day at work and mindlessly munching on junk food).
Instead of falling into your usual regimen again, how about distracting yourself from the day's stressors with one or more of the following:
1) Check in with yourself - consider how you're doing emotionally and if this is what's affecting your desire to eat. Being aware of your inner experience can help you make healthier choices for yourself.
2) Make a list of what's causing you stress and how you can deal with the situation in ways that don't involve food. By delaying the urge to eat, eventually it will subside.
3) Distract yourself by moving! Step out for a 10-minute walk or briskly walk in place. A quick burst of activity is one of the best ways to deal with stress; it gets your endorphins going, oxygenates your body, and activates your immune system - all stress-busters in their own right.
4) Drink 1-2 glasses of water (that's right...water, not alcohol!) Too often we think we're hungry when in truth we are simply dehydrated. Try it - it really works! Drink 2 glasses of water, re-evaluate your desire to eat after 20 minutes and it's likely the sensation of hunger will be gone. If you are still craving food, opt for a healthy snack, making sure it contains some proteins, which do a great job in terms of satiation.
5) Get enough sleep! Lack of Zzzzz's can cause our hunger hormones to act up, tricking our bodies into thinking we're famished even when we are not. So, remember to prioritize your sleep time.
6) Be kind to yourself. Greater self-compassion reduces stress. Rather than beat yourself up if you "blow-it" once in a while, choose one of the options mentioned above to get back on track.
Having a new awareness of your emotional eating is also the beginning of finding new, healthy ways to comfort yourself. Just remember that by using our physical resources (the body's capabilities) to aid us, emotional eating can become a behavior of the past.
As you nurture your body, it will have the strength to surmount life's stressors...plus, you won't end up with a muffin top in the area where your waist used to be!
So, let's hear it for a year of self-awareness and self-nurturing, rather than self-sabotage. I applaud you and your perseverance to becoming the best you!
Magdalena is the owner of the "Be Fit Fit" Personal Training Studio (www.befitfit.biz). Her "Be Fit Fit" Blog can be read on www.verdenews.com