Ways to avoid stress eating

Are you eating more due to stress? You’re not alone. Many people react to stress by overeating or being inactive. Stress eating may provide comfort initially, but it starts a vicious cycle which may increase stress and your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

You can stop the vicious cycle by proactively addressing the feelings behind your hunger, and finding alternative ways to deal with stress when it occurs.

Ways to Prevent Stress

What kinds of things make you feel stressed and overeat? Whether they are stressors related to work or life in general, there approaches may help:

  1. Use a problem-solving approach. Describe the problem in detail. Brainstorm you options. Pick one option to try. Make an action plan. Try it, see how it goes.
  2. Plan ahead. Around the holidays, we often feel overcommitted and overscheduled. Take charge of your time. What activities do you most enjoy? Prioritize and schedule them. Include “me” time. Read some more tips about planning ahead in the article, Staying Healthy During the Holidays.     
  3. Start saying, “No.” Try to say “Yes” only when it is important to you. Set limits appropriately and learn to say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life. It’s okay to be assertive about your feelings and opinions.
  4. Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you enjoy.
  5. Set realistic goals. Old habits and internal and cultural expectations often saddle us with “should statements.” I should do “x.” I should be “y.” Consider reframing those statements from “I should…” to “I prefer…”
  6. Ask for help. Why not let your sister or daughter bring a dish to that big meal? Share some of your work with others.
  7. Get enough rest and sleep. You will find you can handle daily and even serious stressors much more effectively.
  8. Eat mindfully. Mindful eating is eating with purpose, eating on purpose, eating with awareness, eating without distraction, and when eating only eating – not watching TV, playing computer games or having any other distractions. Harvard Health suggests Ten Tips for Mindful Eating.

Dealing with Stress When It Occurs

There are some events you cannot control. When you can’t avoid stress, catch yourself feeling stressed as early as you can. Take a 10-minute “time out” and:

  • Move those muscles. Even a 10-minute walk will reduce the tension you feel.
  • Pamper yourself. Just take 10 minutes for YOURSELF.
  • Breathe. Try this: Take a full, deep breath. Count to five. Then let go of your breath slowly. Let the muscles in your face, arms, legs, and body go completely loose. Repeat for at least five minutes.

Prevention and managing stress is hard work because you are re-learning old habits. These lifestyle changes can quite literally redefine your health – and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some kinds of cancer.

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can help you develop lifelong healthy habits. Eight YMCA locations in the state of New Hampshire – and 200 other Ys around the country — help thousands of people reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This small-group program helps people with prediabetes increase their physical activity, eat healthier, and lose weight, which can delay or even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Call 603.232.8668 or visit our website for more info and to sign up for a program where you live.