You’re exercising, eating healthy meals, and snacking smart, at least most of the time. But when you get stressed out (and who doesn’t!), you may be tempted to mindlessly munch on whatever’s on hand — which of course can derail your diet if it happens too often. The solution? Stop stress in its tracks and stay focused on your weight loss goals by adopting some workarounds.
skip meals and snacks. Choose foods that will fill you up and
keep you energized and that may have a calming effect. For instance, almonds
are a good source of magnesium, which can positively affect the production of
mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain. Spinach also contains magnesium, so
treat yourself to a spinach and mushroom salad with up to 2 tablespoons of a
healthy dressing. Eating three meals a day, and at least two snacks, is
important for keeping your blood sugar stable. When you skip meals and snacks, you can be
subject to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can make you weak, irritable—and
Studies show that exercise enhances mood by affecting neurochemicals in the brain
involved in the body’s stress response. Even moderate exercise seems to reduce
stress, so it pays to start moving. Plus, it’s amazing how much better you will
feel just by getting out of the house for some fresh air and sunshine.
it out on paper. If you try to beat stress with food, writing down what triggered the stress (and what you ate at the time to combat it) in a food journal will make you more conscious of your stressors and have a positive effect on your diet. Instead of using food for comfort, you'll soon learn to substitute deep breathing or a quick walk instead.
deeply. Anyone can learn deep breathing, and it’s free! Not only
does it relax your muscles, it decreases your blood pressure and your heart rate.
While there are any number of techniques you can use, one called abdominal (or
belly) breathing is particularly effective at increasing the supply of oxygen
to your muscles and brain and thus reducing stress. You can find instructions
for this technique online, but basically, you’ll sit in a comfortable, quiet
place and take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, letting the air move
down into the deepest part of your lungs. As you do so, your abdomen,
right below your ribcage, becomes fully expanded. Pause briefly and then exhale
fully through your mouth. It
should take you twice as long to exhale as it did to inhale. Inhale and exhale
about 10 times, keeping your breathing smooth and regular throughout.
a music break. Research indicates that relaxing music reduces sympathetic nervous system activity, decreases anxiety, blood pressure, and heart and respiratory rates, and may even have positive effects on sleep. Many people prefer
classical music for achieving a sense of calm, but you should listen to whatever
music works for you. CDs with bird songs, or the sound of ocean waves, can often
be as soothing as music.
Enjoy some scents. Aromatherapy can be an effective stress reduction
technique, and certain aromas, like lavender, bergamot, vanilla, and rose, are
especially effective for enhancing relaxation. You may either inhale an aroma,
or apply it to your skin in the form of a lotion or an oil. Read labels
carefully before applying, however, as some should not be applied full
yourself into some hot water. Maybe it’s a long, steamy
shower or perhaps a relaxing bubble bath. Either way, the warm to hot water can
be extremely relaxing for both your muscles and your mind. So go ahead, run a
tub and don’t be afraid to sprinkle in some bath salts. Then watch those cares
go down the drain.
- Go for a massage. Besides feeling great, a massage can be effective at reducing muscle tension and stress, some research shows. So next time you feel anxious, and maybe get the urge to start eating for comfort, call your nearest spa and splurge on a massage instead.