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Six Ways to Stop a Bad Day from Driving You to Eat

So many of us turn to food for comfort when the world goes sideways. Reaching for a bag of crisps, a tub of ice cream (mine used to be B&J cookies and cream!), or a packet of cookies when you are feeling spread too thin feels like an easy solution.

The problem is that the quick fix of refined sugar and carbs is momentary and literally leaves you feeling worse once that food high settles, which it inevitably does.

The reason we reach for junk food to mend a broken heart, ease a high-demand job, or quell our fears is physiological and evolutionary. Those are pretty serious motivators so let’s start by getting educated and then get a game plan for what to do instead of loading up on sugar, carbs and empty calories, that at the end of the day you don't truly want or need.

No matter how loudly your body screams, “FEED ME CRAP!” you know that a stress binge will leave you feeling sluggish, defeated, and chubby.

So why do we do it?

Stress causes our bodies to automatically increase respiration, blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, and the blood flow to our muscles. Your whole body goes into “fight-or-flight response.” That triggers your body to release a hormone called cortisol which increases your appetite.

Your body knows you need energy to deal with all the pressures causing you to stress out, and it’s “helping” by keeping you fueled for your fight. Worse, all that ongoing stress you feel can suppress your sensitivity to leptin, which helps keep your appetite in check. So now you are feeling starving, stressed, and pretty much off the leash when it comes to food. Our brains crave energy-dense foods high in calories, carbs, fat, and sugar because they provide the quickest boost. Thanks nature!

So what do we do about it?

Legitimately, EVERYONE has their own bucket of stress to deal with on a daily basis; finances, jobs, relationships, health issues; life is brimming with a never-ending series of triggers. However, we are powerful beings, smart enough to know what’s happening in our heads and in our bodies, and capable of making better choices. If we want to be our healthiest and happiest, we have to make active decisions to take care of ourselves.

Here are six ways to keep a bad day from driving you to the kitchen:

1. Get outside. One of the quickest and best ways I know to circumvent a binge eating disaster is to get outside. Go for a walk, a run, a swim, sit in the garden and read or listen to some music...just get out there. Breathe in the air, soak up some sun, and let nature relieve your stress instead of pushing you to eat. There are no calories in the grass or the sand. Getting away from the kitchen or snack drawer is the key.

2. Attack a clutter project. Close your eyes and pick one annoying pile of clutter that irritates you every time you see it. Grab a rubbish bag and a box and go after it. It could be as small as a drawer or as big as a whole wardrobe in the spare room. It could be a week’s worth of unfolded laundry or messy shelves in the garage. Time is precious and we are often too overwhelmed to keep up with little stuff. Then the little stuff starts feeling insurmountable. So clean it. Throw it. Give it away. The satisfaction you get from attacking that one eyesore will keep your mind and hands too busy for snacks.

3. Visit a friend. Stress can keep you isolated. Think of the friends you haven't seen in a bit and make a quick date for a short walk or a cup of coffee. Getting together with people you love automatically changes your attitude and your perspective. My friends are funny because laughter is really important to me. So when I get together with a friend I can be assured of some great stories and lots of laughs. I can’t tell you how much better that makes me feel than eating. Love trumps food, every time.

Don't feel like you have the right friends to talk to about your weight loss goals? Click here to join our women-only Facebook group.

4. Run some errands. Make a list of two or three tasks that you’ve been putting off. Now get your keys and hit the road. Once you are out of your house, you won’t have access to the junk food that was calling your name. Plus, you’ll end the de-stressing session with your dry cleaning in hand, library books returned, and a full tank of fuel (although saying that with the prices these days that can add to the stress, so maybe leave that to another day?!). That’s a win!

5. Take a class. Maybe take a look at the gym schedule, pick a class, and go, or alternatively just go for a walk, or go online and find something to do...seated Tai Chi, pilates, a stretch session...whatever you fancy! Surrounding yourself with other people who are taking care of themselves will put you in a better state to do the same. If you don't like the gym, as many people don't (I don't really either), look for local classes. There's often things on in community centres and village halls catering to a huge variety of age-groups, abilities and activity types. Personlly I love Aquafit and pilates! Plus the benefits of exercise include a mood boost, which is always a winner. That’s way more than I can say about that pint of ice-cream, that often leaves you feeling low and sluggish afterwards!

6. Change your sheets. Okay, this might seem a little crazy but hear me out. Fresh sheets feel like a new beginning. They smell good. They feel good. I don’t know about you, but I sleep better on fresh sheets. I wake up renewed and feeling clean. The simple act of stripping the bed and putting clean sheets on it says, “That’s over and I’m ready to start fresh!” Plus, if you flip the mattress you get a little strength training in, but do this with someone else to injuries please! Clever yes? I call that “stealth exercise.”

Quick Summary

What all six of these techniques have in common is that they remove you from easy access to junk food and they either get your body or your mind moving. You deserve success and that means making active choices to choose the better option for you and your body.

When stress pushes you toward a passive solution and you feel like you are going to give in to a slow swim in a pool of ultimately miserable calories, you can fight back by making an active choice. These are just six suggestions. There are about a million other ways to shift your focus, from washing your dog to planting a flower (or a whole garden...gradually).

Write your ideas down so you have a go-to list when you're stressed out and want a distraction or something to calm you without turning to food.

Please note: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment or personalised advice.

I do not hold responsibility for the information on any links to external websites within this article and information within these links/websites may change at any time or no longer be accessible. Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only.

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