I've got a problem: I can't relax.

Actually, that's not exactly true. I can relax, but what I find relaxing isn't necessarily what others find relaxing.

Take yoga, for example. I've tried it and I want to like it. It seems like a great idea and I've certainly felt good after the classes I've taken. But for me, there's nothing less relaxing than being told when and how to relax.

What works for me? Well, I'm more of a "cruncher," for lack of a better term. I'd rather unwind by running or kickboxing than taking yoga. My stress eating snack of choice? Raw vegetables -- the crunchier, the better.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because frankly, I'm pretty tightly wound. My driven nature lets me get a lot done, but at the same time, I pay a price in stress and anxiety. I've been examing how I cope -- looking for healthy ways to help manage the pressures I feel -- and I've noticed that in times of great stress, I become more controlled in my eating and exercise habits.

That's why this article from Dina Zeckhausen, a psychologist who specializes in treating adults, teenagers and children with eating disorders, really made me stop and think.

In it, she writes, "The misconception in our culture is that eating disorders are about vanity and image. But these are superficial assumptions and just skim the surface. The real story is that eating problems are about managing and coping with overwhelming anxiety."

That's food for thought.

My well-planned workouts and healthy meals do help me feel more in control when I'm feeling anxious. And it's not such a leap to see how what starts out as essentially a healthy behavior could cross a line into something disordered. 

How about you? Do you notice different behaviors around food and exercise when you're under stress or feeling anxious? How do you model healthy coping skills for your daughter?

About the Author

Dara Chadwick

Dara Chadwick is the author of You'd Be So Pretty If… :Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don't Love Our Own.

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