Stop Stress Eating!

Identify your stressors, and find new ways to cope that don't involve food.

Posted Sep 22, 2014

Stress eating often means overeating.

Blaming is ultimately a way of avoiding the responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with getting and staying both physically and mentally fit. Even when you’re pointing your finger at yourself, you’re using yourself as an excuse. Think about how much time and energy you spend reinforcing those negative beliefs. Then think of all the different (and more healthful) ways that time could be spent.

Stress is different for different people. You might rise to a challenge that the next person will go out of her way to avoid. Whether or not a situation is stressful really depends on how you respond to it. Even though we think of stress as a negative thing, it isn’t always. A little stress can actually be a good motivator because it can signal a need for change in your life and give you the push you need to make that change.

Even positive events and emotions can be stressful. A job promotion, buying a house, getting married, giving birth, or going away to college can all cause stress. That’s because any type of change brings with it a new set of problems and responsibilities, and therefore it’s own forms of stress.

But it’s the negative emotions, behaviors and events that cause the most worrisome forms of stress. If you live with a lot of anger, guilt, frustration, regret, fear, anxiety, resentment, or self-criticism, you’re going to feel stress all the time.

Some stressors come from within, such as a need for everything to be perfect, negative self-talk about your body, or the self-doubt that prevents you from asking your boss for a raise you deserve. These are the types of stress for which you can take responsibility. Other stressors come from outside yourself. These include events such as deaths, accidents, job layoffs, and other people’s behavior that you cannot control.

The first thing you need to do is identify your particular stressors, both positive and negative. While it’s not always easy to manage a stressful situation, you always have a choice between taking positive and negative steps to cope. The negative choices include overeating, giving up on yourself, and other self-defeating behavior. 

Do this: Instead of blaming or avoiding, try conquering. Instead of giving in and saying “I ate those peanut butter-flavored crackers because my boss is a bitch,” say “I will not let her get to me this way.” Instead of constantly looking at your hips and thinking it’s hopeless to try to get fit because you’re inevitably turning into your mother or grandmother, use the information you have about your genes and do what you can to prevent your body from getting more and more out of shape. You don’t have to eat the way your family eats and you can probably get more exercise. 

Addressing a stressful situation directly is usually the best first step and the most positive way to handle it. Make a list of your stressors, look at the negative ways you’ve been dealing with them, and choose a more positive approach. If you're not making enough money, can you come up with a way to approach your boss for a raise? If you are feeling abused, out of shape, lonely, or even hopeless, is there something you can do instead of eating? Can you go for a walk? Can you listen to music? Can you take a class to further your education and perhaps meet new people and eventually find a better job? You may need to find a professional who can help change the negative ways you talk to yourself, feel about yourself, and treat yourself. And while you may ultimately have to give up and move on from a stressful situation if all your positive attempts to resolve it have failed, you never have to give up on yourself.

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