I am neutral when it comes to politics, but many of my readers here are complaining about emotional weight gain.
How To Keep Stress From Ruining Your Diet
Politically, I consider myself neutral. I’ve noticed that a lot of my readers have been reporting emotional weight control issues stemming from politics lately. The neverending avalanche of anxiety-provoking news they see – the paranoid tweets, the diplomatic errors, the intentional and accidental offenses – becomes a nearly-unavoidable cause of stress eating.
Barbara Streisand is just one of the folks out there dealing with this anxiety reflex. According to her twitter account, Donald Trump is a trigger for weight gain. Babs says she tends to gravitate toward comfort foods (e.g. “pancakes smothered in maple syrup”) after catching up on the news these days.
Of course, politics is just a trigger rather than a causative source for weight gain. It’s an excellent example of the way that increased stress makes dietary control more challenging. According to research, stressful situations boost the production of cortisol. This, in turn, leads to a drop in blood sugar and rising insulin levels, and these biological changes set your mind to obsessing over high-calorie comfort foods like ice cream or cookie dough. If you give in to the cravings, you get a temporary feeling of relief thanks to neurochemistry. If your cortisol levels remain high for too long, negative results can include trouble sleeping, high insulin levels, increased body fat, chronic inflammation, and even type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other serious conditions.
If you’re pigging out on junk food due to any sort of emotional stress, you might find these 5 stress-busting strategies to be extremely useful:
1) Get More Sleep
Sleeplessness is a very common response to stress, and that shortage of rest makes it that much harder for you to eat right. Don’t burn the midnight oil by staying up to watch political shows that are going to worry you; turn in early. Getting a full night’s sleep will dramatically reduce your blood cortisol levels and keep your hormones properly balanced. In multiple studies, a lack of sleep has been directly correlated with greater calorie intake, more frequent hunger pangs, and cravings for junk food. Make sure you’re logging at least seven hours of sleep every night and try to keep your political TV viewing under control. Personally, I’m shooting for an hour a day at most.
2) Check Your Weight
Start thinking of that scale in your bathroom as your friend. There’s plenty of research showing that people who weigh themselves more often are, across the board, more likely to lose weight and keep it off permanently. In one study, adult subjects who checked their weight at least five times a week ended up losing about 20 pounds over six months. I made daily weigh-ins a core part of my return to healthy eating in order to get a bet idea of whether or not my exercise routines and eating habits were having a positive impact. It’s a lot easier to decide whether or not you need to make a change when you know exactly where your weight is!
3) Plan Out Your Eating
Keeping your blood sugar level steady is a terrific way to minimize the frequency and severity of junk food cravings. The best way to do this is to do some eating – either having a healthy meal or a balanced snack – every three or four hours. High-fiber carbs (e.g. fruits, whole grains, vegetables) are great snacking options that will deliver useful energy and nutrients without upsetting your blood sugar.
4) Don’t Turn To Alcohol
Most adults look at a strong drink (or two or four) as a great way to unwind and take your mind off stressful news or the events of the day. Resist that temptation! Drinking will stimulate your appetite, increase your junk food cravings, reduce your willpower for resisting those cravings, and disrupt your sleep cycle.
5) Stay Active, Breathe Deeply
Physical activity in any form is one of the best ways to bust stress. Getting out in the fresh air is an excellent idea. A little exercise will boost those feel-good hormones like endorphins and decrease stress hormones like cortisol. Don’t neglect low-impact options like yoga and meditation, either! Even if you don’t have the time to exercise, a little deep, mindful breathing can work wonders.
Take a break to cycle through 10 deep belly breaths (inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth) whenever you feel stressed out. Though you might not be able to change the news you see, remember that you can control the way you respond to it!