80 percent of Americans reporting health symptoms have reported stress as a major factor in the last five months according to the American Psychological Association (Source). The same study showed that of people reporting stress, specific symptoms most commonly reported were: “headaches (34%), feeling overwhelmed (33%), feeling nervous or anxious (33%) and feeling depressed or sad (32%).” The major take-away here is to remember that you are not alone in your stress. Never feel isolated.
Despite the reason for your stress, there will always be somebody else who has experienced a similar situation and there are always ways to look for support. Talking about how you feel with friends, family, a therapist and even with your pets… okay, maybe that’s just me… will help you to work through your stress rather than bottling it up inside. Your support system cares about your well-being and there will always be people around, ready to listen. You just have to speak up or they won’t know.
When you feel the urge to eat something because you’re upset or stressed, reach for your tennis shoes or a framed photo – and no, that doesn’t mean Facebook. (For those of you who haven’t read all of the articles – which seem to be everywhere – scrolling through other peoples’ social media feeds is not going to make you feel better. Everybody’s life looks perfect on display. Look at your own favorite memories – not your best friend’s memories.)
“Look for ways to release dopamine, whether that’s pulling out pictures from a vacation, laughing with an old friend, or getting in a good workout that releases those happy endorphins,” says nutritionist Kelly LeVeque. Finding your dopamine release in something other than food will help you in the long-run. I promise. If emotional eating has consistently been a problem in your life, keep photos on-hand – or even keep your phone on-hand so you can call a friend who you know will make you smile.
Reaching for your tennis shoes will help you release dopamine as well as help to clear your mind. “There are two types of exercise that keep the mind clear. The first is walking for 20 minutes a day… the second is doing a HIIT workout (at least) once a week,” says founder of The Bulletproof Diet Dave Asprey, who is a New York Times bestselling author. Lifting weights will also help release dopamine and keep your mind clear – so don’t skip your next training session. Plan for it, show up and be there to support yourself as well as the team around you.
Holding yourself accountable helps the people in your life hold themselves accountable as well. Your dedication to your own wellness is inspiring someone, I promise.
Plan your meals and get everything else out of sight. Plan healthy, nutritious and colorful meals for your week on Sunday so that you don’t reach for the unhealthy stuff on Wednesday when you’re stuck trying to pull yourself through humpday. It’s in the moments where you reach for something sugary – maybe not because of an emotional eating problem but because it’s what you have in your cupboard and you are hungry – that crash the rest of your eating plan. “Every time your blood sugar crashes,” like when your body comes down after eating the box of cookies, “you can expect to have some mitochondria disfunction. When that happens, it causes a spike in cortisol production,” says Asprey, “and then you end up getting hangry.”
Finally, take care of yourself the way that you know will be best for yourself. “When we connect with how much pleasure we can experience, we start to feel good about our bodies again,” says holistic health counselor Alexandra Jamieson. If you know that meditation helps to keep your mind clear, meditate. If you know that getting brunch on Saturdays with your friends helps keep you sane and happy, get the brunch. If you know that always having a weekend getaway planned for sometime in the near future will help to keep you focused because it gives you something to look forward to, plan the trip.
At the end of the day, your own emotional eating habits rely heavily on your own self-care habits. Your overall wellness will always be the most important factor in your life – so don’t let priorities of other people push that to the back-burner. There will always be demands and stresses and pressures – even when the present ones are gone. To stem your emotional eating and to lift your overall wellbeing higher, prioritize what makes you happy. Sure, we can’t all dance around drinking wine every night and staving off our responsibilities – but caving to the stress will waste the same amount of time because when you become overwhelmed you lose the ability to think clearly and move forward under pressure.
Prioritize your own wellness and things that make you happy. It’s important. After all, nobody else is living your life for you – and they shouldn’t need to. You are doing just fine on your own. In fact, you’re doing better than fine. You’re crushing it out there. Keep it up.