MANAGING THE IMPACT OF STRESS ON YOUR EATING PROGRAM: 10 TIPS

By Kimberly Sammaritano, Eating Psychology Coach and Holistic Life Counsellor

WHY IS FOLLOWING AN EATING PROGRAM SO DIFFICULT?

Our bodies are chemically driven; controlled by a delicate balance of hormones that, if out of balance, have us naturally looking for easy, high energy foods and quick fixes.

THE IMPACT OF STRESS ON YOUR EATING PROGRAM:

Stress is a huge contributing factor to our internal chemistry going awry. Stress chemistry is commonplace in modern society, and the fast-paced lives we all live. Hormones such as Cortisol, the chemical produced in a stressed system, have a major influence on the food choices we make. These chemicals are “willpower saboteurs” in that they cause food cravings that are seemingly beyond our control.

Not only do these hormones impact choices and enhance cravings, but they impact bodily reactions to eating programs. Cortisol can cause an inflammatory response in the body, leading to decreased performance and weight gain, especially around the abdomen in chronically stressed individuals.

MANAGING STRESS IMPACT ON YOUR EATING PROGRAM:

Decreasing the level of stress in your life will directly impact your ability to stick to an eating program and obtain maximum results in doing so.

Whether your eating program is there to aid you in your athletic performance, improved general wellbeing or fat loss, there are 10 tips that will help you manage stress in your life, and in turn, stick to the program, and enhance your bodily reaction to it.

Tip 1.

Try to engage in activities that you enjoy… exercise, socialise, read. Enjoyable activities lead to happy hormones, enhancing motivation and decreasing the level of stress chemicals in the body.

Tip 2.

Take 8 slow deep breaths before you eat. As mentioned, a relaxed system digests and assimilates food much more effectively than a stressed system.

Tip 3.

Identify trigger foods. Once these foods are identified, it is easier to avoid stocking them in your house. This way, you are able to avoid associating emotions such as temptation, guilt and shame to food.

Tip 4.

Honest communication about your needs and goals will help those close to you honour your journey. This will lead to less anxiety and isolation around food and diet when working towards a goal, making socialising possible while on a eating program.

Tip 5.

Avoid body shame triggers. Stay away from individuals and situations that make you feel shame about your body or your eating program, until you’re strong enough to face them without being derailed in your efforts.

Tip 6.

Let go of perfectionism. This mindset adds to anxiety around eating. It is normal to have days that are more difficult than others… Practice giving yourself a break.

Tip 7.

Actively disassociate emotions such as happiness and reward coming purely from eating, and try to find them in other activities. Childhood experiences of getting a sweet, ice-cream or some sort of edible treat as a reward guides us into associating these emotions with food, which becomes ingrained in our psyche. We need to unlearn this.

Tip 8.

Identify the emotions driving you to eat off-the-plan foods in each moment. Once you are able to identify the emotion, you are able to address that emotion directly, instead of using eating as a quick fix or escape, which almost always leads to guilt.

Tip 9.

Tracking your progress will help identify what works for you, your triggers and your emotions around food. Keep track of your achievements and celebrate your successes daily. However, always be kind to yourself in the process.

Tip 10.

If your body is not reacting to your eating plan, and you need further guidance, see a nutritionist to ensure that the eating plan you have chosen is suitable for you, and provides you with the nutrients you need. Your body may also be lacking nutrients that help it utilise its fat stores optimally. Nutritional deficiencies cause food cravings.

For more information, contact Kimberly Sammaritano, Eating Psychology Coach and Holistic Life Counsellor.

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