Monthly Theme: Eating
This week’s word is Calm
You are in bed. Your eyes are closed, but you are awake. What's the first thought that comes into your mind? For many of us it's a thought related to food or drink - coffee or breakfast. Now fast forward a few hours. You are drowning in work. Your stomach is growling from neglect. What is your response?
When we are experiencing stress it can be way too easy to modify our eating habits to carve out more time for our busy lives. We may skip meals, grab something quick and gulp it down in three bites, or eat at our desk. These habits might get us through the day with a slightly better sense of productivity, but they play havoc on our digestion.
What if you could live in a stress-free zone? A place where boundaries existed to block out the craziness and you could connect in a meaningful way with the people you love and respect. Does such a place exist? Many people are experimenting with making meals a time of respite. Some incorporate a tech-free rule at the dinner table, some make stressful topics taboo at mealtimes, some stop for a minute before eating for a blessing or moment of gratitude. Meals become a time of relaxation, enjoying each other's company, to let go of tension and productivity. Meals become a fortress where stress is not allowed. Food, connection and life itself is savored, one bite at a time.
This week take some time to notice your eating habits. Do you eat on the run, standing up, or in the car? Do you eat fast without even tasting your food? Challenge yourself to see if you can stretch out a meal to two times longer than what you normally take. Share this with a friend or loved one and ask them to hold you accountable for when and how you eat while stressed. Be kind to yourself. Create a stress-free zone for just one meal this week and see if it makes a difference in your stress level.
Quote of the Week
Combating Stressful Eating with Mindfulness
"Mindful eating involves developing a healthy and enjoyable relationship with food by experiencing the pleasure of food and being fully present during meals. This article explores how this practice can be used to reduce stress and to improve digestive health and eating behaviors.
Stress can often lead to unhealthy eating habits and 'self-medicating' with comfort foods. Yet, these decisions tend to contribute to even further health consequences. In fact, stressful eating can be a major contributor to weight gain and ultimately, the development of obesity. Additionally, it’s not just what a person eats, but also how a person eats. Eating under stressful time constraints or while multitasking can result in “mindless” eating in which the essential communication between the mind and the body is hindered. On the other hand, mindful eating can be an effective method to reduce stress and improve digestive health and eating behaviors.
From the repeated activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, stress itself can directly contribute to obesity through the hypersectetion of cortisol (also known as the “stress hormone”), which can result in increased abdominal adiposity. However, stress can also indirectly result in obesity by triggering cravings for high fat and sweet foods. Overall, because individuals who practice stressful and emotional eating often have difficulty distinguishing between emotional and hunger cues for food, these individuals are especially vulnerable to weight gain in times of stress.
Mindful eating involves developing a healthy and enjoyable relationship with food; it is not a restrictive diet, but instead, this practice involves experiencing the pleasure of food more intensely and being fully present at the meal. In contrast to mindless eating, which can often result in people unconsciously consuming a large amount of food but not feel full, mindful eating promotes a psychological barrier to overeating by paying attention to the body’s signals such as hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.
Because digestion is a complex process requiring communication between the gut and the nervous system, it can take about 20 minutes before the brain receives the satiety (fullness) message from the stomach. As a result, eating too quickly and mindlessly can cause one to consume too much food before the message is delivered to the brain.
Based upon Buddhist philosophy, mindful eating can be thought of as a type of meditation. Many different mindful eating techniques exist that can help you become more present while you eat to fully enjoy the benefits of your meal in terms of satisfying your taste buds, hunger, and nutritional needs. Some practices to try include the following:
- Take a small bite of food, close your eyes, and chew it thoroughly (20-30 times) while paying attention to the texture and the taste of the food.
- Instead of attempting to multitask, eat with no distractions."
How to Stop Stress Eating
"Ready to break free from stress eating and bring back happiness to your eats? Try some of these simple tricks next time anxiety strikes.
1. Focus on the real issue. We all know food is just a crutch when we’re stressed. Stress eating is not the primary problem, but a symptom of unmet needs. Ask yourself ‘How do I feel?’ or ‘What do I need?’ to figure out what’s really getting under your skin.
2. Think long-term. Take a minute to focus on the future (whether that means recalling your weight loss goals, or how awesome you want to look on vacation next month) before you give in to stress eating. It can help get you out of the moment so you make healthier food choices instead of succumbing to the lure of a tasty treat.
3. Get mindful. Learning stress reduction techniques, how to recognize hunger, and pay attention to taste [can make you] less apt to stress eat. Next time you’re feeling taxed, try [a mindfulness] exercise. You’ll learn to identify your feelings, accept the unpleasant ones and focus on your breathing so you can fight the automatic urge to reach for a snack.
4. Be kind to yourself. Self-compassion can decrease stress eating. When you’re a kind, understanding friend to yourself, it’s easier to resist the urge to try to disconnect through stress eating,. If you do stress eat, promise that you won’t beat yourself up and understand that it happens to everyone sometimes. That can help stop you from eating out of failure and help you make better choices later.
5. If all else fails… Go ahead and indulge. Food is a lovely, comforting thing. So if you’re going to do it anyway, really enjoy it. Sit down, let yourself relax, and taste the ice cream. Of course, do so in moderation. Plan on savoring a small brownie rather than the whole batch."
For an in depth look at the relationship between stress and eating habits and a recommended comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to stress management including a nutritional program, check out this link from Healthy.net.
Have a GREAT week!