Ask the Nutrition Expert, Sheri Iodice, RD
Q: I am dreading the next family crisis — because when stressful things happen, I can’t stop eating! What are some good things to eat or do when I am stressed out?
A: If you turn to food for comfort when you’re stressed, sad, bored, or lonely, you’re likely falling prey to emotional or stress eating. When you “stress eat,” you’re not thinking about the consequences and you might be exacerbating problems without realizing it. Usually, the stress remains after emotional eating binges or it may return shortly afterward. Emotional eating can threaten an otherwise healthy lifestyle if left unchecked so it’s important to work toward breaking this vicious cycle so you don’t create more stress for yourself.
When you’re all wound up after a stressful situation, try eating vegetables and fruits to help you get through this tense period. You’ll still eat to relieve tension, but the foods will be more nutritious. Crunchy, raw vegetables should be your first choice because they are low in calories, and you’ll be able to eat an unlimited amount without gaining extra pounds. If you’re craving something sweet, go for fruit. It’s refreshing and provides a boost of energy.
After your stress has subsided, aim to get on track so you can respond to stress in a healthy manner over time. Add these 8 proven habits into your everyday routine and you’ll break the stressful eating cycle before you know it.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, like the Mediterranean Diet.
- Don’t skip meals so you don’t overeat.
- Drink water throughout the day.
- Carry healthy snacks with you and stay energized during the day.
- Strive for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Develop a strong support system of family and friends.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake.
- Relax your mind and body with meditation, deep breathing, positive affirmations or another stress reduction technique.
Bonus tip: Get regular exercise. Studies have shown that any type of exercise, from high-energy activities to yoga can help reduce stress. Exercise releases endorphins in the body that fight stress and act as natural antidepressants. Find an exercise activity that you like to do. Set up exercise “dates” with yourself and honor them as you would any other appointments in your schedule.
Stress is on the rise, and more than half of us don’t feel like we’re getting the support we need to handle it. Start practicing these habits now and you’ll find yourself better prepared to manage stress during tough times. Making healthier choices today can provide the resilience, focus, and stamina you’ll need in times of crisis.
Sheri Iodice, RD, LDN has a bachelor’s degree and dietetic internship in human nutrition at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is a professional wellness coach and is certified in adult weight management by the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition.
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