In part-one of this three-part series we looked at people’s eating patterns which can lead to overeating and weight gain. In part-two we looked at physical activity and the important role it plays in one’s health. In this third and final article I would like to explore one’s coping skills and how it can affect one’s health.
We all have heard of the emotional eater, maybe you know one, or are one. Emotional eaters often use food to comfort themselves in times of stress, anxiety, or sadness. Also, the food they tend to use for comfort is often not a healthy choice (a big bowl of ice cream, mac-and-cheese, a bag of cookies, etc.). In fact, I have never met someone who told me they would grab a salad when they are stressed! If you are an emotional eater I would like to offer some ideas on different ways to handle the cravings for comfort food.
First, keep a “food & mood” diary for a few days, filling in your ABCs:
- Antecedents – the trigger situations or emotions that come before eating.
- Behavior of eating – what you ate and how much.
- Consequences – the feelings and attitudes that occur after eating.
Here’s an example:
|Got yelled at by the boss; felt stressed.||Grabbed candy and soda from the vending machine.||Felt better at first, but left work still feeling stressed.|
The goal is to learn your triggers that you typically soothe with food, such as anxiety, loneliness, stress, sadness, etc. Then ask yourself, “How much of my eating is emotionally related?” Then you can develop an emotional eating plan, in fact it might be a good idea to write your plan down on index cards that you can carry with you so you can refer to your plan when needed. Here’s an example:
|When feeling lonely:||When feeling stress at work:|
|Call a friend.||Take slow, deep breaths.|
|Log onto an internet chat group.||Talk it out with someone you trust.|
|E-mail or write a friend.||Take a walk.|
|Visit the health club.||Put thoughts in a journal.|
Your goal is to change the mood that is causing you to be an emotional eater. Sometimes if you just write your feelings down, or take a walk to take your mind off of a stressful situation you won’t turn to food for comfort.
What if you are the type of person who knows they need to lose weight, wants to lose weight, but keeps putting it off – are you a persistent procrastinator? Here are some of the top reasons people procrastinate: to avoid an unpleasant task, low self-confidence, lack of an immediate reward, or maybe you are easily distracted. If this describes you here’s a few tips.
Instead of setting general goals, such as to eat healthier or to exercise, set mini-goals. For example: instead of a goal to eat healthier, set a mini-goal to eat breakfast on a daily basis. Or if your goal is to start exercising, set your mini-goal to walk 20 minutes daily. Immediate benefits from eating breakfast and walking daily will be your energy boost in addition to helping you manage your weight better, which leads to a long-term benefit.
Keep some sample reminders to prompt you to pursue your mini-goals.
- Keep a fresh fruit basket on the counter.
- Leave a water bottle on your desk at work.
- Use the internet to find healthy options at your favorite restaurants. (www.healthydiningfinder.com is a great site)
- Keep healthy recipes in plain sight (visit my website www.RD4Health.com for some ideas)
- Lay out gym clothes the night before.
- Schedule exercise times in your calendar.
Also, it’s a good idea to keep a success journal so that you can easily see how far you have come. You may even want to give yourself an award as you meet certain goals, such as pamper yourself with a spa day, have a romantic night out, attend a special sporting event, or enjoy a concert.
Now that we have come to the end of this series on “What is making America fat?” I hope you can see that it is not a simple answer. There are a plethora of things that get in the way of living a healthy lifestyle. So, if you are looking to make changes in your eating and/or exercise habits my suggestion is to start slow. Make you goals specific and achievable, and your long-term benefit will be a healthy person.