Diet-to-Go Blog
  1. How to Ditch the Stress That's Secretly Sabotaging Your Weight-Loss Success

    How to Stop Stress Eating

    Deadlines, bad bosses, relationship problems, traffic, economic and health issues…these are just a few of the many, many issues that can cause stress in our lives and sabotage our weight-loss efforts. Though stress is unavoidable (darn), how we cope and deal with stressors is within our control. And taking back the reigns is easy, if you know how.

    Believe it or not, minor stress is actually essential in motivating our brains towards our goals – we are able to get places on time, meet deadlines, react quickly on the road – how we handle each situation trains our brains and our bodies for how we will handle future stress. It is a very important part of how the human brain works. So when it comes to handling stress, the trick is to let the good stress motivate us and let the bad stress go. Easier said than done, but you’re about to learn how.

    Have you noticed the little thrill you get when you have a challenge that you know you can master? Mastering your larger stressors and overcoming big challenges can be equally as thrilling, plus, learning how to handle stress also helps avoid a whole host of taxes on the body that can occur when stress goes unchecked for long periods of time. (See the green chart at the right - yikes!)

    Getting Started

    The first step is to consider the things that really affect your stress levels, both positively and negatively. Let’s just call this baggage. Make sure that your mental “baggage” is not weighing you down and interfering with your success. Begin by identifying what you do and don’t want to include in your life.

    Step 1: Ditch the Baggage

    Take a piece of paper and fold it into four quadrants. In the top left quadrant, write “What I Don’t Want” and your answers to the following questions:

    • What makes you feel completely drained?
    • What experiences make you want to numb out by eating sweets, drinking alcohol or watching too much TV?
    • What activities elicit physical symptoms in you, such as bouts of nausea or headaches?
    • What fills with you with looming dread?
    • What people make you shrink and second guess yourself?
    • What do you find yourself forgetting to do or messing up repeatedly?

    While doing this exercise you may realize that there is more affecting you than you consciously realized before. On the other hand, there may be just one answer to all the above questions.
    For instance, this is a story from my client Pam-

    Whether it’s just one situation that is creating your stress or a lot of small things, it is important to identify your stressors and, if you cannot eliminate them, develop coping mechanisms so that you can avoid the physical consequences of these long term stressors.

    Finding Your Antidote for Stress

    Next, it’s time to think about what gives you energy, what drives you and what makes you feel good. While baggage weighs you down, what you do want in your life lifts you up! The things you think of in this next exercise will eventually work as the antidote to your stress.

    Step 2: Identify Your “Anti-Baggage”

    In the top right quadrant of your paper, write “What I Do Want” and your answers to the following questions:

    • What activities cause you to lose track of time because you are having so much fun?
    • What do other people consistently compliment you on?
    • What makes you feel super healthy?
    • What experiences inspire you to be creative?
    • Who energizes you and/or makes you feel loved and supported?
    • What circumstances or activities make you feel relaxed?

    If you are answering with the same thing for each of these questions, you have easily identified what you should spend the majority of your time and energy on. If you have a different answer for each question, you have many great ideas for what you can lean on when stressors creep in on you.

    Re-Learning How to Relax

    Many of us spend so much time in a stressed state that we have forgotten what it feels like to be fully relaxed and alert. It is important to tap into the stress relief techniques that suit you best.

    Step 3: Choosing Stress Relief Techniques

    In the bottom left quadrant of your paper write two or three stress relief techniques that you will employ. This will be an essential part of your “mental first aid kit.”

    Here are some suggestions:

    • Prepare for tomorrow each day. Take a few minutes to make a to-do list and clean up your desk before you leave work. Knowing you've got everything covered means you'll be less likely to fret about work in the evenings.
    • Keep healthy snacks on hand. According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey, more women than men (one in three) turn to comfort food such as ice cream and cookies to ease stress. Keep three or four healthy snacks on hand so you aren't tempted to binge.
    • Repetition is comforting. Doing almost any routine, repetitive activity (like vacuuming, shredding paper or knitting), or reciting a word that represents how you wish you felt (such as calm) is a quick way to achieve a Zen-like state.
    • Drown out stress by tuning into some tunes. Slow or meditative music is a proven stress buster. During your commute or before bed, enjoy a bit of soothing music and the stress will pour off.
    • Hit the pool! A Swedish study published in the International Journal of Stress Management found that floating in water triggers the body's relaxation response, helping lower stress-hormone levels.
    • Leave work at work. Take a break from your devices, especially work email, in the evening and on weekends.
    • Recall a past success. Taking five minutes to reflect on how you pulled through other stressful situations like your last breakup or when you switched jobs, can help you reconnect with your resilient side.
    • Stretch or do yoga. According to an article in Harvard Health Publications, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. So not only does it help your body become more flexible, it enhances your ability to respond to stress more flexibly too!
    • Focus on your senses a few minutes a day. Take a moment to pay attention to your senses—what do you see, feel, hear, smell? Doing this daily can make a huge difference in your emotional well-being.
    • Talk about or write out what's worrying you. This helps you feel less alone and helpless.
    • Be faithful to your workout routine. Working out is one of the most effective stress relievers. Fifteen to thirty minutes a day is enough to reduce your stress. While you may have an urge to grab ice cream and curl up on the coach, 10 push-ups might be all you need to completely change your state of mind!
    • Get a massage. Need I say more?
    • Take time to laugh. Whether you subscribe to a daily comic or indulge in a comedy show, laugher will do wonders for taking your mind off of problems.
    • Identify at least one good thing that happened today. Try starting off the evening with your family or friends by exchanging good news. Something good happens every day, you just need to recognize it.
    Harnessing The Power of Affirmations

    Studies show that spoken affirmations lower blood pressure and slow heart rate and breathing. The basic practice is to focus on a word or phrase along with your breathing and to bring your attention back to your task if your mind wanders toward negative thoughts.

    Step 4: Writing Affirmations

    In the bottom right quadrant of your paper, write quotes, words, songs and sayings that elicit calm feeling in you. When you are experiencing a stress response, take a deep breath and verbalize the word, quote or saying. Repeat it until you feel calmer.
    Here are some examples of words or phrases you can use:

    • I feel calm
    • This too shall pass
    • I’m OK
    • “Don’t worry, be happy”
    • I just have to laugh
    • Inner peace

    When stress seems to be bearing down on you from all angles, doing this simple 4-part exercise should help you refocus and remind you that you have many tools to get you through even the toughest times. Quadrants 2-4 of your worksheet will remind to you that there is so much in your life to look forward to.

    Check out these resources on identifying and dealing with stress:

    Author: Brandi Redo
    Brandi is a Certified Health Coach at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. Balance is the number one mission in Brandi’s life. In her spare time she loves to bike, do Zumba and play tennis, but hates gym exercise. She is an amateur gardener and nature walker, who is on the constant look out for interesting insects and small animals. Brandi encourages people to “find the sweetness in life.”



    Psychology & Weight Loss
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