Beat the weight gain

Townsville Bulletin - - LIFE/HEALTH -

STRESS is ev­ery­where, and chronic stress is known to be harm­ful not only to our emo­tional health, but also to our phys­i­cal health. It can af­fect the im­mune sys­tem ( mak­ing us sick more of­ten), the heart ( caus­ing high blood pres­sure and other heart prob­lems) and mus­cles ( caus­ing prob­lems with neck, shoul­der and low-back pain), to name just a few con­cerns.

It can also be linked to overeat­ing, and so con­trib­ute to obe­sity. Stress eat­ing is a com­mon prob­lem in our fast-paced world, al­though many peo­ple be­lieve they are alone when it comes to this is­sue. In re­al­ity, most peo­ple have a ten­dency to overeat when mod­er­ately stressed. That can make con­trol­ling food por­tions par­tic­u­larly d i f f i c u l t . T h e r e may b e phys­i­o­log­i­cal rea­sons why we tend to eat more and eat cer­tain types of foods when we are un­der chronic stress. F o r e x a m p l e , r e s e a r c h sug­gests that cer­tain brain func­tions linked to chronic stress com­pel us to eat. Stress can also com­pel us to eat faster, po­ten­tially in­creas­ing the amount we eat even more.

The foods we’re more likely to reach for at times of stress are the sug­ary and starchy favourites we might call ‘‘ com­fort foods’’. These have prop­er­ties that af­fect the brain in sooth­ing ways, maki n g u s f e e l b e t t e r a n d re­in­forc­ing eat­ing when we are un­der stress.

So you see, you’re not alone. I t ’ s j ust how our bod­ies are wired to deal with chronic stress. It’s es­sen­tial to iden­tify whether stress is driv­ing your overeat­ing. If you try to con­trol por­tions w i t h t r i c k s l i k e u s i n g smaller plates, but don’t ad­dress the real rea­son for overeat­ing, such tricks won’t help.

Is stress eat­ing you? Take the quiz:

> Do you get ir­ri­tated over mi­nor things?

> Do you of­ten feel anx­ious, jit­tery and ‘‘ hy­per’’?

> Do peo­ple nerves of­ten?

> Is it dif­fi­cult to con­trol your tem­per?

> Is it hard to fo­cus on and re­mem­ber things?

> A r e y o u c o n s t a n t l y wor­ry­ing and think­ing about the next thing you have to do?

If you see your­self in these signs of stress and are hav­ing prob­lems with por­tion con­trol, there may be a link. We can’t elim­i­nate stress from our lives, but we can learn to man­age it.

Here are some tips for re­duc­ing stress and por­tions:

> T a k e d e e p b r e a t h s t hr o ugh­out t he d a y , e s - pe­cially be­fore eat­ing.

get on your

> Slow down eat­ing by savour­ing your food.

> Try to be mind­ful if you find your­self feel­ing hy­per, and slow down your move­ments and ac­tions.

> Look at the big pic­ture. Re­mind your­self of what’s re­ally im­por­tant in your life. Per­haps what you’re wor­ry­ing about re­ally isn’t as im­por­tant as you think.

> Re­mind your­self of what chronic stress can do to your health.

> Man­age hunger by eat­ing sen­si­ble meals on a reg­u­lar sched­ule. > Watch the serv­ings. > Ex­er­cise is a highly ef­fect i v e s t r e s s - b u s t e r a n d ap­petite-reducer.

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