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When you’re stressed out – do you find yourself eating more? Or reaching for sweets? Well, you’re not the only one. Over the years, there’s been a growing phenomenon called “compulsive eating” which can often lead to obesity. In order to learn how to fight it, we have to take a closer look at the causes behind this phenomenon.

Psychology defines stress as an adaptive relation between a person’s capabilities and the requirements set forward by a particular situation (stressor) marked by a mental and/or physical disbalance. We’re accompanied by stress throughout our entire life, from the moment we’re born, and there’s no avoiding it. Naturally, we take various measures to try to bring our body back to a balanced state of inner peace. Some do sports, others listen to relaxing music, and others eat.

Why do we defuse stress with eating?

It is widely believed that food has unique powers – it calms us down, helps us relax and also provides comfort. Especially sweets. These positive connotations related
to food are built from the very first days of our lives. When a baby cries, the mother will begin to feed it after eliminating other causes of distress such as pain or a wet diaper. This is a very effective method – and not only because it feeds a hungry child. When cuddling with its mother, a child feels safe because of the warmth and intimacy between them; it feels its mother’s heartbeat and hears the sound of her voice. Then, later on in our lives, positive connotations with food are further reinforced by, for example, parents who reward their children for good grades with sweets. Childhood habits often shape one’s adult life. When we feel under pressure, our psychology tends to regress, which means that we turn off our mechanisms of rational thinking and control. In many cases we don’t even know that we are stressed out, and we misinterpret different signs of stress as hunger. In such situations, we go back to our old habits for bringing temporary relief – food.

Eating because of stress is a vicious circle. The feeling of satiety actually helps to get rid of stress related to sadness, anxiety and isolation – but only for a short period of time. Following this pattern, we can develop a food addiction. It is impossible to live with no stress because we are accompanied by it throughout our lives, with periods of higher or lower intensities. However, we need to learn to listen to our body, to identify anxiety and to find our own personal ways of coping with stressful situations.

How to effectively cope with stress:

Identify the stress – to better deal with stress, start observing your body. Think about what makes you eat? Are you really hungry? How does your body react to being under pressure? What type of food do you eat in such situations? Along with becoming more aware, you will learn how to tell the difference between hunger and eating as a reaction to a stressful situation.

Take better care of yourself – We cope with stress much better when we’re healthy and well rested. Don’t let yourself drive your body into a state of exhaustion. Keep the right balance between private life and work. Relax and sleep 7-8 hours a day.

Relaxation and rest – don’t forget to find some time for yourself during the day. Spend at least half an hour on something that makes you happy – hobbies, reading a book, listening to relaxing music. Spend some time alone.

Proper nutrition – in order to quit eating when you’re stressed out, you need to develop new eating habits. Eat regularly, preferably at fixed times. Don’t grab random snacks. Pay close attention to what you eat.

Physical activity – sport is a great way of coping with stress. While doing sports, your brain releases serotonin – the hormone of happiness. Choose activities that you like – a peaceful yoga class, pilates, or Fat Killer-type classes etc.

Proper supplementation – remember about magnesium! In case of magnesium deficiency, our body is less resistant to stress. It can be found in buckwheat groats, nuts, spinach, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Positive attitude – people often say the optimists live longer. Try to have a positive attitude towards yourself, others and the world in general. Did you know that 70% of our concerns and fears never actually come true? Don’t exaggerate. If a situation seems tough, just sit it out and wait.

Stress is something that we have to deal with throughout our entire lives. Food has always been associated with a sense of safety; as something pleasant. Unfortunately, there’s only a fine line between a relaxing habit and emotional overeating. It is impossible to avoid stress – but you can learn how to cope with it. I recommend any physical activity that makes you happy. It will calm you down when you’re having a hard time, and what’s more, it’ll help you stay in shape and feeling better about yourself. You’re not sure what type of activities to choose?

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