7 August 12 Manage Stress to Help You Manage Calories

According to HEALTHbeat, a newsletter from Harvard Medical School, people often handle stress in ways that can be harmful. Do you see yourself in any of these pressure-relief tactics – these can directly affect your ability to control weight:

- Watching endless hours of TV

- Overeating

- Sleeping too much

- Drinking too much alcohol


For those of you who exist in a chronically stressful environment and struggle with weight, I want you to consider using a weight-neutral tactic for releasing stress. Although all of the avoidant behaviors listed above might help distract you from the pain or anxiety associated with stress, they also serve to sabotage your effort to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight.

Here are some tips to help you manage stress in more healthful ways, and in turn, help you better manage your weight.

1. Work. Challenge yourself with this thought – if your job is extremely stressful and you haven't figured out how to change it, then is it really worth staying in that job? Even if you can't change jobs right away due to finances, making plans to find another job in the near future will help relief stress associated with the daily grind you find yourself stuck in. With a particularly nasty day, can you take a power walk to relieve that pent up energy rather than using excess food or alcohol?

2. Relationships. Are your friendships or family relationships loving and supportive or are they demeaning, abusive, or neglectful? Can you define what you need and how you expect to be treated? You might need professional assistance - seek help from a family counselor, pastor, or even from your employer's employee assistance program. Don't settle – we all need caring relationships in our life.

3. Loss. Grieving can take a heavy toll on the survivor's physical and mental health. If you find that you are having difficulty coping without engaging in negative stress behaviors, then it is time to seek professional help. Do this now, not later.

4. Healthier distractions. Spend time engaged in a hobby that gives you something positive in return for your time and effort. Many hobbies are low in cost or free – start to explore what is in your local community. One of my favorite activities to recommend is learning how to social dance. The dance teacher ensures that all students get to practice, regardless if they came to class alone or with a partner. And the benefit of social dance is that you meet other people and burn some calories. Other healthful hobbies might include building or making things you enjoy, learning a new language or learning how to play a musical instrument, or volunteering your time to charitable organizations. If you are able to finance it, then consider going back to school or perhaps take a night class to help revitalize or inspire you to do something new. If you are near retirement, have you considered a second career – something that you are passionate about but never had the time or money to pursue? Maybe now it the time. And of course, simply exercising does a world of good to help relieve the daily stresses of life.

5. Healthier stress eating. If you are going to munch and chew no matter what, then consider low-energy density veggies as the ultimate stress-eater's solution. Almost all non-starchy veggies fall into this category – e.g. baby carrots, celery, peppers, green leafy veggies, broccoli, etc. They are so low in calories that you can munch without incurring real caloric damage. And you'll rack up lots of vitamins and minerals if you snack on those types of foods. Just watch what you put on the veggies – sauces and fats are high in calories. Herbs and spices are essentially calories-free.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Weight Loss/Behavior

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