Your job, family responsibilities, and other pressures collide into one great bundle of stress. 43 percent of Americans say stress causes them to either overeat or choose unhealthy foods, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. “Eating and eating is comforting to most people,” says Joyce Corsica, Ph.D., associate professor and clinical and health psychologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
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Why does food become our safety blanket when life gets tough? It could be for a variety of factors, says Corsica. “The biochemical effects of the food (for example, carbohydrates relax for most people) or because people enjoy eating and / or eating very tasty foods. They taste good and that feel good. There’s also the fact that eating can distract you from stress; You’re essentially getting a little break. Finally, the feeling of fullness or satiety can also be pleasant. It is important to know that stress eating can become a habit very quickly as each of these forces are very powerful. “
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Fortunately, you can control these factors. Corsica and her colleagues tested three approaches: a modified mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR), a cognitive-behavioral treatment they had developed specifically for stress eating for this study, and a treatment that was a combination of the other two. While all treatments reduce stress eating, they concluded that the combination treatment gave slightly better results. “The combination resulted in greater reductions in stress eating and, interestingly, greater weight loss. We think it brought a one-two victory, ”said Corsica about the results.
And here’s why: Learning mindfulness strategies helps to increase awareness of one’s own emotional states. At the same time, the cognitive-behavioral aspect of the intervention helped people develop specific skills for managing their response to stress. “They learned how to maintain a good diet, choose other distractors, solve problems, apply cognitive restructuring … and the key was that they not only learned them, but also practiced and refined them under typical stressful conditions in their lives.” She says.
The best part is that anyone can learn these strategies. Corsica recommends the book 50 Ways to Calm Down Without Eating, and other MBSR tricks like this one. It is also important to identify and master stress management strategies that work for you. (Here are two you might want to try.)
Most importantly, Corsica says try not to feel trapped – as if all you can do is handle food. “You may feel powerless to eat. And this can quickly get out of hand once you gain weight, ”she says. “Our research has shown that there are some great ways to break this cycle.”