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Are you a stress eater?


Puspa never has time to eat in the morning, she’s always rushing off to the office on an empty stomach. When she reaches work, she tries to answer her hunger and the nagging calls by marketers with strong black coffee, until lunch time, she’s already had 3 cups of it. At half time, she picks up an ‘instant noodle’ and has it at her desk because she has to finish that report the Boss has been asking for and has to make it in time to the meeting at half past two. By 5 PM, Puspa’s quite happy she spent the day without eating much, she feels good she hasn’t eaten anything that will add on any kilos. The stress and hard work must have done some fat cutting too, she thinks. So when she reaches home, she treats herself to a bottle of coke and cookies, and later has a satisfying daal-bhat with her family. Her stressful day ends with her in front of the TV chewing on the ice cream cake she bought for her deserving self. The next day follows pretty much the same way. By the end of the month, an astonished Puspa looks at the weighing scale – she’s added on 2 kilos!

If you’re constantly stressed out, you have irregular eating habits and you crave for junk food and if you’re thinking stress makes us thinner, think again. Research shows that too much stress doesn’t do anything much than add on to the pounds (and your wrinkles).

The rise of obesity levels with stress levels affirms the fact that how you deal with stress is how stress deals with your weight. Since women work twice as much as men and because of their natural tendency to think and worry more, the stress levels of women around the world is in direct proportion to their obesity level.

Stress eaters are those who turn to food to make stress go away, it’s a case where a person eats not for hunger of the body but for the hunger of attention. Experts believe that stress eaters take food as a quick fix to solving their problems; associating food with rewards or pleasure, and not fuel for the body. When we eat food for any other cause than fueling our body, the body stores the food. This is a primitive mechanism of our body designed to protect us from famine; a mechanism, which in today’s world does nothing but make us weigh more.

So how do you stop stress eating? You have to first realize if you’re a stress eater or not. If you answer yes to three or more of the following then you are a stress eater.

  • When you get home, you eat something immediately
  • You get into a trance when eating and before you know it, you’ve finished the packet
  • Your lunch is an instant noodle eaten on the run or at your office desk.
  • You forget to eat the whole day and then crash in on food in the evening.
  • You only feel full after you eat a lot.
  • You feel slightly hungry most of the time.
  • If you have trouble at work or have work pressure, you tend to keep it to yourself.
  • You eat snacks in front of the TV before and after dinner, right up to bedtime.
  • After a big dinner you want to eat something else as well.
  • Whenever you’re on your own at home, you find yourself searching for something to eat.

Doctors advise that every time you feel stress coming on, you need to deal with it, not push it away. Stress is the way of your body telling you it needs more energy. Many people try to substitute the stress demand by taking up stodgy, sweet or salty, fatty junk food because that is the kind of food, which gives instant energy. Energy can also be derived by a glass of water, an apple and fruit juices, but because they don’t taste good enough to mentally make you feel better, we choose to have a chocolate bar or a bag of potato chips instead. It is important to know that although chocolates, sugar and caffeine give us instant energy, they give us instant hunger as well, and this hunger is real. When you don’t exercise and your eating schedules and habits don’t balance the junk food you’re taking in, you ultimately end up adding weight.

So it’s been advised that when you feel that stress knot tightening in your tummy, stop and think. Rate your hunger on a scale of one to ten. If it’s a 6 or 7 above, then eat; otherwise understand that it’s not real hunger. Do it away with a glass of water.

Also whenever you feel stressed out, switch immediately to another activity that you know will unwind you. Ring up a friend, listen to music, if you can’t have food take something else that will make you feel better. Going out for a walk, or any kind of exercise is highly recommended when you get a stress attack, because it is a great stress buster as it releases calming brain chemicals. Exercise not only cuts off the fat but also brings down your real appetite.

Drinking water always helps do away with stress as it not only gives our body more oxygen but many a times, it’s easy for us to think we’re hungry when actually all we are is thirsty. Another tip is to eat slowly – really chew into your food, almost until it dissolves into your mouth. This action alone will slow you down and relax you.

The golden point to remember is, the more flexible you are in your eating, the less stressed you’ll be, and less stress means that hopefully, there’ll be lesser of you!

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