Eating when stressed

Dear John, My boyfriend doesn’t eat when he's stressed. I, on the other hand, eat everything in sight and then begin to binge on his “goodies” stock. No matter how good I've been for weeks, it all goes out the window when things get crazy, particularly when we have a significant disagreement. Of course, this makes me feel even worse and Is there a better way of dealing with my stress? …. (Eating When Stressed)

Dear Eating When Stressed,

Eating to numb emotions is very common. People don't want to feel the negative sensations that accompany stress so they take their "drug of choice;" in this case it's food. Food, like everything else, consists of nothing more than a combination of various chemicals. When consumed, these chemicals stimulate the release of natural occurring body chemicals, such as serotonin, our own built-in tranquilliser. Why do you think Antidepressant medications are so widely prescribed? It stimulates the release of serotonin. Overeating produces the same sort of "drugged" effect for a slightly different reason (the digestion process requires an amazing amount of energy). Being aware of your actions is the key to changing them, so the first step is to realise exactly how and when you use food as a drug.

Next you need to summon the courage to feel the negative sensations of stress skilfully instead of running from them. Each time you want to eat in an out of control manner, ask yourself specifically what sensation in your body you are trying not to feel. Then, if only for a few seconds, put all your attention on that sensation as you let go and allow the emotions to emerge, to do whatever it wants, to "complete" itself and move on (and it will, eventually).

Exercise is also an excellent way of reducing your stress level and there are several reasons for this. When performing aerobic exercises your heart and lungs are strengthened. These two vital organs, particularly the heart, bears the brunt of the body's physiological stress response and are constantly called upon to "fight or flee" from every kind of stressor we encounter each day. Exercise will improve your physical appearance, enhance your self-esteem and self-confidence.

With practice, you will emerge free from the chains of food, more internally educated for future stressful situations, more self-respecting, confident and slimmer.
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