Like reaching for a cigarette or a glass of wine, grabbing a chocolate bar or wolfing down a buttery muffin when you’re on a diet is classic stress-related eating.
The stress makes you feel bad and your internal logic goes something like, I’m unhappy so if I treat myself with something yummy I’ll feel better. But there’s more to it than emotions because when you’re stressed cortisol levels rise, which increases your appetite.
Beat stress eating
Preventing the stress in the first place – with regular yoga or meditation, or swimming or some other form of exercise – is obviously ideal. But if you’re already in the stress zone, try this:
- Grab an apple and take a bite, chewing slowly
- Stop, take ten deep breaths
- Then take another bite, chewing slowly again
- Repeat until you’ve eaten the apple
This snack attack plan works on three levels:
- It brings your stress levels right down with the slow breathing which slows your heart rate,
- The apple is full of filling fibre which will help prevent you giving into your craving,
- Plus, one small medical study published in Headache Quarterly found its scent can help reduce headaches.
What causes stress and how can you beat it
A late night combined with an early start can sometimes be enough to make you reach for the easy-energy foods, the chocolates, the carbs, the very foods you’re trying to avoid eating too much of. This usually happens in the middle of the morning or the afternoon.
The problem with feeding yourself with quick-energy foods when you’re tired is that you’ll then experience a slump after the ‘high’ when you’ll find yourself reaching for more sugar or carbs.
Beat sugary snacks
Allow yourself a sugar hit, but make it a small one and add in a lot of filling fibre and some protein too to make sure you don’t then suffer with a blood sugar drop.
So how to find that perfect energy-boosting meal?
Porridge with milk and honey is great as it provides fibre and protein, similarly a fruit smoothie will give you some sweetness along with protein in the yogurt and fibre in the fruit.
Discover the best healthy snacks with slimming expert, Judith Wills
Too busy to cook healthily
Who’s got time to whip up a healthy low-fat low-calorie yet-delicious-and-filling dinner every night?
Dieting takes up more time because you have to think carefully when you’re shopping, checking all the labels, and then research recipes, not to mention the cooking of them. It’s so much easier to grab a ready made meal or rely on recipes you know, which may well be higher in fat and calories than you need.
Beat high fat ready meals
Get prepared and cook in bulk, then freeze meal portions to stick in the microwave whenever you need them.
Pulses (haricot beans, chickpeas, lentils etc) which are low in fat but high in protein and fibre make excellent diet food. Cook up a big batch and simply freeze them like that. When you want a quick, healthy meal, you can use the beans in a soup, in a salad, or as a side to some fish or low-fat meat.
Discover how to make your own healthy ‘ready meals’ with slimming expert, Judith Wills
Willpower-sapping low self-esteem
It’s not logical but when you feel bad about the way you look and what the scales are telling you, it can make you eat more rather than less. It’s a kind of, “It’s hopeless, so why even try!” situation that leads you to give up on the diet and eat whatever you feel like, usually high-fat high-calorie foods.
Beat the willpower saboteurs
Don’t focus only on the scales but assess your success in several ways so that you can always feel good about your diet.
For example, measure your waistline, your hips and even your arms and thighs at the start of your diet, so you can celebrate every time you see a difference there too.
And celebrate the hidden ways you’re changing your body too – when you eat more fruit and vegetables and less carbohydrates and sugars, everything improves. From your heart to your lungs, your skin, nails and hair, the extra vitamins, minerals and fibre will help them function better, making you less prone to illness, disease and even injuries.
Learn more about strengthening your willpower