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Stress and Eating Habits

Stress and Eating Habits

When you’re stressed, just about every other component of your life can be impacted in one way or another. Many things that are healthy for you tend to fall to the wayside, with one of the first things being your eating habits.

There are many other aspects of life that are also influenced including:

  • the amount of alcohol you drink;
  • how you approach your relationship with food;
  • how you interact with others, and
  • how much enjoyment you get from the world.

Research has found that the type of stress and your personality will determine the negative impact on your eating habits. At times, you may lose your appetite or you may consciously restrict and control your food intake. Other times, it could mean overeating, impulsive binge eating or comfort eating, in an attempt to make yourself feel better. While your brain may be telling you one thing when you’re stressed, your body is telling you something different.

So, how exactly are food and stress linked, and how does one thing impact the other? Read on to find out more about how a healthier, happier, and less-stressed brain can have a positive knock-on effect on how healthy your food habits are too:

Why Does Stress Affect How You Eat?

To understand how to resolve stress and prevent it from worsening your overeating or restrictive eating patterns, the first thing you need to know is what is causing the stress. Whether it’s stress at home, in the workplace, or due to finances, stress isn’t just in your head. As part of your fight or flight response, stress triggers a range of different biological functions in your body, which impacts how you eat.

Just some of the physical side effects of stress include:

  • Changes in hormones within the body;
  • Increased blood sugar;
  • Increased blood pressure, and
  • A higher heart rate.

Thousands of years ago, the way our bodies handled stress would be incredibly effective. But these days, constant stress can easily lead to changes in how our body works, which in turn changes how we behave.

There are many studies on the biological influences on our behaviours. A recent study showed that people with chronic, high levels of stress are far more prone to crave comfort foods and that this can easily turn into an addiction. While cigarettes, alcohol and drugs are all addiction types that can arise from stress, high-sugar and high-fat foods can also become addictive over time. The longer that stress goes on and the longer your eating habits are unhealthy and imbalanced, it can result in significant disordered eating behaviours or even eating disorders.

Learn more about Work Stress and how it affects males and females differently

Poor Eating Habits Can Make Stress Worse

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The food choices you make when you’re stressed can easily chip away at all areas of your health. By choosing to eat the comfort foods which trigger binge eating or buying unhealthy takeaway that results in overeating, it has a short-term gain with a poor long-term outcome.

While turning to food as a comfort or reward to make yourself feel better after a stressful day, week or month, beyond that immediate rush, you’ll likely find yourself feeling worse. As with any episode of emotional eating or binge eating, you gain immediate satisfaction, but you aren’t learning how to better manage the stressful events that keep triggering you to turn to food to ‘solve your problems’. Unfortunately, turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms will lead to poorer health, reduced stress tolerance, depression and weight gain.

It’s been proven that an improved diet which is healthy and balanced, can increase positive moods, provide you with more energy, and help you think more clearly. But when you’re in the depths of stress, it can be hard to see beyond what’s right in front of you. That’s why you can make the best possible impact on your eating habits by tackling stressors up-front and providing yourself with a good foundation for success and health.

Why Does Less Stress Equal Better Eating Habits?

If your mind is crowded with racing thoughts and constant worry, it will make the most important and simplest things in life more difficult. As such, choosing to eat regularly, and making healthy food choices, a priority becomes hard. It doesn’t help that easy convenience foods are far more accessible than healthier options.

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By tackling your stress, you can give yourself room to breathe and have the mental capacity to make healthier choices. The better you get at managing your stress, the more resilient you become. What once seemed difficult will be easy. This includes being able to choose to eat a healthy and balanced diet which in turn, will help to reduce the cravings for comfort foods and episodes of emotional and binge eating.

It’s impossible to remove all stressors from your life. However, you can learn to manage stress better which will enable you to handle stressful situations more effectively, with the aid of healthy strategies and coping mechanisms. Over time, you will begin to notice your change in perspective, behaviours and ability to cope with stress.

Working with a qualified psychologist, counsellor or therapist may be a great way to access those tools. Which will then give you a dedicated pace to tackle any of your eating issues and unhealthy habits once the immediate ‘threat’ your brain is reacting to, is under control.

With the proper tools and the support of a qualified professional you will begin to set yourself up for long-term success by better understanding both stress and disordered eating behaviours.

A healthier mind leads to healthier eating habits.

Here are some simple tips to help you to create a healthier more positive mindset.

Diet Culture Causes Eating Disorders

Diet Culture Causes Eating Disorders

Diet culture is toxic. It promises success, happiness, and health if you can attain a thin or fit ideal and restrict yourself in the name of healthy eating. Diet culture is defined by registered dietician and nutritionist Christy Harrison as a belief system that equates thinness with health. It demonises ways of eating and rewards others, oppressing those who don’t measure up with its health ideal.

The effect of diet culture is so embedded in our daily lives that it can be difficult to recognise and curtail. This culture presents itself in the ways you talk about your body (I’m fat, I need to lose weight), the way you keep track of calories (this is too much, I shouldn’t be eating this), and the way you villainise yourself for eating ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods.

Our society places extreme emphasis on the beauty and cultural significance of body image and weight. Losing weight (regardless of the circumstance) is good, and gaining weight is bad. This appears page after page in our magazines and through the innately rich and fit Instagram models and influencers. Fad diets and ways of ‘losing weight fast!’ are ingrained in our feeds and minds.

The facade of appearing ‘slim and healthy’ as a result of these short-term programs are bound to fail. Research by Grodstein et al. (1996) and Neumark-Sztainer et al. (2007) found that 95% of all dieters are likely to regain any lost weight within one (1) to five (5) years.

Diet culture focuses on restriction, eliminating foods that contain nutrients necessary for bodily function. Their purpose is to identify foods you can’t eat, rather than what is important for good health and nutrition.

How Diet Culture Leads to Disordered Eating

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The diet industry is fundamentally controlled by the moralising of food choice. Good foods, bad foods, and foods we should feel guilty and shameful for eating. The culture of dieting is ingrained in shrinking our bodies to fit into the ‘thin or fit’ ideal. If you don’t measure up, there are lots you can do to change yourself, no matter the cost to your health, livelihood and happiness.

Diet culture is rewarded. Obsessing over ‘healthy foods’ is normalised and heavily disordered and distorted. It can cause women and men to think they’ve reached society’s (or their own) ‘goal’ because they’ve reaffirmed their disorder as healthy, and gotten thinner through binge eating, restriction, and bulimic tendencies. Hunger cues are ignored in the name of health and weight loss when in actuality, this only leads to poor mental, emotional, and physical health.

A study from the Center of Addiction reported that 62.3% of teen girls surveyed were working toward weight loss, and 58.6% were actively dieting. Alarmingly, only 15% of teens were classified as overweight. Those who restricted intake of food are reported to be eighteen (18) times more likely to develop an eating disorder, while those subject to dieting are five (5) times more likely.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with certain ways of eating, such as being vegetarian, eating organic, or shopping locally. But as a society, we’ve moralised eating, exercise, and weight more than anything else. Instagram perpetuates this idea, as we are presented with idealistic, aesthetic posts of clean foods and fit Instagram models. A Netherlands study (2017) recently found that cultural phenomena are linked to the development of orthorexia (unhealthy fixation on clean eating). It found that the more a person is exposed to the type of clean eating content on Instagram, the more likely they are to risk developing symptoms of orthorexia.

Get 7 Tips to Kick Start Your Eating Without Dieting

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Healing from diet culture requires that you recognise such a toxic culture exists, and you have the power to reject it. Healing means that you need to remove all traces of diet culture from your social media, such as Facebook groups or Instagram pages that conform to this culture to prioritise ‘clean eating’. Start to follow pages and users with diverse experiences, varying sizes, backgrounds, and stories that allow you to challenge your internal beliefs and are conducive to growth.

Another useful way to combat the restrictive hold of diet culture is honouring intuitive eating. This way of eating abandons the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad foods’, and emphasises eating the foods that make you feel the best. Some days, you’re going to crave pizza or pasta, and others you crave a veggie salad. Intuitive eating is about caring for yourself, and honouring what your body needs, at the time, without cutting out nutrients or food groups.

It’s necessary to concentrate on identifying and healing from the emotional triggers that prompt emotional eating or binge eating. This includes establishing coping mechanisms that enable you to deal with general and food-related stress and anxiety.

Knowing that certain foods aren’t off-limits allows you to break away from the scarcity mindset, and gives you space to make mindful eating choices.

Removing the judgement and guilt, from diet culture, is essential in starting to value your choices and decisions again. Aim to make these choices from a place of kindness and self-care, rather than a place of guilt, fear, judgement and self-punishment.

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If you want to get some basic hints and tips to improving any form of Disordered Eating Behaviours, Weight Gain or Binge Eating read more here.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic provides a bridge between where you are currently and the direction you want to head towards. We offer a variety of programs and services that help you to shift your mindset to a more mindful, healthy relationship with yourself and with food through practical, and realistic strategies you can implement immediately.

Why 92% of Goals Fail – What to do Instead

Why 92% of Goals Fail – What to do Instead

With a New Year, most likely you will hear the common phrase, ‘New Year, New Me’. This highlights that so many of us set about creating some major changes in our lives come every January; things like eating healthier, stopping binge eating or exercising more. Yet, 92% of people fail to stick to their New Year’s resolution. Yes, that is a whopping 92% of goals fail to get across the line!

Why does this happen when you start out with so much determination in January? Here are three (3) key reasons which explain why so many New Year Resolutions fail and goals fail.

3 Reasons Goals Fail

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#1 – You Are Focused on Results Instead of the Why

The main reason why you fail to stick to new behaviours is because you try and achieve an outcome-based goal without identifying the behaviours and issues that need to be understood and changed first. For example, your current behaviours, such as binge eating or overeating, are simply a reflection of other issues and behaviours.

Therefore, the recipe for sustained goal success is to start with small wins in improving the behaviours that lead to you binge eating or overeating in the evening. For example, your goal would be to start eating three (3), regular, healthy meals a day. Once you are able to sustain this goal, you can move to the next goal.

Find out the #1 reason behind self-sabotage

#2 – You Haven’t Set Up Accountability Structures

Achieving an important goal does not happen overnight. Big changes require sustained and consistent action, which is very difficult to achieve on your own. Typically, the bigger the goal, such as breaking food addiction, the more important it is to have outside accountability support.

No matter the goal, developing a support system to provide you with accountability, motivation and guidance, is essential. Coaches, mentors or counsellors are important to provide you with the new knowledge and skills required to overcome the obstacles and challenges, along the journey.

#3 – Your Goal is Outside of Your Control

If you want to lose weight, your goal may be to lose 20 kilos. However, this is not all within your control. There could be various outside factors influencing your ability to achieve your goals.

For example, hitting the weight loss plateau, slowed metabolism, contributing medications or medical problems. So, when the weight stops dropping off, it can be very easy to lose motivation or even give up altogether. Therefore, it is important to set identity-based, achievable goals instead.

For example, rather than losing 20 kilos, set the goal of becoming the type of person who starts eating regular, healthy meals, manages stress and engages in enjoyable activity multiple times per week. You could start small by focusing on eating a healthy breakfast and start doing fun 10-minute dance classes that you found on Youtube, at home. You set yourself up to move towards being the person you want to be every day by engaging in healthy habits.

Routines lead to greater success

As you can see, the main reason why New Year Resolutions and goals fail is the ‘way’ people go about trying to achieve them. It begs the question of the most effective way to bring about long-lasting change in your life.

Rather than, ‘New Year, New Me’, perhaps it would be more helpful to say, ‘New Year, Same Me – Better Version’. Part of the process to achieving the better version of you, is to use reflection. Reflecting back will allow you to celebrate and continue what is working and implement strategies to improve what isn’t. It will help you to approach important goals in a much more thoughtful, purposeful and sustainable way. For example:

New Year’s Resolution: I want to stop binge eating in 2021.

New Year’s Reflection:

It is important to be healthy for myself and my family and learn some new eating habits. I want to feel like I am nourishing my body to give me enough energy to play with my children. Therefore, I am setting the goal of learning some new family healthy dinner recipes that I can cook each night. I will then increase this to breakfast and lunch.

If you are wondering how to get started with New Year Reflections, below are some questions which will help you to identify what is important to you and what you need to put in place to help you reach your goals.

10 Reflection Questions to Help You Create a Better Version of You

  1. What was the biggest challenge I overcame this year?
  2. What did I learn about myself?
  3. What am I the proudest of in the last year?
  4. What did I enjoy doing the most in the past 12 months?
  5. Who do I want to become?
  6. What are my unresolved issues from the past 12 months?
  7. What do I want more of in my life?
  8. What do I want less of in my life?
  9. What do I need to stop doing?
  10. What will I do differently in the next 12 months?

Save yourself the frustration and disappointment of yet another failed goal-setting attempt and work on starting reflections which you can use to guide value-driven, achievable goals and habits. Reflecting back, thinking and building self-awareness will result in you creating long-lasting, sustainable changes in your life now and into the future.

Get 7 Tips to Kick Start Your Eating Without Dieting

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If you want to get some basic hints and tips to improving any form of Disordered Eating Behaviours, Weight Gain or Binge Eating read more here.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic provides a bridge between where you are currently and the direction you want to head towards. We offer a variety of programs and services that help you to shift your mindset to a more mindful, healthy relationship with yourself and with food through practical, and realistic strategies you can implement immediately.

How to Reduce Overeating at Christmas

How to Reduce Overeating at Christmas

 Standing in your local supermarket, you glance between the produce section, where you intended to go, and the aisle of baked goods. Deep down you know that if you go down the baked goods aisle that you will trigger your overeating at Christmas mindset and this will lead you to the Festive Season mindsets and behaviours of binge eating which will last for a month or more.

Those brightly coloured stacks of Christmas goodies keep catching your eye. You resist, clutching your carefully prepared shopping list. You are here to buy fresh veggies, salad and roast ingredients for a healthy, satisfying Christmas dinner for your family and friends. You can hear that little voice trying to bargain with you saying that, if you have a healthier Christmas dinner than the desserts and chocolates are okay. You deserve it and you have saved yourself the calories during the main meal.

Making wise food choices can be challenging at any time of the year however, eating healthy at Christmas can sometimes seem like an impossible task. The temptations of Christmastime plus dieting mindsets, which are common yet unsustainable in the long-run, can endanger your short-term and long-term health goals and send you down a sabotaging path.

You’ve probably heard about the endorphin-producing powers of chocolate, but it isn’t the only culprit. Normal human survival instinct responds to everyday Stress by driving you to seek fatty and carb-heavy foods. Eating rich food triggers the reward centre of your mind and leads to excessive indulgence for those who are susceptible.

 The good news is that you can minimise overeating at Christmas and during the Festive Season and reduce your urges by preparing a game plan and adopting a mindset that gives you the mental and emotional resources to enjoy food responsibly without feeling deprived, restricted or like you are on a diet.

10 Tips to Reduce Overeating at Christmas & Improve Healthy Eating

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Tip #1 – Regular Meals Throughout the Day

Relying on willpower alone is stressful and usually unsuccessful. You need to train yourself overtime to manage situations that may disrupt your resolve by developing strategies and healthy patterns that you are happy and confident in sticking to. An effective and healthy eating pattern is to have breakfast within 1 hour of waking up and eating regular, smaller meals based on whole foods every 3-4 hours. This plan can increase metabolism and prevent hunger pangs throughout the day.

Tip #2 – You Have Choices

You can set yourself up for success at the table by assessing what is on offer and then choosing the options that are going to nourish you first. For example, choosing vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, salads and other healthier options first.

Tip #3 – Size Really Does Matter

Choose a smaller plate and keep small spaces between the food, to ensure moderate portions. This is a better alternative to building a small mountain of mash and roasties right off the bat and finishing it all in the name of politeness. This allows you to begin to portion control and learn to not eat with your eyes. 

Tip #4 – Slow Down

Exercise mindful eating by chewing slowly and concentrating on every bite. Eating at a slower pace increases your satiety at a faster rate and can prevent overeating.

Tip #5 – All of the Choices

Select foods that you will truly savour, not dishes that just happen to be in front of you.

Tip #6 – Fresh is Best

Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of nutritious eating at any time of the year. Eating fresh produce over the holiday season will go a long way towards keeping your mood, mental health and energy up and your weight down.

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Tip #7 – Your Dietary Needs

Do you have a cousin that serves up fast food feasts for Christmas as a ‘special’ treat or a grandmother that lathers anything and everything in butter and cheese? Prepare your own meal or snacks full of healthy veggies, lean protein, plant proteins, wholegrains, and fruits and explain your dietary needs and goals to the host. Make sure you bring enough to share with everyone!

Tip #8 – Water is Wonderful

It’s easy to confuse thirst for hunger, as both are registered in the same part of the brain, so remember to keep yourself hydrated by drinking at least 2.2L, or approximately 8-9 glasses, of water a day.

Tip # 9 – Routines and Relaxation

As stress is the main cause of those pesky comfort-food seeking urges, de-stressing through other means like going for a short walk, getting 7-9 hours of sleep, doing something fun or meditating.

Tip #10 – Find Meaning

What are the most important things about the Christmas and holiday season for you? Too much focus is placed on the food and this disconnects you from the real meaning of this time. Is it: getting together with friends and family, gift-giving, dressing up, decorating, listening to cheesy music and connecting with your community? These are the true focus that can help you create a healthier mindset.

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Finally, forget the “New Year, New Me” mentality. This is a damaging mantra that only momentarily absolves people from making smart and healthy choices but magnifies negative feelings down the line. This can lead to more Stress, and encourages the repetition of negative and unhealthy cycles. Instead, acknowledge your daily wins and achievements, no matter how small, as this will keep you focused on your goals and health. 

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If you want to get some basic hints and tips to improving any form of Disordered Eating Behaviours, Weight Gain or Binge Eating read more here.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic provides a bridge between where you are currently and the direction you want to head towards. We offer a variety of programs and services that help you to shift your mindset to a more mindful, healthy relationship with yourself and with food through practical, and realistic strategies you can implement immediately.

7 Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

7 Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

It is a common misconception that if you suffer from Binge Eating that you are either overweight or obese. Although the disorder can cause weight gain over time, it can occur in anyone, regardless of their size, age, gender, or race. This lack of awareness, and the stigma attached to this form of compulsive eating, are why a lot of people suffer in silence with their struggle and are unable to identify their experience with the symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder. This disorder affects three (3) times the amount of people diagnosed with Anorexia and Bulimia combined.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder is a psychological illness that is characterised by frequently eating excessive amounts of food, in a short period of time, in the absence of hunger. These episodes are accompanied by feelings of a loss of control followed by feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and disgust. It is similar to Bulimia Nervosa, but with the absence of purging, and needs to be taken extremely seriously. The good news is that overcoming Binge Eating Disorder is possible. There are effective treatments available to help you better understand what the underlying causes are and to help you better manage your emotions, mindset and behaviours. shift your Binge Eating mindset.
Despite the growing awareness of Binge Eating Disorder, you may not realise the severity of your disorder. There are several emotional and behavioural symptoms that may not seem like a red flag to you but would indicate to a professional that you are in need of treatment.

Typical Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms

#1 – Eating When Not Hungry

Feeling the compulsion to eat even though you have no appetite. You are more likely to binge on foods that you restrict or deprive yourself of which are commonly known as the ‘forbidden foods’. They tend to be highly processed with high amounts of sugar, fat and/or refined carbohydrates.

#2 – Eating Beyond Physical Fullness

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Your body generally signals to you when you are reaching your physical fullness level. With Binge Eating this signal is turned off and ignored resulting in the ability to consume large quantities of food causing physical discomfort and nausea.

#3 – Periods of Uncontrollable Eating

You may experience moments of compulsive eating where your brain feels as though it has switched off or zoned out, and you are eating without the ability to stop.

#4 – Eating Very Quickly

There is an overwhelming desire and pattern of eating rapidly in a very short time frame to eat as much as you can.

#5 – Secretive Eating

Binge Eating usually occurs alone and in secret. You may have rituals of planning around where, when, what you eat, what else you do. Eating in your car, late at night when everyone has gone to bed and hiding food around the house are all common behavioural patterns.

#6 – Coping with Distressing Feelings

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Binge Eating is often the response to intense feelings, emotions and situations. Food is used as a way to cope with the challenging emotions which suppresses and represses all of the physical and psychological distress, momentarily. Some of the emotions that people find challenging include stress, anxiety, anger, depression, and boredom.

#7 – Distress After Eating

After you have binged, do you also feel ashamed, guilty or disgusted with yourself? Distress after Bingeing is a common sign that you are suffering from Binge Eating Disorder.

If you leave it untreated in the hope that it will run its course, there are an enormous amount of health risks that can occur which include:

  • Obesity;
  • Diabetes;
  • Heart disease;
  • Sleep problems;
  • Mental health issues, and
  • Chronic pain.

Your overall quality of life will continue to deteriorate alongside your self-esteem and self-worth. Binge Eating Disorder is a psychological illness that is often used as a replacement for deeper emotions you may be trying to avoid. Put simply, food equals pain relief.

Seeking a weight loss treatment or program is only going to make your disorder worse. One of the greatest risk factors for Binge Eating Disorder is Dieting. You cannot find the solution in the cause of the problem. It will actually cause you more harm.

You need to increase your own awareness and have the courage to reach out and ask for help. The best way to treat any Eating Disorder is with the appropriate professional support.

If you are showing any signs of this disorder, you have already taken the first step by acknowledging it. If you are still questioning whether you may be suffering from any form of Eating Disorder or Disordered Eating Behaviour, take our short quiz. 

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If you want to get some basic hints and tips to improving any form of Disordered Eating Behaviours, Weight Gain or Binge Eating read more here.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic provides a bridge between where you are currently and the direction you want to head towards. We offer a variety of programs and services that help you to shift your mindset to a more mindful, healthy relationship with yourself and with food through practical, and realistic strategies you can implement immediately.

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