Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are You a Stress Eater?

Sorry about the late post. I didn't get home until after 9 last night, and I was complete toast. But I'm so glad to present our next regular blogger, Tawny Weber, who writes for Harlequin Blaze. She's going to be blogging twice a month on Thursdays -- thus, Tawny Thursdays. Yes, I like alliteration. :) Take it away, Tawny!

Like most women, and especially most writers I know, I seem to live in a constant state of stress. Deadlines, sagging middles (of the story, although now that I think about it...), reviews, promo tours, the list goes on and on. Add to that the reality that writing is a very sedentary job, and I spend hours with my tushie planted in a chair, the only exercise my body gets being my fingers tapping away on the keyboard.

Stress + Sedentary = weight gain.

Then two months ago, I added a new layer to the stress load by buying a new house, putting mine up for sale and going through the crazy dance of moving. Throw in a lender that closed 12 days later than contracted, 2 weeks of all my ‘stuff’ being in a moving truck and a sudden dependence on potato chips and I put on 10 pounds and had to ask myself for the first time – was I a stress eater? I mean, I was definitely stressed. And I was DEFINITELY eating. A lot. Way more than normal, of way out of the normal foods. And I kept telling myself, I’d be fine as soon as the move was over. But still, after a lifetime of figuring any weight gain was metabolic (and that sedentary writer thing adding to the metabolic issue), I had to wonder. Because I was definitely stress eating.

Curious, I did a couple things. First, I found an interesting online eating quiz to take – check it out:

Then I went into observation mode and after the move, spent the last couple weeks watching my eating. I still have stress. I’m under deadline, I’m dealing with a new house and a lot of changes. Reviews are coming in on my September release and I’m gearing up to promote the book. But you know what? Things had changed now that I’m back to normal stresses. I was able to stop and ask myself why I was reaching for a cookie instead of an apple. I might have still went for the cookie anyway, if I hadn’t had any other snacks that day and it was only a single cookie –but I was able to hear that rational voice again. The one that pointed out how much exercise I needed to do already and asked why I wanted to do even more. You know the voice, right? The one that is there, even when you’re stressed, and metaphorically holds your hand through the eating choices and helps guide you in the right direction.

Finding out I’m not necessarily a stress eater was a good thing, even if I did turn to food for comfort during a high-stress time. How about you? Are you a stress eater? Do you turn to food when life’s overwhelming? Any tips on how to stay out of that trap in the future?

It's interesting that Tawny chose this topic for today because yesterday was a high-stress day for me. Combined with the limited food choices while you're traveling, my calorie count was slightly higher, though not as horrible as I'd feared. But I'd say the only healthy thing I ate all day was the nectarine I had for breakfast.

Wednesday's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,353

Exercise: 30 minutes cleaning Mom's apartment, and tons of driving if that counts :)

Steps: Surprisingly, 10,650. Guess I walked more than I thought yesterday.


Michelle on August 13, 2009 at 9:26 AM said...

Welcome, Tawny!

I'm definitely a stress eater (basically an emotional eater for just about every emotion), but I'm better about it now that I know it. Sometimes I can stop myself from eating either a) the unhealthy food choices or b) too much of the healthy food choices (portion control stuff) if I remind myself that I'm not really hungry - I'm doing this because I'm stressed out. I also try to find healthy ways to reduce that stress - either exercise or reading a bunch of romance novels. :)

Sometimes, I just give in and then I try to contain it to one meal.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on August 13, 2009 at 9:34 AM said...

I'm an emotional eater too, particularly stress. Had to take my mom to a kidney specialist yesterday, and I was a bit of a nervous wreck on the drive up and while we waited to see the doctor. I tend to imagine worst-case scenario (in this case, dialysis), but most of the stress went away when the doc said he thinks the problem might be medications she's been on since her heart attack. So no more potassium pills and no more naproxen for her arthritis.

BTW, over-the-counter paid meds with naproxen are evidently very hard on the kidneys. So I'm avoiding those from now on. I'm not going to go into brand names here because, honestly, I don't want to tempt the chance they'll come after me, but just look at the bottles in your medicine cabinet.

Okay, back to stress eating. After taking Mom home, I wanted something sweet. I stopped at a gas station to fill up with gas, and I about passed out in the candy aisle when I looked at the calories in my favorite candy bars. I walked out without one (something I wouldn't have done in the past) and went next door to a grocery store and bought a box of the 100-packets of Oreo Cakesters. One of the packets satisfied my sweet craving, and for less than half the calories in the candy bars.

So just being always very conscious of decisions, how they will affect my weight and how I'll feel bad about those decisions later if I make bad ones is key to changing our emotional eating habits, I think.

Michelle on August 13, 2009 at 10:26 AM said...

This is tougher, but another way to combat stress and emotional eating is to actually address the emotion/stress causing it. Try to identify the emotion and the stress, what is causing it, how can you change your reaction to the situation so you are not feeling such stress or other strong emotions, etc. If conflict is causing it, can you confront or address the source of conflict in a way that the situation improves? Again, this can be really tough, but I've been successful at it at times.

Tawny on August 13, 2009 at 11:38 AM said...

Hi Michelle :-) Thanks for the welcome - I love this blog! I think the ability to identify or at least recognize that you're being pushed to eat over stress issues is a major tool in the weight battle.

There were many a'moment that I heard myself thinking, stop -"this is stress, not hunger." Then I'd unfortunately argue with myself, "tough toodles, I'm stressed, I'm in debt, my life is in a Uhaul truck and I have no internet, I'm eating these darned chips."

Apparently I need to work on disciplining that part of myself LOL.

Tawny on August 13, 2009 at 11:40 AM said...

What a GREAT healthy choice, Trish. I do think its important to hear our bodies. When we want sweets, there are ways to have them in small portions, just like there are ways to meet the salt cravings with healthier choices (air popped popcorn instead of chips, for instance) Its a forward thinking, awareness of how we'll feel tomorrow, isn't it?

And hugs on all your stress of yesterday!!! I'm so glad your moms scenario isn't worst-case and is manageable!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on August 13, 2009 at 11:43 AM said...

Thanks, Tawny. I hope we get more good news next week at the follow-up. I know it would lessen the stress in both of our lives.

I wish I liked popcorn, but I'm really not a fan. But I've been staying away from the chips. Much easier for me than sweets. I did find some 100-calorie packets of Goldfish. :)

MaryC on August 13, 2009 at 1:55 PM said...

Hi Tawny, Great post! I'm not really a stress eater - more a stress-relieved eater. If I'm apprehensive or upset, I pretty much lose my appetite, but once the stress is gone, then it's like anything is fair game. Sort of the way Trish described her stop off in the candy aisle (but without her willpower or restraint).

I took the test you linked above and it said that I had a healthy attitude about food but in psychological terms, not necessarily nutritional. Yeah, I could have told them that. LOL

Reading your blog though, I recognized my problem. That rational voice you mentioned? Mine is mute!

I'm so glad the doc visit went well, Trish. I'll keep you and your mom in my prayers for next week's follow-up.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on August 13, 2009 at 2:17 PM said...

Thanks so much about the kind words about my mom, MaryC.

I think we all struggle with that mute rational voice. But maybe we can all encourage and challenge each other to give that voice, well, a voice. Over the next week, maybe we can all endeavor to physically stop ourselves from making a poor food choice and then report back when we've done that. I know I find strength and encouragement in the successes of others, no matter how small.

MaryC on August 13, 2009 at 7:14 PM said...

Sounds like a great idea, Trish. I'm going to need it after the birthday celebrations today. My neighbor gave me a box of Belgian chocolate. I suppose if I ration it, it won't be too bad. Plus my husband will probably get at it and save me the calories.

Tawny on August 13, 2009 at 7:31 PM said...

Hey MaryC :-) It's hard when that rational voice is silent - like driving in the dark or something LOL. I wonder if we could think up some alternates to the voice *g* Something that'd keep you on track?

Tawny on August 13, 2009 at 7:32 PM said...

LOL on the Goldfish, Trish. Sometimes thats all it takes is a handful, right? I do love my popcorn (mine -can't eat the microwave kind, the oils they use make me ill) but it is so easy to overeat it. I should portion it out in 100 calorie bags, huh?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on August 13, 2009 at 8:20 PM said...

MaryC -- so today is your birthday? If so, Happy Birthday!

Michelle on August 13, 2009 at 9:46 PM said...

Trish wrote:
Over the next week, maybe we can all endeavor to physically stop ourselves from making a poor food choice and then report back when we've done that.

OK. I left work extremely frustrated and grouchy. As I walked to the metro, I worked myself up into a rare mood and decided I was going to stop off at Five Guys when I got to my neighborhood for a burger and fries and I DID NOT CARE what that meant to my health kick. I did not care that I'm leaving for a business trip the 15 - 18, and I know I'll be wined and dined a bit and will splurge more than once. I was lost and my one hope was to just contain it to one night instead of the whole week.

When I got to Union Station, I saw a guy walking towards me who looked really familiar. He attends the same WW meetings I do. We exchanged greetings and went on our way. I interpreted is a SIGN. What more did I want? My WW leader to show up and give me something within my remaining points/calories for the day for dinner?

On the subway, I reviewed all the non-points/calorie busting options I could stop at around my metro stations (I've spent some time figuring out what were my best choices) and had talked myself down to stopping off at Baja Fresh for two tacos. By the time, I got to my home metro station, I'd got myself to the point where I just went home and had a healthy meal. I then went to the gym and worked out for 100 minutes - 60 minute weight class and 40 minutes on the elliptical.

MaryC on August 13, 2009 at 10:38 PM said...

WOW. Michelle. I'm so proud of you!!!!! That was really incredible. You ROCK!

Trish, yes, my birthday. Ouch. Thanks for the wishes.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on August 13, 2009 at 10:58 PM said...

Michelle, what an awesome, inspiring story. I think it illustrates the fact that if we don't cave to our cravings/desires when they are at their height and give ourselves time, we can get past them. And you probably feel way better for the good decisions than you would have if you'd allowed yourself that burger and fries.

Tawny on August 14, 2009 at 12:34 AM said...

WOW!!! Michelle, you're such an inspiration! I'm so blown away that you saw the sign, and that you had the presence of mind to heed it and find a better direction. Seriously - inspiring!!

and MaryC - Happy Birthday *g*

Michelle on August 14, 2009 at 9:34 AM said...

Thanks, Mary, Trish and Tawny! I need all the help I can get, so I'm definitely willing to see signs. There's a couple of work colleagues (the one who lost a lot of weight through overeaters anonymous, the one who just started running and went from couch to 5 K in a couple of months, the fashionista who lost all her baby weight through WW) whom "sightings" of just before I'm about to splurge bc of stress/emotions can stop me too at times.

I do feel very good and proud this morning that I did not give in last night. Hopefully, that will strengthen my ability to resist the next time it happens.

Happy birthday, Mary!

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