Operation Skinny Jeans: Managing Stress When You Have An Unhealthy Relationship With Food

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Managing Stress When You Have An Unhealthy Relationship With Food

I'm going to go out on a limb here.

My guess is if you're reading this blog and trying to lose a lot of weight, there's a good chance that you have an unhealthy relationship with food (I know that I certainly do).

I've always been one of those girls who eats her feelings. Whether I was sad, worried, scared, or stressed, food was my comfort, particularly rich, calorie-laden, sugary treats. Unfortunately, my life can be a bit more stressful than I'd like, so the urge to binge my problems away presents itself more often than I'd like.

I'm a firm believer that changing your diet is more mental than anything. Yeah, you can only keep healthy foods in the house. And yeah, you can try to get people to help you stick with your changes. But if you don't change the way you think about food, it's all for naught. You'll make secret trips to the store to feed your habit. You'll pretend that you're only eating healthy foods when you're talking to your accountability partner. Or you'll end up being like me as a teenager, hoarding candy bars in your bedroom and stuffing your face when you think nobody's watching.

That's not how I want to live my life. I don't want to be that 14-year-old girl hiding Abbott's peanut butter bars in her closet. It's weird and it's unhealthy. We (and by we, I'm referring to we feeling eaters) need to start thinking of food as fuel for our bodies. It's not a reward. It's not a security blanket. It's something necessary for us to survive (though it's okay for it to taste good, of course!).

A few hours ago, I was stressed. The first thing that popped into my head? Man, I really want to go down to the grocery and get a Marie Callender's peanut butter pie. I'd feel a lot better. Thoughts like that aren't really conducive to a healthy lifestyle or a healthy relationship with food. Thoughts like that are only conducive to making my thighs larger.

So what did I do?

I did yoga.

I flipped Netflix over to Shanti Generation. It's actually geared toward kids and teens, but I like doing it anyway. It makes me feel better inside AND out. Plus, I like to think that it's not just me doing it -- that depressed, 14-year-old candy hoarder is doing it too :)

Here are some ideas for ways to deal with stress when all you really want to do is stuff your face:
  • yoga (natch)
  • take a walk around the block
  • go jogging/running
  • play video games (especially Wii and Kinect games!)
  • pet/hug a pet
  • write/journal/blog
  • go for a swim
  • go for a bike ride
  • build a snowman
  • dance around in your underwear to your favorite song (hairbrush mic and all!)
  • watch a favorite comedy
You may notice that a lot of these involve physical activity. That's because exercise is a great stress reliever! To quote Elle Woods, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands." (Okay, so the shooting part isn't relevant, but you get where I'm going with this!)

What are some of your favorite ways to reduce stress that don't involve food?


  1. I've been struggling with mindless eating at night time. On Monday after a great week eating-wise I binged out of nowhere. Last night I forced myself to go for a run after work and it felt SO good and after eating dinner, eating a snack (or two) didn't even cross my mind :)

  2. Great tips! And I know just what you mean. While my issues with food have greatly improved after 2 years of making lifestyle changes, I still struggle with those thoughts some times. As a matter of fact, after a stressful day on Monday I made myself a bowl of popcorn for dinner instead of the healthy meal I had previously planned for. I didn't go all crazy and binge. Fortunately, I had enough self control that I did portion out my popcorn along with 25 plain M&Ms and tracked it... but I ate popcorn & M&Ms because I wanted to eat something that would make me "feel better". Gosh, food issues SUCK. :/
    I tell myself it could have been worse. The me 2+ years ago would have completely binged on 4 different things and not stopped at a portioned amount of popcorn and M&Ms, like I did this week. It's an improvement; a huge one, but still, it's still a struggle.

  3. Thanks for sharing the tips! I'm a new follower from the Weekend blog hop :) I hope you pop by my blog and follow if you like it



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