It’s no surprise to anyone reading this that survey after survey shows American’s stress levels have gone through the roof in recent months. Everyone, to some degree, is impacted by the financial crisis, whether it’s directly through a job loss or cut back; loss of savings through the stock market; higher prices at the grocery store; or reduced services provided by federal, state and local governments.
What worries me (OK, stresses me out) is that more people will turn to food for comfort. Stress eating is already something 50 percent of Americans report they do, and a more recent survey shows that 82 percent of people say they have eaten in response to a stressful situation.
It worries me because, as a news junkie, I’ve noticed the overweight/obesity epidemic has not only taken a back seat to the economic crisis in the media, but it’s been downright kicked out of the car along the side of the road. And now with everyone stressing out over money and jobs – and rightly so, this is a serious situation – chances are people are going to get even bigger than smaller as the financial crisis continues.
That’s why I was thrilled to read (and highly recommend) “Stress Eater Diet” by Robert Posner, MD, and Linda Hlivka.
This “diet” is normal and healthy – real food and no “cleansing” – and it places a strong emphasis on mindful eating, behavior modification, and stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and exercise.
I was really glad to see the question, “Who are you losing the weight for?” asked almost right away. God knows enough of us have lost (or are are still losing) weight “for” someone else, “for” something else, like “just for me” isn’t good enough.
The “spin” to this diet (and you know every diet has a spin) is its emphasis on serotonin imbalance. The authors recommend eating foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid essential for normal growth and metabolism). Foods include: turkey, chicken, fish, pheasant, partridge, cottage cheese, bananas, eggs, nuts, wheat germ, avocados, milk, cheese and legumes. They also want us to get out in the sun more.
Another big reason I can recommend this diet is because it encourages journaling, both food and emotions. Long-time readers, you know I’m all about journaling, even before you start to lose weight. Figuring out WHY we overeat, WHY we treat ourselves the way we do, and WHAT we eat can help us develop personal strategies for overcoming old patterns.
The book includes an Emotional Eating Worksheet which I can see would be very helpful, very “journaling-like.”
Tips for “Breaking the pattern of stress eating” include waiting 15-30 minutes before eating, keeping a diet log, changing your snacking routine pattern, making it a habit to eat only when you’re sitting at the table and not occupied by another task, putting a note such as “Why am I eating?” on the refrigerator or pantry (I like this one the best), and “As a last resort, if you cannot stop yourself from eating a particular food, limit the portion and STOP after you have eaten that portion. Do not feel as though you have ruined the day and might as well eat everything else in sight. Start fresh from that moment on.”
The book includes several other practical tips like how to reduce stress in the car, managing stress and anger, and how to “sniff” away stress. They recommend one of my favorite essential oils: frankincense. I always thought it was some ancient perfume long buried in the ruins of old Bethlehem until I found some at the place I get a massage.
The heart of the book is the actual diet. The last section deals with stress-reducing foods and outlines a four-week eating plan. It includes the best explanation I’ve read on why it’s important to “eat your colors,” and what those certain foods do in terms of health benefits.
The meal plan gets two thumbs up. There a lot of emphasis on protein, fruits and vegetables, and while the plan suggests several kinds of meat, I can see how it could be easily adjusted to accommodate those of us who choose not to eat meat.
The Stress Eater Diet authors also write a blog. I’ll be adding it to my blog roll. And while most of you probably realize if you eat when you’re stressed, the Stress Eater Diet website offers a Stress Eater Quiz (click the link). It’s also in the book.
So, who wants to win this book? Leave a comment about stress and how you deal with it. I’ll “draw” a winner on Tuesday!