50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food
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A new book by New York Times best-selling author Susan Albers, PsyD is sure to help you navigate happily and healthily through the holidays. In 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Albers provides real-world strategies that benefit the health and minds of those (including me) who emotionally eat at least some of the time.
I recently interviewed Dr. Albers via email and am thrilled to share the highlights below.
EZ: Do you believe that all emotional eating is unhealthy? Can one eat in response to emotions without going overboard or to an extreme?
SA: The good news is that not all emotional eating is unhealthy. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you do a little comfort eating now and then. It’s okay to celebrate with some birthday cake or enjoy a traditional family recipe for the holidays. Eating becomes problematic when you eat to numb out, turn off or escape uncomfortable feelings on a routine basis. Or, if munching becomes the only strategy you have for coping with stress. Let’s face it—life is stressful. We need tools that we can use every single day to find a moment of calm and relaxation.
EZ: Based on your extensive work with clients, what would you say are the 2-3 top situations that precipitate emotional overeating?
SA: The most common triggers of emotional eating are often stress/feeling overwhelmed, boredom and conflict in relationships. These often are at the root of comfort eating because they are triggered by events out of your control. For many women in particular it’s difficult to know how to relax during down times. The media has taught us that a piece of chocolate will give us “bliss.” I work to rewire people’s brains to reach for healthy alternatives. My motto: Calm without calories!
The holidays are the perfect storm for emotional eating—toxic relatives, spending more money, holiday parties, expectations from family members and so much tasty food around! I’ve had a lot of success teaching my clients some really simple strategies to make the holidays merry and mindful!
EZ: The holidays are particularly emotional and challenging for many people, especially when they’re surrounded by family. What are some simple and realistic things people can do when they’re on the verge of turning to food to stuff their emotions?
SZ: Here are 10 ways people can soothe themselves without food:
Ho-Ho-Ho Meditation: Holidays are stressful and a recipe for stress eating. Close your eyes and do 3 Santa Clause like belly laughs—this is a simple laughing yoga exercise. Laughing yoga has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that makes you crave sugary, fatty, salty foods.
Tea Time. Bye-bye pumpkin lattes! Sip cinnamon tea. Cinnamon is clinically shown to help regulate your blood sugar which can help to avoid sugary treats. Also, the scent of cinnamon is calming and cinnamon is a sweet, calorie free reminder of the holiday.
Munch Well. Does simply chewing on something make you feel better? Try gnawing on leftover pumpkin seeds that you dry and roast. Not only is this chewy and will satisfy your oral fixation, it contains L-tryptophan which helps to naturally combat depression and the blues.
Take a Squeegee Breathe: Have you ever used a squeegee on a car or kitchen window? In a sweeping motion, you can wipe a window clean in one stroke, leaving a shiny and clear pane of glass in its place. Use this imagery when you need to let go of stress, worry, or irritation. Take a deep breath. Focus on the top of your head. As you exhale, imagine the stress escaping along with your breath. Visualize the squeegee going all the way from your head down to your toes. Repeat 3 times.
Make Origami. According to research, origami is a good distraction and it has been shown to stimulate the frontal cortex—the part of the brain that makes decisions, including food decisions. Slip your origami pieces into a holiday card or hide a fun message in the folds.
Shoe Meditation: Create a shoe ritual. As you slip off your heels or boots from work, say, “I leave my stress here at the door.” This mantra will help you to let go of the days stress instead of trying to shed your stress munching your way through the kitchen with a pre-dinner, post-work snack.
Turn Up The Heat: Place your PJ in the dryer for five minutes before going to bed. Research indicates that raising your body temperature slightly can help you get to sleep faster and rest easier.
Mind Makeover. Getting a different perspective on a stressful situation can sometimes help. Try the 5 meditation. Close your eyes and imagine how much on a scale from 1-10 how this stressful event will feel in 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 years, 5 decades. Notice how this shift in perspective can remind you not to sweat the small stuff—soon you won’t give them a second thought.
Ground Yourself. When you feel life is spinning out of control it’s helpful to do a grounding technique. Place your elbows on the table. Rub your hands together quickly until you feel the warmth. Place your palms over your eyes for a soothing moment. Or, put yourself in the Child’s yoga pose—sitting with your legs tucked under you. Then, place your forehead on the ground or a pillow. Notice how touching the floor helps to ground your emotions back to a reasonable level.
Power Pose. Need to stand up to toxic family members and food pushers during the holidays? Interesting research by Amy Cuddy shows that the concept of power posing (standing with force, courage, strength, and character) may produce immediate changes in your body’s chemistry. After just two minutes in a high-power pose, standing with hands on hips, legs shoulder width apart, exuding confidence like you were center stage presenting a great idea, the hormone testosterone, a dominance hormone, increases 20 percent, while cortisol, the stress hormone, fades away. Practice power posing before holiday events. Try standing like Superwoman. Hands on hips. Chin up for two minutes.
EZ: Do people need to read your book cover to cover or can they pick and choose sections to read based on their time and interests to derive benefits?
SA: I know readers don’t have a lot of time. I set up the book so they could page through it easily. They can skip around according to their interest. This book is small enough to throw in your purse or your bag. All the tips follow three E’s that I feel are important—they are 1) easy 2) effective and 3) economical. You can do them anywhere, anytime and they don’t cost any money! Also, I included something I’ve never done before—a link with video of me demonstrating some of the tips. Readers feel like they haven’t just bought a book but their own personal coach. I’m offering book bonuses for anyone who buys this month!
To learn more about Dr. Albers and her great work, visit her website, Eating Mindfully.
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