I have a really bad habit. When I watch movies of nearly any genre, I get up and walk away about 20 minutes before it ends. I can't say that I do it ALL the time, and I certainly never do it in movie theaters, although I'm mighty tempted, but it happens. When I do actually muster up the patience to sit through an entire movie, it takes a lot of conscious effort. This probably makes me sound a little bit looney, but there could be worse things...like the way I eat when the movie starts getting really scary, or intense, or suspenseful. I like to snack on my super special ultra secret popcorn concoction during a movie. I usually sit with a big BIG bowl on my lap and start "lightly" snacking on it. As soon as the pace of the movie shifts gears - like a chase scene, or where the bad guy is about to get caught, or when the cute guy nearly gets the cute girl but walks into the coffee shop 10 seconds after she left - so does the speed and volume of popcorn I eat.
Fortunately I don't watch that many movies, and fortunately my food of choice isn't chocolate or cheese. If that were the case, I'd probably have no business writing a blog about healthy bodies and eating. By the way, my secret popcorn concoction is nothing more than a lot of air popped popcorn with coconut oil and sea salt on top. That's it! Oh, and when it comes to coconut oil, a little goes a long way. I prefer coconut oil over butter or anything else because it's a medium chain triglyceride. And if you don't care about that, just remember that coconut oil gets used as energy long before it ever has a shot at getting stored as fat...even over olive oil! Food for thought.
My point? Emotional eating. Me wolfing down popcorn when I perceive stress during a movie, as fabricated as it is, is no different than the emotional eating many of us deal with when we're sad, happy, angry, depressed, lonely or fill-in-your-favorite-emotion. You know you well enough, right? So you probably know that certain circumstances will create stress in your life that may lead to eating more food than you should, or eating foods that are just plain unhealthy.
Here are a couple common sense tips to help get you on track the next time your emotions get the best of you.
First and foremost, don't buy foods that you know are unhealthy, especially if they're tempting for you. And please don't tell me that they're in your house for your kids. If the food isn't healthy for you, it sure as heck isn't healthy for your kids.
Two, find substitute foods that you can eat in times of stress. In no way am I encouraging you to eat for emotional reasons, but it's probably not going to stop overnight. If you reach for salty chips, have plenty of chopped vegetables and hummus, or even air popped popcorn instead. If you reach for something sweet, like a bag of candy or chocolate, have plenty of fresh fruit on hand.
Three, get a change of scenery when stress does come knocking on your refrigerator door. Leave the kitchen. Go for a walk. Go to your bed room. Do something that will get your mind focused on something else, like a good book, a TV show or a phone call to a friend.
If you have any suggestions for healthier go-to stress foods, leave a comment here. We'd love to know!
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Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.